THE African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), on Monday, trained journalists on Nigeria’s Whistle-blowing Policy and how they can take full advantage of the policy in the fight against corruption.
The one-day workshop was held in Keffi, Nasarawa, and had in attendance journalists from broadcast, print as well as online media organisations.
AFRICMIL’s coordinator, Chido Onumah, while delivering his welcome address explained that the programme is organised as part of the centre’s Corruption Anonymous project, launched months after the Whistle-blowing Policy was announced in 2016.
The project’s aim, he said, is to create awareness about the policy, interrogate the process to ensure it works properly, and to ensure the protection of whistle-blowers from harassment and job loss.
“We felt that more needs to be done, that there is a need to have a very strong relationship between AFRICMIL, media practitioners, and the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), which is the government agency that manages the whistle-blowing process,” Onumah said.
“We are here basically today to strengthen that partnership with the media, particularly in the area of protection, advocacy journalism: How do we report whistle-blowing cases, how do we work with whistle-blowers, how do we effectively use their stories, also how do we cover them in such a way that they are protected.”
Johnson Oludare, PICA’s Assistant Director, told the participants that numerous tips have been referred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other security agencies for further investigation.
He revealed that, between 2016 and 2018, PICA has saved up to N594 billion from whistle-blower prosecutions, reduction of non-regular allowances to the military and health institutions, oil marketers verification, as well as various personnel verification exercises. Also, investigations have been completed regarding 33 cases involving violation of the Procurement Act, and 58 involving violations of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy.
Oludare encouraged anyone wishing to blow the whistle to contact the agency either physically at the Federal Ministry of Finance, Abuja, or through email ([email protected]) or telephone (09098067946).
Speaking on how the interests of whistle-blowers may be protected using investigative and advocacy journalism, the executive director of The ICIR, Dayo Aiyetan, said it is not enough to simply report stories without making sure they are impactful.
“In the past, I drew a line of distinction between my work as a journalist and advocacy, but now that our journalism is not achieving the purpose, I think we should step a bit forward, and—maybe not get directly involved in advocacy but—engineer those advocacy processes,” he said.
He pointed out that whistle-blowers often challenge policies and malpractices, in promoting the public interest, at great risk to themselves. He also compared how the United States of America protects whistle-blowers with how they are treated in Nigeria.
“I am sure that there are many people who would want to help us by blowing the whistle but when they think of even ten per cent of the repercussions, they’ll run,” he added. “We should all work towards a system that can protect them. But in the meantime, we should formulate ways and manners by which journalists can also help them.”
Other facilitators at the workshop were Aaron Kaase, a whistle-blower working at the Police Service Commission (PSC), and Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, AFRICMIL’s programme manager.
The Whistle-blowing Policy is a move by the federal government aimed at promoting openness, integrity, and accountability. It encourages the public to report breaches such as financial mismanagement, medical negligence, abuse of prisoners and so on while assuring them of protection from reprisals.