By Omeiza Ajayi & Ezra Ukanwa
Six years after it introduced the Whistleblower Policy to help in its fight against corruption, the Federal Government has lamented the growing disinterest being shown by Nigerians in reporting incidents of corruption, and called for more citizen participation.
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, alongside the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed and Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasan-oye, stated this in Abuja during the launch of the Partners United/Whistleblowing Reporting Portal, organized by the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, AFRICMIL, in collaboration with the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Foundation.
Malami, who was represented by his Special Assistant on Cyber Crimes, Mr. Abiodun Aikomo, called for sustainable partnership between citizens and the Federal Government stressing that it was key to tackling corruption with patriotic vigour.
He said; “The Whistleblowing Policy has achieved some modest successes, but I should say that those successes so far recorded are still suboptimal compared to what we can achieve if we drive it very efficiently.
“The Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, which I represent on behalf of the federal government of Nigeria has done a lot of things in furtherance of the anti corruption war.
“The modest successes we have recorded notwithstanding, the reality today is that it is not yet a win in the war against corruption. We cannot deceive ourselves, we still have things to do. One major lesson so far learnt in all of this, is that in order to significantly advance the cause of Nigeria’s anti-corruption case in these existential battles, the ordinary people of Nigeria must participate as critical stakeholders and allies of the government.”
On her part, Finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Special Duties, in the Ministry, Aliyu Shehu, bemoaned the waning interest in whistleblowing, noting that it was one of the most viable means of fighting corruption in the country.
“At inception, there was widespread enthusiasm on the part of Nigerians as they volunteered information which investigation led to recoveries of both cash and non-cash assets. But regrettably, after about two to three years of the implementation of the policy, the interest of the public and the policy began to nosedive,” she said
Describing the whistleblowing policy as imperative to the progress of Nigeria, the ICPC Chairman, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, said the anti-graft agency was committed to combating corruption at all levels by vigorously engaging whistleblowers.
He advised that platforms which have been created for the sole purpose of whistleblowing, should be made easily accessible to all Nigerians.
“For this initiative to have the desired impact, the platform should be easily accessible. It should provide secure and confidential hotlines for the informants and the information received in order to strengthen and promote a well ethical environment devoid of victimization and reprisal attacks. Also necessary is continuous public enlightenment to ensure sustainability and avoid false and mischievous complaints and reports.
“The ICPC on its part would continue to collaborate with relevant agencies of government, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and stakeholders in ensuring the effectiveness of policies that would aid the fight against corruption. It is our hope that at the end of this programme, participants and stakeholders would return with the conviction to work for the overall interest and good of our nation”, he stated.
Earlier, Coordinator, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, AFRICMIL, Chido Onumah, noted that the current platform will complement the government whistleblowing platform managed by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit PICA and make it easier for citizens to submit tips anonymously without fear of being exposed and confident that the tips will be treated.
“Our goal for this project is to have a citizenry that is sensitive to its role in fighting corruption. As Nigerians we must be aware that the fight against corruption is not one to be left for the government alone. Legally and morally, we have roles to play and this is what the whistleblower policy seeks to ensure”, he added.