The African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (ACFMIL), has urged the prosecuting agencies like the EFCC and ICPC to desist from broadcasting their activities, especially as it relates to investigating corrupt officials.
Mr Chido Onumah, Coordinator, ACFMIL, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Thursday.
The Coordinator has called for the protection of whistleblowers to promote the fight against corruption in the country.
He said that criminalising whistleblowers would not encourage transparency in the fight against corruption.
According to him, the centre is collaborating with stakeholders to create awareness about the whistleblower policy to enhance transparency and accountability.
“The programme we are doing is called corruption anonymous; it aims at supporting the whistleblower policy of the Federal Government which was launched Dec. 2016.
“There are a number of areas in terms of what can be done, create awareness about the whistle blower policy, so that people can get to know this is in existence.
“ One of the things we are hoping to do is to draw attention of the people to the policy and the website, we are going to do a number of radio jingles across the country.
“We are going to be working with transport unions; we are also hoping to engage the media by encouraging them to publicise our activities through their reportage,’’ he said.
Onumah added that the whistleblower policy should be credible enough to protect whistleblowers from danger, stating that the biggest issue associated with the policy is the credibility of the process.
He further explained that many people fear that if they submit tips or report any case, they might be ignored, used to make money or exposed to a third party or even circumvented.
He called on state governors to also show responsibility and determination in protecting whistleblowers.
“ The whistleblower protection bill has been passed in the Senate and we don’t think it offers enough protection for the whistleblowers.
“There is a version in the House of Representatives that hasn’t been passed, because they are still debating.
“But the Senate’s version so far said that people who give false information are criminally liable which we think is quite dangerous.
“In Nigeria almost every process is compromised like the person that was taken to court on the former Vice President’s case.
“We did our investigation and found out that it took three weeks after the guy reported the case before the search was conducted,’’ he said.
According to Onumah, there is no need to criminalise this process because it was supposed to be secret information; information given is for the anti-corruption agencies to do their investigation without the knowledge of the person being investigated.
He said that even if people lied, there was no yardstick to knowing if it was a lie or not, adding that the highest punishment should be refusal to pay the five per cent of the loot reported on.
The Coordinator said that the prosecuting agencies like the EFCC and ICPC should desist from broadcasting their activities especially as it relate to investigating corrupt officials.
He also said that the centre would partner with critical stakeholders such as the Ministry of Finance, National Orientation Agency, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and all revenue generating agencies in the country.
Onumah said the partnership would help create awareness on the importance of the whistleblower policy.
He announced the launch of its Whistleblower Support Initiative programme scheduled for Oct.
NAN reports that the organisation had created its website where people can submit tips and report on corrupt practices on- www.corruptionanonymous.org.
The Coordinator said that the organisation on their part was protecting whistleblowers by helping them fight their case.
He cited an example of a whistleblower that was dismissed last year from office but was recalled in Ministry of Foreign Affairs, saying that many organisations dismiss their staff without due process as laid down in the civil service rules.
Onumah added that the centre was also tracking and monitoring the whistle blowing policy, saying “we want to know what the relevant agencies are doing with the information they receive.’’
“We are currently working on another case in the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria where somebody was sacked because he refused to compromise his job.
“We have written to the Minister of Power Works and Housing and a committee has been set up to look into the matter if we don’t do this whistle blowers will be at a peril and it will die a natural death.
“Whistle blowing is a multi-dimensional process and not just focusing on political corruption it could be in universities in ministries and so on.
“If people have the capacity to blow whistle it will help reduce corruption, if people know that they can blow whistle on their corrupt activities they will deter,” he said. (NAN)