IN SUPPORT OF THE WHISTLE BLOWER

By Best Ofori

Nigeria whistle – blowing policy plan to pay citizens to report corruption is off to a great start.

Nigeria’s problem with corruption is well documented .In a bid to stem the tide, Nigeria’s ministry of finance  decided to try a new approach; allowing citizens who report corruption related offenses earn a cut from the recovered  loot.

The hope was that the whistle – blowing policy put in place two months ago, would provide agencies like the economic and financial crimes commission (EFCC) with actionable tips to track and recover stolen government funds. So far, it appears to be working.

Last week, EFCC retrieved $9.8 million from Andrew Yakubu, former group managing director of NNPC. Thanks to whistle blowing.

Including Yakubu’s loot, Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister of information, says the whistle blowing policy has led to the recovery of over $180 million from various corrupt individuals.

To report corruption, whistle- blowers need to provide information via a secure online portal. Offenses that can be reported include, mismanagement of public funds and assets, violation of financial regulations, solicitation of bribes and manipulating data and records. When tips lead to the successful recovery of ill-gotten funds, whistle blowers are entitled to “between 2.5 – 5 % of the amount recovered”

The ministry of finance also promises whistle – blowers that “confidentiality will be maintained to the fullest extent possible within the limitation of the law.”

As laudable as the policy looks like, I think the government is shifting responsibility in a way. If for example a  public servant joins the public service of age 35, he declares a house in Okokomaiko (a lagos suburb), and 10 years later when he is leaving, he now declares  5 houses in Ikoyi and Lekki axis and another in Asokoro District in Abuja, the government does not need a whistle blower. All that is needed is for the specialized agency to do a thorough investigation.

However there is a caveat. Those who go about whistle-blowing may have their facts; even through it could be just an act of witch-hunting or vendetta. This is why the government must not rely on whistle-blowers alone. An over reliance on whistle-blowers will be an exercise in self-abnegation and utter dereliction of duty by the assigned agencies.

In any case, the whistle-blower must be protected, encouraged and oriented, once you stigmatize the whistle-blower, the policy will be jeopardized. We should see whistle-blowing as a specialized arm of crime fighting.

I strongly support the whistle blowing policy. It must spread its tentacles to our tertiary institutions, especially the Polytechnics and Universities, where ethics and morality are at their lowest ebb. As the renowned journalist Ray Ekpu, once said in the case of budget padding Scandal involving House of Representatives member, Jubrin and key officers of the House; “The whistle blower is a patriot not a pariah.  Don’t take his whistle away”

_Best Ofori

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