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FACT-CHECK: Atiku claims public servants are free to engage in private businesses. True or false?

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CLAIM: Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar, in an interview with Arise TV, on Friday, said there is no law preventing public servants from engaging in legitimate private businesses.

VERDICT: False

FULL TEXT

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar will be flying the presidential flag of the PDP for a second consecutive time in the 2023 general election. Atiku emerged as the opposition party’s flag bearer after defeating Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, among other aspirants, at the party’s primary election on May 27, 2022.

In his first media interview after securing the PDP ticket, Atiku spoke about his plans for the country in areas of security, education, restructuring of political power, and the economy. He also shared his plans on how to improve electricity, privatization of the Nigeria National Petroleum (NNPC), and removal of petrol subsidy which he said was inevitable.

Meanwhile, when queried by the interviewers on his source of wealth, Abubakar, who joined politics after spending years in the public service as a customs officer, said he engaged in legitimate businesses whike in public service.

He argued that there was no law against the involvement of public servants in private businesses.

His words; “I started business even when I was a civil servant; if you are talking of education, I have a passion for it, I am in it. I have invested in agriculture and I have industries…

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“I have challenged the people of this country over and over again, if you have any corruption case against me, please bring it up. Yes, I was accused of corruption just like everybody else in public service, and I was investigated, and nothing was found…

“The fact that you are a public officer does not stop you from engaging in business. I was telling somebody, that the very first day I resumed duty at Idiroko border station, I was not even married. What I realized was that one of the lucrative business ventures then was buying a Peugeot 404, putting bench in the back, and conveying passengers between Lagos and Cotonou or Ajase, Port Novo. As a young officer, I went to Apapa, signed a hire purchase and took about five of them, and I came back to Idiroko and distributed them to drivers, and I was making my money. So I have been doing business from day one.

“There is no conflict of interest; the fact that you are a public officer doesn’t stop you from engaging in a legitimate business. There is no law which says that you cannot engage in legitimate business because you are a public officer. No Law! Tell me the law…”

VERIFICATION

Contrary to Abubakar’s claim that the law permits him to engage in private businesses while still active in public service, Ripples Nigeria found that it is a violation of the Public Service Code of Conduct.

The code of conduct for Public Officers is contained in Part I of the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution.

Section 2 states;

“Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing paragraph, a public officer shall not:-

(a) receive or be paid the emoluments of any public office at the same time as he receives or is paid the emoluments of any other public office; or

(b) except where he is not employed on full-time basis, engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade but nothing in this sub-paragraph shall prevent a public officer from engaging in farming”

By virtue of this provision, public servants, who by constitutional definition, include members of the civil service, are not permitted to engage in the running or management of any private business, other than farming.

CONCLUSION

The claim by Atiku Abubakar that no law prevents public servants from engaging in private businesses is false. Such practice violates section 2 of the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 constitution.

By: Oluwatobi Odeyinka…

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