Lagos – The Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN), has urged the National Assembly to expeditiously pass the whistle-blowing policy Bill to tackle corruption and protect whistle-blowers.
Mr Femi Falana, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), spoke during the institute’s annual lecture in Lagos on Thursday.
The lecture was tagged; “Whistle-blowing Policy: Issues, Benefits, and Challenges to curtail financial crimes and misappropriation of assets both in the private and public sectors of the nation.”
Falana said that the policy was an invitation to citizens to participate in the anti-corruption policy of government.
According to him, the constitutional right of a citizen is to impart information, knowledge and ideas as the constitution provides for the protection of the citizen’s right to freedom of expression.
“Anybody who blows the whistle is protected by the constitution. Section 39 of the constitution guarantees freedom of expression and that includes freedom to impart knowledge, information and ideas to people.
“Section 24 of the constitution stipulates that every citizen is legally bound to assist law enforcement agencies to expose crime in the society to promote law and order in the society.’’
Falana, however, revealed that some cases of whistle blowing had ended badly for the persons involved.
“We recall when the whistle of the murder of late Bola Ige, the former Attorney-General of Nigeria was blown, both the blower and the lawyer Festus Keyamo were arrested and charged to court.
“As at the time of their release, the whistle-blower was heard singing a different tune,’’ the SAN said.
Mr Biodun Adedipe, a consultant on Management and Financial issues, recommended that a legal framework be created to solve the challenges of rewarding and protecting whistle blowers.
“A rate chart for reward should be developed and comprehensive legal protection for the whistle blower must be provided,” he said.
Adedipe said research and advocacy on whistle blowing had blossomed, especially in countries where the policy has been formalised and proven successful in curbing greed that motivates financial crimes and other forms of errant behaviors.
He said reports from Transparency International revealed that Nigeria’s whistle blowing scorecard had 8,373 enquiries, while 1,231 tips have been received.
“Seven hundred and ninety one investigations, and 534 of those investigations have been carried out, and the government through the policy had made some huge financial recoveries.
“As much as these achievements are commendable, there is obviously a huge scope for more as opaque transactions liter several sectors of the economy,” he said.
Adedipe encouraged organisations to implement and adopt the whistle blowing policy as an important component of their risk management framework and sustainability strategy.
“The future of Nigeria is brighter if these issues are considered, adopted and vigorously implemented,’’ he said.
Mr Festus keyamo, SAN said the scope of the policy, if implemented should be expanded to cover the private sector.
“The kind of activities in the private sector, particularly banking, is alarming,” Keyamo said.
He advised that the whistle blowing policy must be carefully implemented not to protect actual criminals and accomplices and must separate accomplices from whistleblowers.
Samuel Kolawole, the president, ICSAN, said whistle blowing was a potent anti-corruption instrument as the recent discoveries of N23.2 million and other amounts in foreign currencies underlined the efficacy of whistleblowing as an agent of positive change.
“We believe in its usefulness and have always promoted its deployment not only because of its potential as a safeguard against corruption but also as an instrument for promoting accountability, transparency and good governance.
“ICSAN has always underscored the significance of whistle blowing as a veritable mechanism both in the public and private sectors,’’ he said. (NAN)