Opinion: The corruption in Nigeria’s whistle-blowing policy

Two weeks ago, as I was moving some personal effects from my office, I had to, in my own interest, resort to full disclosure of the contents of the ghana-must-go bags to my gateman, who usually helps me to convey heavy luggage into my residence.

I did that so as to clear an atmosphere of suspicion, which was created by the sight of the two fully-loaded bags sitting in the trunk of my car.  I did not want to become a victim of sudden invasion and search by any of the security agencies on account of alleged warehousing of suspected proceeds of crime.

Nobody should blame me for taking a precautionary measure.  At that point, I could not trust my gateman not to pull a smart one on me in order to make money.  It has become quite difficult to trust anybody in whistle-blowing matters, especially now that there is a reward attached to exposing where looted public funds are hidden.

We now live in interesting times.  It is quite thrilling to observe the ease with which security personnel and anti-graft agencies now discover humongous monies hidden outside the banking institution, although they must be proven to be the proceeds of crime.  If the ongoing war against corruption is all about uncovering huge sums of money in different currencies in people’s homes, almost every wealthy Nigerian and business moguls living in highbrow locations across the country would become a victim of raids carried out by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Therefore, it is about time the anti-graft agency to properly defined the scope of the whistle-blowing policy before a law is passed to that effect.  The Anambra State election is around the corner. Would the EFCC act on some “witch-hunting” whistles and go after the homes of the chieftains of the opposition party for keeping aside huge stashes of cash to fund the forthcoming election and allow the ruling All Progressives Congress to operate unhindered?

Nevertheless, I think that this policy is also increasingly making those who have looted public funds, especially those under investigations or trial, uneasy – a good development, if you ask me.

Just as William Shakespeare said, the evil that men do lives after them.  Another interesting side to this development is that the victims of the corrupt rich could mischievously grab the opportunity to even scores with them and access five per cent of the same money that was smartly denied them.

Although, the Federal Government is trying to transform every Nigerian who is not culpable in the shameless looting of the nation’s treasury into a whistle-blower, the shortchanged are likely to take undue advantage of this policy.  It will be nothing but a case of an accomplice exposing a smatter collaborator in a grand corruption matter. The falcon would covertly get a part of the loot while the falconer would have been beaten to his ‘fast game’ when both should have, ideally, lost all claims to the recovered funds.  So, in the circumstance of the operation of the whistle-blowing policy, corruption could be rewarded.

The policy that entitles a whistle-blower to five per cent of the hidden booty, recovered through his or her tip-off, is alluring.  It is a cool means of making big money.  But it should be well-guided not to become an instrument of witch-hunting and, in the end, corrupt the entire anti-corruption crusade.  It may become messy for the EFCC to handle if politics creeps in, since the commission is largely controlled by the government with political interest.

What the whistle-blowing policy has done, therefore, is to encourage people to attack the culture of trust, even if earned in questionable circumstances.  It is thus difficult for one to trust anybody these days, whether or not the circumstances are questionable. Going by the claims that whistle blowers’ tip-offs were responsible for the discoveries of hidden funds by the anti-graft agency, one is bound to interrogate the inter-personal relationships in all their ramifications, else, even the innocent will be wrongly targeted and pursued.

A situation where the identities of the owners of some discovered monies are shrouded in secrecy questions the validity of the claim that the discoveries were made on account of information provided by whistle-blowers.  Nigerians are still asking questions on the real owners of monies discovered by the EFCC.

There is also an abiding concern over suspicions that some of these mystery whistle-blowers are rival security agencies or their officials, who, having been enmeshed in inter-agency rivalry, have resorted to blowing whistles just to settle scores or prove some points.  A section of the public is insinuating this in the yet-to-be-sorted single largest discovery and recovery by the EFCC in Lagos State.

Certainly, desperation could precipitate a rash of frantic actions.  I hope that is not the case here.  Could it be a fight-back within the nation’s security circle?  If it is, then this could then mean the setting in of inter-agency witch-hunting, which is capable of undermining the entire whistle-blowing policy.  The reasoning will be if they could do that to themselves, what would they not do to outsiders?

I sincerely hope that was not what happened with the cash discovered and recovered at the Osborne Tower flat in Ikoyi.  Although, the National Intelligence Agency had to courageously step out to claim ownership of the money, purportedly meant for covert operations, its suspended Director-General, Ayo Oke, had maintained, in media reports, that he had already briefed the National Security Adviser about the cash.

Those claims have already been investigated by the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo panel.  The outcome of the inquisition by the three-man panel should unravel the truth. Nigerians anxiously await the outcome of the panel’s investigations.

However, all the concerns about the whistle blowing policy should be factored into the legislation that will spell its operations, functions and parameters.  It may turn out as one of the best instruments to drive the anti-graft war if properly implemented. The legal instrument should firm up the policy.

But, as long as it remains a policy and it is pursued on ad-hoc basis, then we should be ready to live with the perversion, manipulation, politicisation and propagandism for which the security and anti-graft agencies would deploy it in order to deal with their enemies or even outwit one another.

Consequently, the perceived inherent concerns about the policy along the line of witch-hunting, as well as the non-disclosure of the identities of the owners of recovered loot -which promotes corruption – cannot bolster public confidence and credibility in the system.Punch

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