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As we all know, there has
been a drastic drop in Nigeria’s federal revenue due to the fall in oil
prices and the general mismanagement of the countries resources under previous
administrations; the resultant effect is that Nigeria is now seriously
strapped for cash.


In an innovative drive to
raise revenue and expose public officials involved in improper conduct, the
federal government of Nigeria introduced the Whistle Blower Policy.

Many people do not know
the details of the policy; however, what has resonated in most peoples minds is
the simple fact that who ever informs the government of looted public funds
becomes entitled to between 2.5% – 5% of the value of the looted funds once recovered,
as compensation for their efforts.

To Snitch Or Not To
Snitch
As you can trust, our ever
faithful Nigerian compatriots have been flocking to the nations call like bees
to honey. In the last few weeks we have seen an unprecedented influx of people
informing the government of various facts, which I presume, have been to their
knowledge for quite some time… I can only wonder what is prompting this sudden
urge to share this information (can you just picture security guards around the
country turning into mathematicians when doing their calculations).

In this article I share my
thoughts on this new “policy”. I have been meaning to do this for some time,
but felt the urge to write now given the influx and gravity of recent
discoveries.

Just Before You Run
And Snitch…
I must stress that
although the Whistle Blower Bill was laid before the Nigerian Senate in October
of 2015, we are now in April of 2017 and the bill is yet to be passed into law,
thus the policy is currently merely a tentative measure. This to me is quite
concerning.

I understand the fact that
the President does not have the power to waive Constitutional protocol when it
comes to the passage of bills into law; however, the bill could have been an
executive bill sponsored by the President himself and he could have mounted
political pressure to lobby the House of Reps and the Senate for the swift
enactment of the bill. Both to my knowledge have not been done and almost 2
years later the bill is only at the second reading.

I personally cannot
imagine the unease this nature of law would bring unto our public officials.
This may be relatable to why they do not seem entirely enthusiastic about
enacting the draft bill.

Wait A Minute!
The policy stresses
transparency and accountability, however I am yet to see any published
information pertaining to the loot so far recovered. What is clear from
official publications is that billions of naira have been recovered. The
following questions have been revolving in my mind for the past few months:

• Are these looted funds
kept in the EFCC offices?
• Are they paid into a
particular account?
• If so which account?
• Have any of the looted
funds been spent so far?
• If so, what are the
projects these looted funds have been utilized for?

One thing that concerns me
here is the re-misappropriation of the looted funds, how do we even know that
the agents who are sent to investigate the tip offs are not taking their
“personal commission” prior to disclosing the discovery.

Mathematical Analysis
The policy promises
between 2.5% and 5% of the recovery value as a reward to the person or persons who
assist in the recovery; however it is not quite clear how the exact reward due
to the informant is determined. The difference between 2.5% and 5% on N1
Billion is a lot of money.

I must also stress that
according the Federal Ministry of Finance Whistle Blowing FAQs the following
caveats need to be met for one to qualify for this reward;

1. The Whistleblower must
provide the Government with information it does not already have;
2. The information
provided should not be obtainable by the Government from any other publicly
available source; and
3. The actual recovery
must also be on account of the information provided by the Whistleblower.

Please how can one verify
what information the government has, what is obtainable and if ones information
is entirely responsible for the actual recovery.

Also, another gray area
appears to be the point at which the informant is paid. I am sure most
informants would like their cash as soon as the officials are recovering the
loot or within a matter of hours thereafter. Since the policy is not yet
enacted, this is something that has not been determined.

There are some who argue
that, due to the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty, the money
can only be paid to the informant after the prosecution and subsequent
conviction of the persons who initially looted the money. Imagine if the
accused looter had a legal right to the money in their possession, what becomes
of the 5% paid to the informant at the onset.

You Are On Your
Own!
The general assertion is
that an informant is protected by law, thus should not be unfairly treated
should it come to light that they were the source of the information. However,
in reality, given the peculiarities of the country in which we live, the likely
hood of the Federal Government remembering the informant several weeks or even
months after they have successfully dealt with any misappropriations are slim
to none.

“Confidentiality will be
maintained to the fullest extent possible within the limitations of the law.”
(taken from the Federal Ministry of Finance Whistle Blowing FAQs)

I have read from various
sources that said informant can raise concerns should anything happen to them,
but there seems to be no mention as to the implications of the unfair treatment
of any known informant. I also wonder if there is going to be a special task
force designated for their protection… somehow I doubt so.

Conclusion
I must stress that my
intentions in writing this article is not to deter the general public from assisting
in the recovery of looted funds. My concern is in instances where individuals
are putting their lives in danger only to be “played” by the Federal
Government.

As we all know, corruption
is somewhat entrenched in the Nigerian system, and the fact remains that most
of the persons who were responsible for the misappropriations under previous
administrations are still somewhat relevant under this administration and still
very powerful people.

I have often wondered what
happened to all the “Abacha Loot” returned to Nigeria by foreign governments
(estimated at almost $1billion) and then I am reminded of how the cash, valued
at $15million, James Ibori paid to Nuhu Ribadu got “lost” after Mr. Ribadu
lodged it as evidence in Mr. Ibori’s corruption case.

I hope this policy is
properly implemented, the rate and volumes being misappropriated can only be
described as kleptomania; for the swift development of the country drastic
measures have to be put in force. But first the government on their part must
be transparent and unequivocal in their pursuit of justice.

Ivie Omoregie
Energy & Finance, Associate at Templars
Ed’s Note – This article was first published here