The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) has identified fear of victimization and lack of trust as major bottlenecks of Whistle-blowing Policy in Nigeria since its launch in December 2016.
The committee however says citizens must continue to raise their voices against incidents of corruption in official quarters to save Nigeria from the evils of the Vice.
An official of PACAC, Segun Adesanya who is also a lawyer and policy analyst made his observations known during a Radio Town Hall Meeting on Whistle-blowing and Whistle-blower Protection organized by the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) in collaboration with the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development (PRIMORG), Friday in Abuja.
While revealing that the Federal Government is ready to wrestle corruption down through whistle blowing and protect citizens who blow the whistle against corruption, he noted that duplicity of whistle blowing, and some Nigerians exposing corruption for personal vendetta were other challenges facing the policy.
“Some of the challenges we have observed since the policy has been in place is cynicism, and citizens find it difficult to trust the government.
“When you have new inventions and policy, people tend to be skeptical about it but what we continue to do is encourage them and most especially when it comes against the backdrop of people being afraid of victimization. The fear of being victimized also dampens public morale to blow the whistle.
“Also, the mode of disclosure and when a citizen reports a corruption case in different anti-graft agencies there will be duplicity of whistle blowing with personal interest.
“One other issue we see as a challenge is people using the whistle blowing policy as an opportunity for personal vendetta,” Adesanya said.
Adesanya called on Nigerians to trust the system, advising whistleblowers against taking their complaints to multiple anti-graft agencies in order to reduce victimization. “Do your best as much as possible to hide your identity, if you do that then the issue of victimization would be reduced, try as much as possible to protect your identity. If you have reported to ICPC and they give you feedback I think you should take that as the position of the government, rather than duplicating the reportage across all available channels,” Adesanya warned.
A Development Programming Strategist and Promoter of Inclusion and Diversity, Ene Ede stated that cultural, environmental, and religious factors were limiting women from reporting corruption, stressing that the enthusiasm when the whistle blowing policy was introduced has gone down due to lack of political will to tackle corruption.
According to Ede, “There are a lot of women who would want to blow the whistle but the framework, politicians, religious leaders don’t do much to encourage them.
“The laws are not strong enough, not biting enough to deter corruption, women are most affected by corruption, unfortunately.”
Ede said the civil service is one area that needs to be purged of corruption and called for women to be given more leadership opportunities as that will help in routing out corruption in Nigeria.
Her words: “If women are given more political power it will help in reducing corruption because they have a fleshy conscience. Also, the civil service should be reformed, we noticed that the civil service impacts one another, and citizens should ensure that we don’t constitute a liability to those in positions of authority.”
On his part, Public Policy Analyst, Babatunde Oluajo faulted the Federal Government mechanism of protecting whistleblowers following rising fear of victimization. He lamented that the adverse effect of corruption knows no gender, tribe, or religion, hence, Nigeria has gotten to the point where corruption is now killing citizens.
“It is individuals who feel the pain that blows the whistle, insisting that whether an individual is exposing a corrupt act due to vendetta or any other reason, the government and relevant agencies must focus on the crime committed and not the sentiment that led to the expose.”
Oluajo said for Nigeria to fully take advantage of whistleblowing, the country must make the protection of whistleblowers paramount and ensure the system guarantees the anonymity of a whistleblower and deploy information and communications technology in tackling corruption.
On how to overcome issues of sex-for-mark in universities, He had these to say: “we need a collective committee of the council of the senate, students and independent individuals in Nigerian schools who can be made to be the arbiters, receive corruption cases in university anonymously and can go ahead and investigate,” Oluajo stated.
While Co-founder, Amputee Coalition of Nigeria, Florence Marcus said that Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) have the capacity of blowing but are the most marginalized and vulnerable people, hence unable to do it.
Marcus stressed that PWD’s needs to be assisted to understand the whistleblower policy through technology and accessible information: “there is need for the brail but there are a lot of technology that they use to read and it will be better if they are put in audio format for the blind; visual or video for the deaf.
“This policy can be in simplified versions, like in pidgin English and in our local languages for them to have access to and through billboards.”
Marcus urged the government to implement anti-corruption laws that give assurances and protection to whistleblowers, ensure transparency and accountability of the funds recovered from corruption.
The Radio Town Hall meeting Series is a collaborative effort between AFRICMIL and PRIMORG, aimed at increasing citizen’s active participation and involvement, and encouraging the government to institutionalize the whistle-blowing policy.
The project is supported by the MacArthur Foundation.
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