The prospects of whistleblowing in Nigeria continue to hang in the balance as a recent survey revealed that the vast majority of Nigerians are unwilling to expose corrupt acts, heaping the blame on the Federal Government’s approach towards operationalization of the policy.
This was made known at the launch of a survey on 5 years of whistleblowing policy in Nigeria conducted by the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) earlier in December, attended by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development (PRIMORG) in Abuja.
The survey was aimed at determining the impact of the operationalization of the whistleblowing policy in addressing corrupt practices and wrongdoing, according to AFRICMIL’s Coordinator, Dr Chido Onumah.
According to Onumah the survey was meant to inform how whistleblowing would affect the fight against corruption in Nigeria as the goal was to strengthen the policy to become an acceptable tool for exposing corruption and other forms of wrongdoing that endangers society.
He also disclosed the addition of a new safe and secure whistleblowing platform developed in collaboration with the Yar’Adua Foundation, which he said would enable citizens to submit tips anonymously when it is launched.
It will be recalled that the anti-corruption programme (whistleblowing policy) was launched in 2016 as one of the measures to fight corruption in the country by President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
The research was said to have sampled 7000 respondents conducted in seven project location states with 21 key informants sampled in five of the largest states in Nigeria.
Here are some disturbing revelations from the survey:
“3 out of every 4 respondents who were interviewed have stopped exposing corrupt individuals despite agreeing that corruption had become a menace that requires urgent attention.
“The report also indicated that although most whistle-blowers submitted tips for personal gains, they would rather not report corrupt practices without adequate legal backing by the Federal Government.
“Officials of the anti-graft agencies were alleged to be usually dragging their feet and only swinging into action after corrupt individuals who had been reported had been able to cover their tracks, or swiftly responding when the alleged fraudster is a perceived political enemy.
“One of the reasons identified for reduced effectiveness of the whistleblowing policy is the continuous reprisals against whistleblowers who are being ignored by the government who had initially called citizens to report fraud. There also are no sanctions against the perpetrators of corruption, worsened by the slow pace of legislators in passing the whistleblowing and witness protection bill into law.
“While citizens took advantage of the policy by exposing corrupt individuals and their activities, there are complaints of the government’s reluctance to keep to the bargain by either delaying reward for whistleblowers ‘unnecessarily’ or outright reneging on its promise.
“The survey, which reflects the thoughts of citizens, indicates that Nigerians think the whistleblowing policy may have been hijacked by political actors to punish their opponents.”
Reacting to the survey, the Deputy Country Director, MacArthur Foundation, Dayo Olaide said the Foundation decided to support whistleblowing in Nigeria to enable citizens’ inclusiveness in the fight against corruption.
Olaide added that unless Nigeria was able to deal with the lack of accountability, irrespective of a good investment in the health, education and petroleum and power sector, the country would continue to wallow in underdevelopment.
Prof. Sadiq Radda, Executive Secretary, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), said his committee was concerned about the fight against corruption and will continue to support the policy as PACAC was convinced that without the anti-graft war there may be no country in the nearest future.
Radda maintained that ridding the country of corruption was every citizen’s duty as the anti-graft agencies in the country could not be everywhere the way corrupt individuals are all over the country. He said since the whistleblowing policy was announced, there had been some noticeable change.
He also urged whistleblowers not to be afraid nor be careless by openly discussing their tips thereby breaching the confidentiality code. He added that their actions ought to be a patriotic act devoid of some personal motives. “If we want to blow the whistle, we have to do it in all sincerity, in trying to help our country,” he said.
He said there were existing laws on how whistles should be blown and that there was no cause for alarm as regards the legalization of the whistleblowing policy.
EFFORTS BY CSOs
Having identified a lack of legislation to protect whistleblowers as a major setback in maximizing the full potentials of whistleblowing to tackle corruption in Nigeria, PRIMORG and AFRICMIL have been at the forefront of advocates and campaigns to get federal lawmakers to expedite actions on harmonizing and enacting whistleblower bills with them.
The painstaking efforts by the PRIMORG and AFRICMIL which was supported by the MacArthur Foundation, saw the duo collaborate in organizing an eight-series radio town hall meeting to push for the passage of whistleblower bill into law and educate Nigerians on the need to blow the whistle when they encounter corruption.
On its own, PRIMORG also organized radio town hall meetings, as well as utilized its anti-corruption radio program, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE on RADIO and social media to increase citizens active participation and encourage the government to institutionalize the whistle-blowing policy.
VIEWS OF SOME FORMER AND SERVING LAWMAKERS ON THE NEED TO ENACT WHISTLEBLOWER LAW
Senator Abiodun Olujimi who currently represents Ekiti South constituency in the upper legislative chamber revealed that the harmonization of different versions of the whistleblower bill will help in its quick passage.
“We need to put down all the bills, look at them and then harmonize them in a bill, we need to be able to sit down and look at all the interests to ensure that all of them are captured in one single bill that is supported, it is important to have input from the executive because they refuse bills because they are not carried along. So the minute you carry along with all the interest of the executive then it would be easy for the bill to have a quick passage and to get it assented to.”
Former senator representing Kaduna central, Shehu Sani said the 9th Assembly can successfully pass the Whistleblower Protection Bill before the end of their legislative tenure if there is the political will to do so.
And also urged the National Assembly and Executive arm of the Government to use their cordial relationship to speed up the passage of the whistleblowing and whistleblower protection bill into law.
Hon. Kayode Oladele who represented Yewa North/Imeko-Afon Federal Constituency, Ogun State from 2015-2019, regretted the failure of the 8th Assembly in passing the bill, stressing that the passage of the whistleblower bill by the 9th Assembly largely depends on the political will of the lawmakers and interest of politicians.
“The 9th Assembly is fast running out if it is a bill that concerns the powers that be it can be passed within one week, two weeks’ record time, but if it is something that is for the general good of the society nobody takes ownership of it”.