AFRICMIL, others push for passage of whistleblower protection bill

A Civil Society Organization, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) and other stakeholders have highlighted the importance of whistleblower protection legislation as means to advance the fight against corruption and other wrongdoings in the country.

The groups restated their commitment to the passage of the bill into law by working with relevant agencies of government.

This was the outcome of a one-day meeting held in Abuja on Tuesday, November 8 on the theme: ‘Whistleblowing and whistleblower protection legislation in Nigeria’.


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Some of the stakeholders are: Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), International Centre for Investigative Reporting, Centre for Journalism and Innovation Development, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, National Orientation Agency, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Amnesty International Nigeria.

The Coordinator of AFRICMIL, Chido Onumah, in his speech reiterated the importance of whistleblowing as a vital mechanism for achieving accountability and good governance.

He explained that the coalition would promote accountability and also help to put pressure on the Federal Government for the passage of the whistleblower protection bill.

According to him whistleblowers, like journalists, hold power to account.

“They play an invaluable role in exposing corruption, fraud, mismanagement and other wrongdoing that threaten the society.

“In doing so, they take on high personal risks. They may be fired, sued, blacklisted, arrested, threatened or even assaulted or killed in extreme cases. In Nigeria today there are many whistleblowers facing all kinds of retaliation in their offices. Protecting them from such punishment will promote and ease the fight against corruption, while also enhancing openness and accountability in government and corporate workplaces. Citizens have a right to report wrongdoings because it is all an extension of their fundamental right of freedom of expression.

“That is why it is important for us to have a law that will protect them. In May 2021, the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning which supervises the implementation of the whistleblowing policy through one of its units, the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), rightly took steps in that direction by bringing together stakeholders in government and civil society for a retreat in Keffi, Nasarawa State, where a draft standalone whistleblowing and whistleblower protection Bill was put together after a thorough review if existing Bills.”

He stressed that AFRICMIL led a group of five civil society organisations to the retreat to submit a draft of the bill.

“I am happy to inform you that some provisions of the CSO draft whistleblower protection Bill formed part of the new draft bill put together by PICA and partners.

“At the end of that retreat, ministry officials announced that the document would be turned over to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning – the initiator of the retreat – who will present it to the National Assembly for passage and assent as has been done in the case of other anti corruption Bills.”

Presenting a paper on ‘Whistleblower Protection: Imperatives and the Legal Framework’ Principal Partner, Chigbu & Co, Chigbu Godwin disclosed that there are many loopholes in the whistleblower legislation that need urgent intervention.

According to him, there should be a broad law that provides protection for whistleblowers and their families for any information they share with civil or government organisations.

He added that the government should make provisions for confidentiality of the identity, confidentiality of disclosures, sanctions for authorized disclosure of confidentiality information, whistleblower protection, broad and purposive definition of terms, remedy for reprisal victims, fair and expeditious hearing in the whistleblower protection law.

Chigbu further stressed that the current law doesn’t punish deliberate false disclosures, noting that an individual who makes a disclosure demonstrated to be knowingly false should be subjected to possible employment/professional sanctions and civil liabilities.

Speaking on threats to Whistleblower advocacy, the executive director of CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, said government and especially governors’ control over state assemblies have been affecting the rate at which laws are implemented.




     

     

    He stressed that there have been little or no public discussions and dialogues on whistleblower protection law and how it can save Nigeria from corruption leaders during the electioneering period.

    According to him, embarking on a massive deployment of proactive and reactive media activities to amplify the benefits of the bill to the public is an effective way to pass the proposed legislation.

    He called for public demonstrations at the National assembly by the civil society groups and other concerned stakeholders.

    Other speakers at the meeting include Executive Director of Say No Campaign, Ezenwa Nwagwu, Senior Program Officer of M&E Nkechi Ugwu, Advisor on Corruption and Human Rights, West Africa, Amnesty International, Liliane Mouan and Senior Program Officer of AFRICMIL, Rapporteur, Godwin Onyeacholem.

     

     

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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