A coalition of anti-corruption organisations has applauded the Nigerian government for its commitment to enacting anti-corruption legislation.
The Whistleblowing Advocacy Coalition praised the government for supporting three anti-corruption initiatives currently before the National Assembly – the Proceeds of Crime Bill, the Whistleblower Bill, and the Witness Protection Bill.
President Muhammadu Buhari had written to the National Assembly to seek timely passage of the three bills.
The letter dated January 14, was read by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, at the plenary on Wednesday in their respective chambers.
The three proposals, according to the group, have been long overdue for consideration and passage since they are vital to a successful fight against corruption in Nigeria.
This was contained in a statement jointly signed on behalf of the Whistleblowing Advocacy Coalition by the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Chido Onumah, Coordinator, Executive Director, Progressive Impact Organisation for Community Development (PRIMORG), and Okhiria Agbonsuremi.
“We see the three bills as extremely important in checking pervasive corruption in the country; however, we are particularly delighted with the president’s reference to the whistleblower bill given the frontline role of whistleblowing as an instrument for combating corruption and other forms of wrongdoing, as well as achieving transparent, accountable and democratic good governance,” the statement said.
The coalition stressed the importance of whistleblowing in our society, stating that the country’s laws encouraged residents to report crimes, but regretted that there were no laws protecting citizens who were subjected to various forms of punishment for reporting illegalities.
According to the coalition, “With the announcement of the whistleblowing policy in 2016, it was taken for granted that citizens who demonstrate the rare courage to blow the whistle by submitting productive reports of corrupt practices to appropriate quarters would enjoy full protection, but the reverse has since been the case.
“In the absence of a robust legal framework that ensures effective protection for citizens who respond to the call to report a crime, the regime of impunity manifested in routine arbitrary punishment of workers has taken firm root in the public sector.
“All kinds of reprisals ranging from threats and intimidation, suspension, withholding of salary, denial of promotion, outright dismissal and much more are continually being inflicted on whistleblowers in the public service.
“Regrettably, the masterminds and enforcers of the several victimizations have intensified efforts in all kinds of despicable schemes to punish whistleblowers by exploiting the gap created by the absence of a functional whistleblowing law that guarantees protection and sanctions perpetrators of victimization.”
According to the coalition, the president’s demand on the parliament to hurry up and approve a whistleblowing law, among other things, could not have come at a better moment.
“As the president rightly noted, there are a couple of whistleblowing bills in the national assembly waiting for the lawmakers’ urgent attention. It also stated that a fresh whistleblowing bill by the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning which was the subject of a review retreat in Keffi, Nasarawa State, in conjunction with some civil society groups led by AFRICMIL in May 2021, would soon be sent to the National Assembly.
“This is the surest way of actualizing the cultural acceptance of whistleblowing as a potent weapon for fighting corruption in Nigeria,” the coalition noted.
The coalition also urged the National Assembly to hasten the legislative processes to ensure a quick passage of the law before the end of the tenure of this administration.
“We are optimistic that the Buhari administration and the 9th Assembly will find a good spot in the history of the fight against corruption in Nigeria with the enactment of the whistleblower protection law,” the coalition said.
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