REPRESENTATIVES of anti-corruption agencies and citizens, on Wednesday, argued about the length of time a whistle-blower should wait before receiving financial rewards for reporting corruption.
The argument ensued during a radio programme organised by the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) in collaboration with the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development (PRIMORG)
While representatives of major anti-corruption organs in the country, including the police, said whistleblowers must wait until cases arising from their reports were determined, members of the public who called into the programme disagreed, noting that the delay was a disincentive to whistleblowers.
They also stressed that those blowing the whistle would rather prefer getting their money immediately.
A representative of the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO) of the Nigeria Police Force CSP Femi Adedeji emphasised the need for patience from informants who always insisted on being paid immediately they provided information on crimes and corruption issues.
The Spokesperson of Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC) Azuka Ogugua also argued that the veracity of all reports must be concluded before payment was made to the informants.
Explaining some of their challenges, Adedeji, a chief superintendent of police, said:
“For instance, where you said I have recovered N10 and we have arrested Mr A and then the whistleblower is saying, ‘give me my share’ and then the case is still in court, the judge has not even decided whether he is guilty of stealing the money in the first place and then everybody starts saying,
“Why don’t we give him his share’ when we are not even sure if the money recovered belongs to Mr. A or the court or judge is going to say Mr A is guilty or Mr A is going to jail in the first place.
“So, when we begin to say ‘you have to wait my friend,’ they begin to say we gave you information and then you didn’t act on it or look at the way you treated me and then next time I am not going to tell you anything.”
But a caller, identified as Ojo, said the position of the police would not encourage citizens to report corruption.
“To what extent do you think we need to determine a case before you give a whistle blower his share? Those are the things that must be properly spelt out in whatever they are doing,” Ojo said.
“A whistleblower cannot wait for you to go through court processes in Nigeria, especially in this judiciary that is corrupt. If not, you won’t get the support and interest of the people.
“A lot of people have lots of information for this country as we speak today but cannot come forward because there is no encouragement,” he added.
Another contributor Vincent Okolo asked if the police were going to protect anyone that gave them information
“Let the police create a platform that, when you have an information, you drop it there, and not when people give police information they end up being targets.”
In his response, Adedeji said, “People talk a lot, some whistleblowers also double-whistle, they talk anyhow, some whistleblowers find a Twitter handle or a Facebook page to say, ‘look, I am the one who did this for them.”
Speaking for the ICPC, Ogugua emphasised that citizens would get it wrong if all they thought about was the monetary gains when reporting corruption.
“When you put incentives as a backing to whistleblowing, it becomes a double-edge sword that goes either way. Some people see it as a motivation and they report, but normally, as a citizen, you need to report even if there are no incentives.
“Now, people report and there is something, money, but it goes through a legal process and we have to establish fact. If the money actually belongs to the person you blew the whistle on and we need to make sure you get it the right way, there is no short cut to it. That’s why the issue of waiting and being patriotic about it comes in.”
She also cautioned petitioners, informants and whistle-blowers to be mindful of exposing their identities by running from agency to agency with their petitions.
She urged citizens to see whistle-blowing as their responsibility, emphasising that ICPC had units set up to report corrupt acts in Government Ministries Departments Agencies (MDAs).
“it’s not all about the money, it shouldn’t be all about the money. Just blow the whistle because you are a citizen, we cannot give up on our country.
“In the MDAs, we have anti-corruption and transparency units. The units act like mini ICPC’s within the MDAs where they are located because people complain of corruption mostly in the public organisations. So, the units are to help do everything ICPC does in those agencies, including preliminary investigations but without prosecutions.”
Program Officer of Anti-corruption at Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) Samuel Asimi, in his contribution, said the anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria were hindered from achieving their mandates using whistleblowing because of issues of anonymity, protection and lack of capacity by anti-corruption agencies to discharge their duties.
Head of Programs at Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) Allison Timipre decried the lack of political will from government to push the fight against corruption to its logical end, saying that it was affecting citizens’ participation in exposing corruption.
According to him, “the fact that citizens don’t see the government give proper account for recovered loots discourages them from coming forward to expose corruption.”
Timipre, however, charged anti-graft agencies in the country to have an improved public enlightenment programme and make the best use of the media in achieving their mandate, while urging citizens to not to be deterred in exposing corruption but continue doing their best in nation-building.
The Radio Town Hall Meeting Series, which is supported by MacArthur Foundation, is a collaborative effort between AFRICMIL and PRIMORG, aimed at increasing citizens’ active participation and involvement, and encouraging the government to institutionalise the whistle-blowing policy.