THE African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) has called on the Nigerian government to make the protection of whistleblowers a priority in its fight against corruption.
Chido Onumah, Coordinator of AFRICMIL, said in a statement that unless the federal government ensured the safety and protection of whistleblowers, the fight against corruption would not benefit from the input of citizens.
“Without effective protection, there is no way citizens, especially those in the public service who witness acts of corruption on a daily basis, would be encouraged to blow the whistle on corruption or any wrongdoing for that matter, knowing that at the end of the day you are on your own, faced with all kinds of victimization, ranging from loss of jobs, intimidation, redeployment to sinecure positions and even threat to live,” Onumah noted.
June 23 every year is celebrated as World Whistleblower Day, an occasion to reflect on the strong ethics, determination to do what is right, and sometimes outright bravery shown by those who decide that they cannot turn a blind eye to corruption. The brave individuals who report wrongdoing at work are vital for exposing corrupt schemes and actions.
AFRICMIL’s statement expressed disappointment that since December 2016 when the government introduced the whistleblower policy as a strategy to curb corruption in the country, the initiative had remained at the level of policy with no serious attempt to back it up with an enabling law.
“You would think that a government whose major campaign promise was to ensure a drastic reduction in corrupt practices in the country would in less than one year of initiating the policy come up with a strong law that would ensure honest implementation and protection of whistleblowers. But here we are, close to three years and government still seems uncertain what to make of the policy,” it said.
Describing whistleblowing as an important tool for fighting corruption, Onumah said AFRICMIL which, since the inception of the whistleblowing policy has been working with the administrators of the policy, the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), in the Federal Ministry of Finance, on strategies for a successful implementation, is disturbed that whistleblowers are relentlessly persecuted in government offices and there appears to be no reprieve for them.
According to Onumah, in the last two years, AFRICMIL had taken up cases of persecution of five whistleblowers in different government offices.
“All were sacked for nothing but insisting that the right thing be done. We were able to ensure the reinstatement of three of them after an intense advocacy work with the support of our partners in the media and civil society, and we are working to ensure that others—Sambo Abdullahi of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET) and Joseph Akeju of Yaba College of Technology—are reinstated and their entitlements paid,” Onumah added.