Absence Of Whistleblowers Protection Law Impeding Fight Against Corruption, Citizens Urged To Blow More

In Breaking News, Civic Space, Politics

By Veronica Utsu and Able Winnard

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) as well as stakeholders have sued for a law that will protect whistleblowers exposing corruption in the country.

This was the nutshell of a town hall meeting on whistleblowing and whistleblowers protection held in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, with the theme: strengthening the whistleblowing policy implementation through whistleblowers protection.

Stakeholders such as Mr. Tijah-Bolton Akpan – Executive Director of Policy Alert, Mr. Archibong Jeremiah – CrossRiverWatch Managing Editor, Barrister Kalu Ugbo – the Acting Resident Commissioner of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC), ACE Bawa Hamidu Saidu – the Commander of Uyo Zone of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and Mr. Otu Ibor – the State Director National Orientation Agency, all affirmed that corruption is a ferocious monster that is bedeviling our public institutions, hence, those (whistleblowers) working to expose it should be protected.

Presenting his paper, the Commander of the Uyo Zonal office of EFCC, ACE Bawa Hamidu Saidu encouraged citizens to support the Commission by blowing more whistles to expose corruption.

He noted that whistleblowers are rewarded with 2.5% to 5% of every recovered fund through whistleblowing.

On his part, the Acting Resident Commissioner of ICPC, Barrister Kalu Ugbo also towed the path of the EFCC in the fight against the hydra-headed monster called corruption.

While calling on the public to at all times report corrupt practices, individuals, or organizations through whistleblowing or petitions, he, however, warned that such information should the correct as wrong information if thoroughly investigated can lead to 10 years imprisonment.

Similarly, the State Director of the NOA, Otu Ibor having highlighted the devastating effect of corruption in every facet, said his Agency is charged with the responsibility of educating the public as well as reporting any wrongdoing.

Speaking on “whistleblowing as a strategy for combating corruption,” the Managing Editor of CrossRiverWatch, Mr. Jeremiah Archibong said whistleblowing is a critical mechanism in exposing corruption and it is a civic responsibility for all citizens.

The Managing Editor of the investigative medium noted that weak institutions, little or no prosecution, and others are some of the major challenges plaguing whistleblowing.

He said individuals prefer blowing whistles to journalists and CSOs rather than to anti-graft Agencies due to trust issues, bottlenecks, and poor protection.

In the same vein, the Executive Director of Policy Alert, Mr. Tijah-Bolton Akpan speaking on “why whistleblowers need protection” averred that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) gives every Nigerian the right (freedom of expression) to blow whistles.

Tijah-Bolton said the need to protect whistleblowers is to give citizens confidence and encouragement in the fight against corruption.

He moved for a law to be enacted that will give total protection to whistleblowers in the country.

Shortly after the Meeting, the Coordinator for Africa Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) Mr. Chido Onumah expressed satisfaction with the exercise which he described as “highly interactive”.

He said the essence of the town hall organized by AFRICMIL with support from the Mac Arthur Foundation is to provide protection and opportunities for whistleblowers or the larger community to know what protection is available to them when they blow the whistle.

Chido lauded the level of interaction disclosing that “this is one of the best town halls we have had, the quality of the presentation was top-notch and we are happy we took the decision to come to Cross River State because it has been an interesting conversation and hopefully some of the policy decisions and statement that came out of this conservation we will find a way to expand it.”

While encouraging participants to speak up, he expressed worries there is no law that protects whistleblowers despite the grave risks associated with it.

“Currently, we don’t have a whistleblowers law in the country but we hope that one of the fallout of this conversation is that we can grow the awareness that civil society and media partners within Cross River State can join the national coalition to lend their voices to the advocacy for a national whistleblower law in the country.

“The fundamental underlying principle of whistleblowing the way we want to approach it is anonymity so that when you blow the whistle nobody knows or can trace that information to you. We have a secured whistleblowing platform where people can report and that is what we are hoping will continue. But most importantly, we are also pushing for the law, and eventually, when it is in place, it provides concrete protection for whistleblowers; there will be no need for blowers to worry about the risk.”

High points of the town hall meeting include question and answer sessions, and group photographs among others.

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