James Emejo in Abuja
Almost a decade after the introduction of the Whistle-blower bill by the executive arm of government to the National Assembly, a workshop was yesterday organised for the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes as the civil society towards accelerating its passage into law.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, said the lawmakers have a frontline role in preventing and exposing corruption, as well as providing adequate protection for whistle blowers.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, had recently carpeted the lawmakers for foiling the present administrationâ€™s fight against corruption through the deliberate tardiness on the part of the National Assembly to consider and quicken the passage of the bill into law.
But he lawmakers had informed THISDAY that recent developments, particularly the clamp down on some lawmakers by security agents over the whistle-blower policy could further dampen the prospects of its consideration and passage.
Some of the embarrassing house searches on lawmakers and other Nigerians had failed to yield useful results, only for security agencies to apologise in some instances that they were misled by a whistle blower.
Meanwhile, the House had recently hinted that it was committed to passing all anti-corruption-related bills before it proceeds on recess.
However, Dogara said disclosure of information for increased transparency was a necessary condition for accountability, adding that 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 was essential for fighting corruption.
He said the country does not currently have a law that protects whistle blowers but rather has the Federal Ministry of Financeâ€™s whistle blowing programme which is designed to encourage anyone with information about a violation of financial regulations to report.
He said although FMF Whistleblowing Programme had 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.
He said: â€œThis 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: â€œthe policy of any government which has not received the force of law cannot be the basis for punitive measure.â€
Nevertheless, he said the House would continue to promote citizenship participation in its legislative activities and pass the Whistle Blowerâ€™s Bill as a panacea for curbing corruption and promoting accountability in governance.
He added: â€œFinally, 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.â€