SULAYMANU

By Suleiman Yakubu

The whistleblower is simply a glorified informant, those obnoxious guys in between criminals and the police. Most times, they are disgruntled criminals themselves seeking to do harm to their former gang for the shabby way they were treated. Sometimes they cooperate with the police as kind of deal that will exonerate them, to escape the wrath of the law. People decide to expose their colleagues, gang, or somebody they barely know for so many different reasons; but they mostly do so for their selfish reasons, for something they expect to get from the act. Be that as it may, informants, witnesses or whistleblowers have helped the law in getting to the root of many criminal activities and bringing sometimes very elusive culprits to book. In an effort to reinvigorate its fight against corruption, the Federal Government of Nigeria initiated a whistleblower policy sometimes in December at a federal executive meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari himself.

Without doubt one can say that it was a step in the right direction and the successes recorded in less than two months of its existence speaks volume. A statement from the office of Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed says the Federal Government’s Whistleblower policy has yielded $151million and N8billion in looted funds.

”When we told Nigerians that there was a primitive and mindless looting of the national treasury under the last Administration, some people called us liars. Well, the whistleblower policy is barely two months old and Nigerians have started feeling its impact, seeing how a few people squirreled away public funds. It is doubtful if any economy in the world will not feel the impact of such mind-boggling looting of the treasury as was experienced in Nigeria.

”Yet whatever has been recovered so far, including the $9.2 million by the EFCC, is just a tip of the iceberg,” the minister noted.

 Although government promised to maintain confidentiality with regard to the source of the information, it is still a very risky business. Snitching is very hateful behavior, even as children, we avoid it and in fact see it as very disdainful. Both in real life, novels and movies, stories abound about how drug lords and mafia dealt ruthlessly with anyone who dares to witness against them. Sometimes they wipe out a whole family of such backstabbers as a deterrent to others who may want to give them away. Therefore to get people to talk, the authorities, especially in the developed world, often go to great length and extent to put in place witness protection programmes to ensure the safety of those who are willing to testify against crime kingpins.

It can be very tricky trying to beat criminals at their game, therefore such protection programmes are often done on a grand scale. Sometimes it involves relocating the witness and his entire family to another country and giving them brand new identities, jobs, schools and so on.

This shows that the security of whistleblowers is of utmost importance and the between 2.5 percent (Minimum) and 5.0 percent (Maximum) of the total amount recovered; that the government is offering is not worth the risk that they are taking. And government’s promised confidentiality is just not enough, something concrete should be put in place to protect them. Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun promised that the Whistle-blowing policy would soon be supported by a bill already receiving due attention of the National Assembly. But what I wanted to say is that there should have been legislation in place before the policy commenced.

It is imperative to note that whistle-blowing is not unique to Nigeria. In fact, several nations have practiced it and we should have taken a cue from them especially in the area of ensuring the safety of whistleblowers. For instance, in Canada there is the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act; in Jamaica, the Protected Disclosures Act; whistle-blowing in the United Kingdom is subject to the Public Interest Disclosure Act. In the United States the first law adopted specifically to protect whistleblowers was the 1863 United States False Claims Act (revised in 1986), which tried to combat fraud by suppliers of the United States government during the American Civil War. The Act encourages whistleblowers by promising them a percentage of the money recovered by the government and by protecting them from employment retaliation.

There are broad laws in New Zealand and South Africa. Also, countries like Ghana, South Korea, and Uganda adopted comprehensive whistleblower laws. In addition, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2008 that whistle-blowing was protected as freedom of expression.

Whatever one might think of whistleblowers, whether you see them as loyal citizens working for interest of our dear nation or as backstabbers, traitors and defectors only out for what they can get; the fact still remains that the policy would go a long way in forestalling many acts of corruption and bringing many corrupt elements to book.

Thanks to whistleblower policy, corrupt officials don’t only have to hide from the EFCC or ICPC but from the general public. One thing you can be sure of is that corrupt officials will now stop their annoying attitudes of flaunting their ill-gotten wealth all over the place

TAURARUWA