TEXT OF A PRESS CONFERENCE ON NIGER DELTA MINISTRY SCANDAL AND OUR DEMAND FOR ADEQUATE PROTECTION FOR WHISTLEBLOWERSCISLAC Admin
We the coalition of civil society organisations working on transparency, accountability and good governance in Nigeria have observed that the ongoing effort by the present administration at combating corruption in all ramifications may not yield the desired result, unless adequate protection is accorded whistleblowers.
We believe that passage of Whistle Blower Protection Bill in the eighth National Assembly remains one of the tools that can be used to fight against corruption, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides for freedom of expression. This includes speaking out in a case of observed wrongful conducts and corrupt practices.
Whistleblowers are hitherto perceived as disloyal employees and troublemakers, who are out to unveil all manners of corruption practiced in secrecy. Reporting misconduct has caused some employees to be victimized by their employers as well as fellow employees, thus employees generally do not feel protected enough to come forward with information on misconducts and corrupt practices.
It is on this note that we condemn in totality, the unwarranted threats against the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Niger Delta, Mrs. Fatima Bamidele for exposing corruption and mismanagement of public funds placed at the disposal of the Ministry.
Apart from Mrs. Bamidele, it would be recalled that in August, 2011, a staff of the National Women Development Centre, Abuja was unlawfully dismissed from service for exposing N300million meant for poverty alleviation programme allegedly embezzled by some top officers at the Centre and it took spirited interventions of some civil society organizations to have him reinstated. Also in November 2012, the Executive Director of Technical Services of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), was relieved of his position under controversial circumstances for disclosing information related to corruption in Commission.
We gathered that Mrs. Bamidele’s life is being threatened for exposing a N803,000,000:00 Million Naira fraud by staff of the ministry which the EFCC has since arraigned before a competent court of jurisdiction. In addition, the fraud network is busy trying to damage her reputation by sponsoring multiple unsubstantiated allegations and paying some faceless, rented and paid agitators to silence her and other patriotic Nigerians from further disclosure of fraudulent activities within their respective Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
The Permanent Secretary had, while briefing President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in July 2015, lamented lack of capital funding for the ministry since August 2014, owing to the slash of percentage of releases from the federal government coffers. This according to her has stalled a lot of projects and resulted in accumulation of liabilities by the Ministry.
Similarly, in 2014, the exposure of wastefulness and mismanagement in the Aviation sector by a staff of the Ministry of Aviation has posed some threats against his job and life.
The intensity and implications of corrupt practices in the country has brought to the fore, the importance of adequate protection for whistle-blowers. Though whistleblowing would have gone a long way at exposing all manner of corrupt practices in the nation’s socio-political and economic atmospheres, the absence of enabling legislation to protect whistle-blowers restricts sincere effort at exposing corruption.
It will be recalled that the suspension and subsequent removal then Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor from office was also not unconnected to raising issues about the non-remittance huge sums of money in oil revenues to the Federation Account by NNPC.
Unwarranted threat against, and unjustified removal of whistleblowers from office is a serious factor contributing to atrocious illegalities and impunity by some individuals, and cumulating in monumental fraud that retards socio-economic and political prosperity of the country. We have noticed persistent threat as a deliberate attempt to silence whistleblowers in the country.
There are several unreported cases of corruption worthy of exposure on daily basis; however, continuous victimizations, unjust treatments, fear of victimization, and lack of protection for whistleblowers will threaten efforts by well-meaning persons, who would have volunteered to report various corrupt practices that would aid the ongoing crusade against corruption in the country.
The resultant threats on well-being of person or persons that exposed high-level corruption and abuse of office in Nigeria have re-established the immediate need for effective legal framework for whistle-blowing and the protection of whistle-blowers in all facets of our national life.
We call on the President Muhammadu Buhari to bring to book all persons involved in looting of Niger Delta Ministry’s treasury and all other public places and consider prompt activation and passage of Whistle Blower Protection Bill, to safeguard the lives of whistleblowers and complement the administration’s ongoing effort at combating corruption. This Enabling legislation will motivate, encourage and assure whistleblowers that government and its agencies are willing and committed to fighting corruption and corrupt practices in its entire ramification. We recall that the president, during his electoral campaign and in his 100 days Covenant with Nigerians had promised to work with the National Assembly towards the immediate enactment of a Whistle Blower Act.
We call on ICPC and EFCC to: strengthen whistleblowing mechanisms within public offices using Anti-corruption and Transparency Monitoring Units; institute an open-door policy that encourages employees to speak with their superiors and express their concerns; encourage anonymous reporting to protect the whistleblower’s identity. The ultimate protection, in this regard lies with appropriate legislation and a vibrant judicial system.
We urge ICPC and EFCC to work closely with dedicated CSOs on anti-corruption to promote whistleblowing and provide dedicated hotline for reporting corruption cases. We encourage all government agencies on compliance with the provisions of Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to minimize corruption and secrecy that impair good governance, transparency and openness.
WARNS AGAINST UNSCRUPULOUS PERSONS/ENTITIES OPERATING AS CIVIL SOCIETY
We also wish to draw the attention of the public to illegally operated, politically motivated, false, pretentious persons/entities parading themselves as civil society who are protecting corrupt public officers in Nigeria. These are not Civil Society groups but self-serving groups and individuals with ulterior motives, as no any credible civil society organisations would promote looters and threaten Whistle Blowers. We find it worrisome that years of tireless struggles by genuine civil society towards achieving democratization and provide enabling platform for people’s participation in the democratic process have been flooded and disregarded by some unscrupulous persons/entities disguising themselves as civil society groups.
We therefore urge relevant authorities, media and the general public to maintain proper surveillance and exhaustive interrogation prior to engaging unidentified civil society groups to avoid falling victim of malicious and unsubstantiated allegations.
We further call on the media not to relent in their efforts at exposing corruption as part of their obligations; and all well-meaning Nigerians to show interest in and actively support the Whistle-blower Protection regime.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)/Transparency International (TI) Nigeria
Co-Convener Say No Campaign
Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)
Lukman Adekunle Adefolahan
Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC)
Protest to Power
African Union State of the Union (SOTU)
Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi
Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED)/
Transition Monitoring Group (TMG)
Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
Environmental Rights Action (ERA)
West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF), Nigeria National Platform
National Procurement Watch Platform (NPWP)
Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf
Action Aid Nigeria
Community Action for Popular Participation (CAPP)
Dr. Aminu Magashi
Accountability for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Nigeria (AMHiN)
Mohammed B Attah
Procurement Observation and Advocacy Initiative