By Soni Daniel
BVN partly responsible for movement of cash
Incentives motivating Nigerians to expose hidden loot— EFCC’
‘More leads on the way’
Kemi Adeosun, Nigeria’s Finance Minister, seems to understand President Muhammadu Buhari’ mindset as far as fighting graft is concerned and is effectively broaching measures that have warmed the President’s heart. One of the measures already yielding positive results is the Whistle-blowing policy, which gives a percentage of recovered looted public fund to the whistleblower, an unprecedented policy that excites Nigerians at home and abroad, and opens a new chapter in financial crimes onslaught in the country.
She appears to have fine-tuned the policy ahead of its formal presentation to the Federal Executive Council, FEC, presided by President Buhari on December 22, 2016.
In the hallowed chamber of the Presidential Villa, Adeosun, standing there with her reading glasses adjusted to the centre, lifted her voices slightly higher than norman and quipped, “The whistle-blowing policy is a programme designed to encourage anyone with information about a violation, misconduct or improper activity that impacts negatively on the Nigerian people and government to report it.
“If you whistleblow in public-spirit and in good faith, you will be protected. If you feel that you have been treated badly because of your report, you can file a formal complaint.
“If you have suffered harassment, intimidation or victimisation for sharing your concerns, restitution will be made for any loss suffered. (Check lead story on Head of Service of the Federation)
“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 between 2.5% (minimum) and 5.0% (maximum) of the total amount recovered, she explained.
Like a tonic, the policy has spurred spirited Nigerians to expose stolen, hidden funds worth tens of billions of Naira from the date the policy was announced. The policy has, in like manner, given fillip to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and its chairman to be back in the news fany which way. Perhaps, having suffered a serious blow in the hands of Senators, who rejected his nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari, twice within a space of two months, Ibrahim Magu can at least heave a sigh of relief that his agency is now turning in tones of money for the country courtesy of whistleblowers. Yet, there are those who have expressed reservations on the fantastic nature of the discoveries and recoveries.
Since the unveiling of the whistleblowing policy by Buhari on December 22, 2016, the federal government has grossed at least N73 billion in its kitty and the prospect of adding to it gets brighter by the day?
The breakdown is made up of $151 million (N46 b) announced by the federal government as having been seized from a fake account in an unnamed commercial bank and another N8 billion of looted funds. The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, who gave the information, did not name the sources of the cash was recovered from and whether the suspects would be prosecuted.
The other components of the recovered funds are the $9.777.8 (N3 billion) recovered from the former Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Stanley Yakubu, on February 3, 2017; the mother of all seizures, the recent N15 billion from an Ikoyi apartment (made up of $38 million, £27,000 and N23 million); a N448,850 million taken from a Lagos plaza on April 10, 2017; and N250 million hauled from the popular Balogun Market, also in Lagos.
Before all these, a certain N49million had been recovered by the EFCC at the stop-gap Kaduna Airport.
At the conservative parallel market rate of N306 to a dollar, the least value of the seized cash so far comes to N73 billion.
The EFCC, through its spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, says there is no going back on the war to recover looted public funds.
Uwujaren told Sunday Vanguard that the commission would not be deterred by any form of antics deliberately put on its way by those opposed to the anti-graft war.
“Of course Nigerians should be aware of the unwavering determination and commitment of the Commission to confront all corrupt persons and tendencies in Nigeria without minding whose ox is gored,” the spokesman said.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the Federal Government was confronting the financial crimes war from variegated fronts, particularly from the banks.
It was gathered that a new directive has been issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria to strictly, follow the new cashless policy, which further reduces how much an individual can deposit and withdraw on a daily basis.
Similarly, the apex bank has warned commercial banks to ensure that all accounts operated by them must clearly show their Bank Verification Number, BVN, or be blocked.
It was also learnt that the warning by the CBN to impose stiff sanctions on commercial banks that ‘warehouse’ illicit cash for corrupt politicians and other top government officials, and the full enforcement of the Treasury Single Account, TSA, have virtually shut the major routes through which corrupt public officials and private individuals usually hide stolen funds.
“We strongly believe that the introduction of some stringent fiscal measures by the CBN and the Ministry of Finance as well as the clampdown on corrupt bank accounts managers by the EFCC, are responsible for the movement of stolen cash from one point to the other by the suspects,” a top CBN official told Sunday Vanguard in Abuja.
“We also suspect strongly that the tempting reward being given by the federal government to whistleblowers is actively motivating them to expose corrupt persons and their loot in an unprecedented fashion. This is how it should be and Nigerians may soon see a drastic reduction in the quest to steal public funds,” a top official of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, told Sunday Vanguard.
Apparently satisfied with the success so far recorded by the whistleblowing policy, the federal government has warned all its agencies to do all they can to ensure that the gains are consolidated..
In a memo issued by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, the government said it would do all it could to protect whistleblowers in the country.
“It is important to reiterate that the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation will not condone acts of misconduct by Public Servants under any guise.
However, she is committed to safeguarding the policy of Government on the protection of whistleblowers and directs its full implementation by all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government, the HCSF said in the memo.