Lawrence Nwimo, Awka
Stakeholders including Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and Community-based organisations (CBOs) on whistleblowing have berated the Federal Government over the continued delay in signing the Whistleblowing Protection Bill into law.
The group made its feelings known at a one-day review meeting of step-down training on strengthening the capacity of community-based organisations on whistleblowing and whistleblower protection which was held in Awka, Anambra State capital on Thursday.
Speaking at the event, the Coordinator of the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Dr Chido Onumah, said despite the approval of the Federal Executive Council, the immediate-past President, Muhammadu Buhari, failed to sign the bill into law before leaving office.
He said: “We have made progress in the sense that we have a whistleblowing protection draft bill that the Federal Executive Council approved in December last year. Unfortunately, the Buhari administration did not pass it into law before its tenure ended.”
According to him, despite the huge successes of whistleblowing in the country, there is no law yet to back the whistleblowing which he said has achieved tremendous results, especially in exposing corruption and corrupt individuals.
He said AFRICMIL and its partners are championing the enactment of the whistleblowing policy as the protection of whistleblowers is crucial to the success of the whistleblowing policy implementation in the country.
Speaking also, the Director, Anambra Civil Society Network (ACSONET), Chris Azor, lamented that corruption had eaten deep into the fabrics of the society and that the country’s commonwealth had been mismanaged.
He said there was shoddy execution of projects in various communities by politicians who he said, were not bothered about the plights of the masses.
Azor said such protection, if signed into law, would further enable citizens to speak out in the exercise of their fundamental rights to hold government accountable.
On his own, the Director National Orientation Agency, Anambra State, Joseph Uchendu, said the role of the whistleblower was like that of an informant, hence the need to ensure their protection in the country.
He said the conversation around whistleblowing in the country should be holistic about how to make Nigeria work among its citizens.
He also noted that the time had come for the policy to go beyond the disclosure of anomalies to undeclared cases in the public space.
Earlier in his presentation, the Head of Public Enlightenment and Education, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offenses Commission (ICPC) Anambra State, Inalegwu Shaibu, regretted that public sector corruption had been one of the bane of development in Nigeria.
He said despite the reforms, laws, and policies to confront corruption from colonial times through the military, down to civilian administrations, the problem was becoming a national menace.
“The whistleblowing policy of the FG came into effect in 2016. The policy enjoins people to voluntarily report corruption, fraud, bribery, misconduct, etc., to government agencies.
“The Commission has deployed this tool to great success in recent times. There have been recoveries in cash, properties including vehicles, farmlands, buildings, schools, hotels, etc.
“The Commission has faced challenges in terms of false information which has led to the prosecution of the whistleblower. It has also offered prosecution assistance to some of the whistleblowers that have come under attack from the people and agency indicted.
“Fighting corruption in a developing nation like Nigeria remains a work in progress. The ubiquitous litanies of woes of corruption on our moral, socioeconomic, and national development are very alarming.”
He called on the state and non-state actors in Nigeria to team up in the task of eradicating corruption to the barest minimum and towards the birth of a country of the people’s dream.
The State Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Chiamaka Nnake, represented by Mrs Ezechukwu Chioma, said the bill, if signed into law, would be the right policy at the right time.
She urged the CSOs to push for more policies that would give them more protection in the fight against corruption in society.
The Commissioner who stressed that whistleblowing was a vital instrument to the fight against criminals, urged CSOs to show their presence and amplify whistleblowing, especially at the community level in the state.
Speaking further, Nnake said Governor Chukwuma Soludo was a firm believer in transparency and accountability, and reassured that “the Governor is willing and committed to partnering with CSOs and stakeholders in ensuring that Anambra is a livable and prosperous city.”