The whistleblowing policy of the Federal Government seems to be yielding fruits as looted funds are being recovered but how are the witnesses protected?
The policy was put in place to encourage Nigerians to report financial and other related crimes to relevant authorities and in turn, make money from the endeavour.
The government promised a 2.5% to 5% of the total amount recovered from the venture, a laudable prospect for any of the whistleblower.
The whistleblowing policy was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), aimed at exposing fraud and other crimes in both the public and the private sectors.
The Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun had said then that the policy was meant to encourage Nigerians to key into the frontal fight against corruption.
“If there is a voluntary return of stolen or concealed public funds or assets on the account of the information provided, the whistleblower may be entitled to anywhere between 2.5 per cent (minimum) and 5.0 percent (maximum) of the total amount recovered,” Adeosun had said.
According to her, the policy’s objective was to increase exposure of financial or financial-related crimes, support the fight against financial crimes and corruption, improve the level of public confidence in public entities, enhance transparency and accountability in the management of public funds and recover public funds that can be deployed to finance Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit.
The first of the whistleblowing venture came when the former Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Andrew Yakubu was busted and a whopping $9.3 million and 74,000 pounds was recovered from some hidden safes in a non-descript house in his Kaduna country home.
Though the government had promised that whistleblowers would be protected, rumors making the rounds pointed to a sister of ex-GMD as being the brain behind the recovery of the amount.
To underscore the fruitfulness of the step taken by the government, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, revealed a few weeks ago that the whistle-blower policy has led to the recovery of another $151.7 million and N8 billion from three sources.
Mohammed said the Federal Government recovered the whopping looted funds from through the efforts of whistle-blowers.
“The biggest amount of $136.7 million was recovered from an account in a commercial bank, where the money was kept under an apparently fake account name.
This was followed by N7 billion and $15 million from another person and N1 billion from yet another,” Mohammed said.
Continuing, the Minister said:
“The whistle-blower policy is barely two months old and Nigerians have started feeling its impact, 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.”
Laudable, one may say but Nigerians would want to know what will happen to the money so far recovered given the penchant for recovered monies to be re-looted. We are still yet to know what has been happening to the huge amounts that have been recovered from the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha.
Nigerians hear every day how looted funds are recovered from the late maximum dictator yet no one knows what becomes of the monies.
How then are we sure these ones recovered from the efforts of the whistleblowers would be used to stimulate the economy to reposition it.
It seems that whistleblowing is the new hustle and vocation of Nigerians as many people have resorted to blowing the whistle on their erstwhile bosses, brothers and even kinsmen who had run foul or like in local parlance, 'had fallen their hand.'
But like most things in Nigeria, the fear is that this policy could be abused. It would not be out of place to hear of people blowing the whistle on someone just because they hate the person or did not gain anything from the person when he or she was in government.
If care is not taken, innocent people could be made to face the embarrassment of the security officials after they had been fingered wrongly.
Disgruntled workers could get so mad at their bosses that they would run to the government to blow the whistle with a view of getting even with those they perceived had wronged them.
How will the government protect the whistleblowers' identity so that those they fingered would not victimize or even kill them? The case of the rumor involving Yakubu's sister who allegedly blew the whistle on him is still fresh and it is hoped the officials would be tight-lipped and not rat on the blowers.
In all, it is hoped only the good sides of the policy would be adhered to while the hustling would not overtake it.