Speaker , House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Yakubu Dogara has stressed the need for a law that would safeguard against victimization of the person exposing corruption.
The Speaker was addressing a workshop for the House of Reps Committee on Financial Crimes and Members of the Civil Societies on Whistle Blowers Bill on Tuesday in Abuja.
Hon Dogara said it is important to have in place , a law that protects a whistle blower instead of the present practice anchored on policy that is subject to administrative review
Text of the speech:
I am delighted to address this workshop on Whistle Blower’s Protection Bill for leaders of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Members of the House Committee on Financial Crimes.
2. The consequences of corruption are greater than just the diversion of resources, profound as this is. Corruption destroys societies and contributes to trust deficit and lack of confidence in governance. According to Corruption Watch, a non-profit organization, ‘Corruption affects us all. It threatens sustainable economic development, ethical values and justice; it destabilises our society and endangers the rule of law. It undermines the institutions and values of our democracy. But because public policies and public resources are largely beneficial to the poor and the vulnerable, it is they who suffer the harmful effects of corruption most grievously”.
3. The burden of corruption in Nigeria is a peculiar one that inhibits our economic and social development. In order to fight this scourge and ensure a just and egalitarian society, the relationship between increased availability of information in the public domain, accountability and protection of anyone who exposes alleged wrongdoing cannot be overemphasized.
4. Disclosure of information for increased transparency is a necessary condition for accountability. The enactment of Whistle Blowers Protection law as a vehicle for the investigation of alleged corruption and misuse of power by public servants or their private collaborators and to provide adequate safeguards against victimization of the person making such complaint is therefore, an essential element of the war against corruption.
5. It is important to note that Nigeria does not currently have a law that protects whistle blowers; rather what we have is the Federal Ministry of Finance’s whistle blowing programme which is designed to encourage anyone with information about a violation of financial regulations to report. Although Federal Ministry of Finance (FMF) Whistleblowing Programme has led to the recovery of a lot of public funds hidden in various places, including markets, private properties and other ridiculous places, it is not yet backed by an appropriate legal framework. According to the Ministry, a whistleblower who provides the Government with information that directly leads to the voluntary return of stolen/concealed public funds/assets may be entitled to between 2.5%-5.0% of the amount recovered. This policy, because it is not law, is subject of administrative review from time to time. A law is therefore required not just to protect the whistle blower but also to prevent abuse of the policy. A policy may not be legally enforceable. In Fed Military Govt v Sani (N0.1) (1989) the Court of Appeal held that: “the policy of any government which has not received the force of law cannot be the basis for punitive measure.”
6. Even though, the scope of the policy is very wide and covers such critical areas as Public Procurement Act and other extant laws, Mismanagement or misappropriation of public funds and assets, Information on stolen public funds, Information on concealed public funds, Financial malpractice or fraud, Theft, Collecting/soliciting bribes, Corruption, Diversion of revenues and so on, the policy is not enough to provide adequate safeguards or protection against victimization of the person making such complaint.
7. Many countries have enacted WhistleBlowers laws to protect whistleblowers. The origins of Whistleblowing legislation can be traced to the United States as early as 1863 with the enactment by Congress of the False Claims Act. By 1989, the Whistleblower Protection Act was passed and amended in 2007. It is now called the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007. Also, the United Kingdom passed the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) in 1999. These Acts offers protections for whistleblowers. In fact, Article 33 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), enjoins UNCAC signatory countries to incorporate in their domestic legislation provisions protecting whistleblower witnesses and their families from any unwarranted treatment. It is instructive that Nigeria ratified this convention on 14 December 2004. Although there is no record of legislative domestication of the Convention, the current effort in putting a legislation in place should be regarded as complying with the UN Convention.
8. Although the Whistle Blower’s Protection Bill is still before the National Assembly for consideration, the Freedom of Information Act (2011) has some provisions under which whistle-blowers can be offered some form of legal protection.
9. In the House of Representatives, there is recognition of the frontline role of lawmakers in preventing and exposing corruption as well as providing adequate protection for whistle blowers. We recognize that the Parliament, more than the Executive, has the constitutional duty and responsibility to expose corruption, inefficiency and waste within its legislative competence. We have demonstrated leadership by declaring in our legislative agenda that our people must be at the centre of our activities and we have subjected ourselves as well as our legislative processes to the rule of law.
10. The House has also recognized that the enactment of the Whistle Blower’s law is one of the first important steps towards establishing and fostering the culture of zero-tolerance to various forms of malpractices including corruption in both public and private sectors. We are also aware that the protection availed to the persons reporting misconduct in Nigeria and the established mechanisms for reporting wrongdoing must to be set within the broader context of internationally recognized principles and best practices.
11. To this end, we shall continue to promote citizenship participation in our legislative activities and pass the Whistle Blower’s Bill as a panacea for curbing corruption in Nigeria and promote accountability in governance. In the words of Barack Obama, former President of USA: “Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance.”
12. I want to assure you of the continued support of the House of Representatives in your quest to promote evaluation and exchange of ideas, coordination and peer-learning in the fight against corruption. A robust framework on Whistle Blower’s law will no doubt enhance quick and seamless recovery, forfeiture, and confiscation of property in respect of anti-corruption offences.
13. Finally, it is hoped that this time around, whistleblowers legislation will see the light of day and be enacted into law to break the jinx that has bedeviled this piece of legislation since it was first introduced into the National Assembly in 2008.
14. Once again, I thank you for your kind attention and wish you fruitful deliberations as I declare this Workshop open.
15. May God bless you and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.