The Whistle-blowing Policy of President Muhammadu Buhari
This paper addresses some central issues on corruption and efforts geared towards curbing this malaise that has permeated virtually every stratum of the Nigerian society. Over the years, one objective that often graces the manifesto of successive governments is the pledge to fight corruption in all its forms. Interestingly, the louder this promise gets, the more the will to act gets overwhelmed by the ever growing fangs of corruption. In any case, the whistle blowing policy of this administration seems to be a step in the right direction in the fight against corruption. So, this paper not only examines this overriding preoccupation of this somewhat new policy of the present administration but also its positives on the society since its inception. At the end of this paper, it could only be seen, if indeed, the policy has stayed true to its merits or otherwise.
Corruption is a multi-faceted and ever evolving phenomenon, a stark symptom of weak governance systems. ‘It is a term whose meaning shifts with the speaker’ (Ackerman, 5). In this regard, it can describe the corruption of the young from watching violence on television or refer to political decisions that provide narrow benefits to one’s constituents in the form. For instance, a new road constructed through a district or a new transformer in a community at the expense of other communities. Indeed, speakers use the term to cover a range of actions that they find undesirable. Notwithstanding its plethora of meanings, corruption sums up everything that militates against the advancement of any sane society. As such, preventing corruption requires a systemic approach based on both rules and values with a comprehensive strategy. It thus entails addressing the public sector at all levels and also reaching out to the private sector and to the citizens, as they too are responsible. Surprisingly, corruption exists in all countries of the world, though it is relative. In Nigeria, the quest to stem the tide of corruption obviously necessitated the formulation of the whistle blowing policy.
Corruption in Nigeria
Corruption has been an existential problem in Nigeria since independence. During discourses on corruption, attempts are often made to trace the origin of this debilitating disease that continues to plague the Nigerian society. Some scholars are of the opinion that it is the vestige of a colonial legacy. As such, the rise of public administration and the discovery of oil are often cited as the major events that have led to the sustained increase in the incidence of corrupt practices in the country. However, it goes without saying that, the deep inadequacies arising from a lack of strong institutions and the near collapse and failure of state institutions have provided a veritable breeding ground for corruption. Aside the negative effect of corruption on the nation’s polity, what is saddening is the blighted image of the nation on the international scene. Oruene sums up this perceptions when he refers to Nigeria ‘as the black hole of corruption’ (npn). It has become a notorious fact that in spite of efforts by successive governments, it remains endemic in Nigeria. ‘The myriad corruption control measures adopted have failed essentially because of the protection of vested interests compounded with corruption in the judiciary, quangos and law enforcement agencies’ (Oruene, npn). A review of failed approaches in tackling corruption by the present administration necessitated the formulation of the whistle blowing policy, which informs this paper.
Whistle-Blowing: Conceptual Elements
According to Ogbu, the term ‘whistle blowing’ is thought to have its roots in two different but related activities. First, ‘it follows from the practice of police or bobbies who blew their whistles when attempting to apprehend a suspected criminal’ (Ogbu, 27). Also, ‘it is thought to follow from the practice of referees during sporting events that blow their whistle to stop an action’ (Miceli & Near, 56). The central thrust of both propositions is that the whistleblower perceives something that he/she believes to be unethical or far from ideal and immediately reports to the appropriate authorities for corrective measures to be taken. In the context of this discussion (largely political), the whistleblower is someone who at his/her own risk opens up the lid on any wrongdoing in an organisation or institution, obviously driven by a sense of personal or public duty.
The idea of whistle blowing is an overtly contentious one. There are some school of thought that question its ethical leanings, as some whistle blowing may be borne out of personal grievances and grudges against the intended personalities. This could be summed up in words like ‘snitching’, ‘witch-hunting’ or ‘informants/spy’. At any rate, whistle blowing is a venture with its fair share of perils, to either of the parties involved. To corroborate this assertion, Ogbu stresses that ‘although the ethical issues in whistle blowing may be difficult to interrogate and continues to inspire rigorous debate among pundits, the truth is that regardless of whether the whistle blower is motivated by altruistic or selfish concerns, the act is not without risks’ (28). In general, whistle blowing has received massive boost from the charters of several international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU).
The Whistle-Blowing Policy in Nigeria
The whistle blowing policy is the novel idea of the current administration in curtailing corruption in the country. It is an anti-corruption programme that encourages people to voluntarily disclose information about fraud, bribery, looted government funds, financial misconduct, government assets and any other form of corruption or theft to a designated government agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The whistle blower who provides genuine information is rewarded or entitled to 2.5% to 5% of the recovered funds by the federal government. On the contrary, the whistle blower risk jail terms if the information provided is false. Indeed, there have significant victories in the battle against corruption since the whistle blowing policy came into effect.
In 2012, Nigeria was estimated to have lost over $400 billion to corruption since independence. Successive administrations continue to grapple with one or more cases of massive corruption. Obviously, Nigeria’s problems with corruption are no longer news. Incontrovertibly, corruption became endemic in the 1990s during the military regimes of Babangida and Abacha but a culture of impunity spread throughout the entire spectrum of the Nigerian society when democracy returned in 1999. Countless cases of corruption doth the political landscape of the nation with few properly investigated and prosecuted. A catalogue of corruption cases shows that those loyal to the power are often treated with kid’s gloves. In rue of this, the ministry of finance came up with whistle blowing policy which allows citizens to report corrupt related offenses and also earn a cut from the recovered funds.
So far, Nigerians have taken the bait. The Ikoyi saga is one of the major gains of the policy where over N500 million was recovered. There are several other situations whereby the policy has helped the federal government in recovering looted funds and stolen government assets. According to the minister of information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed quoted in Vanguard Newspaper of April 15th 2017, the federal government has recovered over $151 million and N8 billion naira, courtesy of whistle blowers. A strong merit of this policy is that it empowers everyone to be a de facto law enforcement officer. Since the policy covers a wide spectrum of corrupt related offenses, sanity is gradually returning to every sphere of the society.
The problem of corruption is not unique to Nigeria or the developing countries of the world. However, it is paramount to confront our problems as a nation squarely if Nigeria is to occupy her once prestigious position in the comity of nations. No great nation succeeds when corruption thrives. The whistle blowing policy is therefore, a step in the right direction. The success of this policy rests principally on the government, and then, the people. As Nigerians have already caught the fever of this policy, the government should ensure that the morale of whistle blowers does not dissipate. To ensure this, whistle blowers should be duly protected and should not be denied their fair share of whatever is recovered. In the nutshell, making the country great is the obligation of every Nigerian irrespective of social or political class.
Ackerman, Sarah. The Challenge of Poor Governance and Corruption: Copenhagen Consensus Challenge Paper. Copenhagen: 2004. Lecture
Miceli, M. & Near, P. Blowing the Whistle: The Organizational and Legal Implications for Companies and Employees. New York: Lexington Books. 1992
Oruene, Taiwo. Corruption in Nigeria: A Cultural Phenomenon. Journal of Financial Crime. 1998. Vol 5: 3. 232-240.
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