On December 21, 2016 the Federal Government adopted a new policy on whistle blowing. Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun issued a statement after the Federal Executive Council meeting, chaired by President Buhari. She said: “the policy is a stop gap initiative until the National Assembly formally passes a law on whistle blowing. The new policy encourages Nigerians with information on financial crimes to disclose it”. She added: “the anonymity and protection of whistle blowers will be guaranteed.” Another crucial aspect of this policy is the incentive: 2.5-5% of the recovered loot will be given to the whistle blower.
President Buhari is known for his integrity and honesty; throughout his years in the Nigerian Army he displayed these qualities. As a Head of State(1984-1985), Buhari implemented War Against Indiscipline and also dealt with corrupt individuals. Even after his years in the Army, Buhari has advocated for fight against corruption; he is incorruptible and detests corruption.
We have different corrupt practices but the one Nigerians are sick and tired of is financial crime. Financial crime includes: fraud, money laundering, bribery and looting amongst others. Financial crime is a precursor to corrupt practices and can also lead to social vices. Financial crime in an organization will badly affect the economy of that organization.
To Buhari and his supporters this policy is a boost and good development to the fight against corruption; to the looters and their sympathisers this is a setback and an obstacle. Most importantly, Nigeria will benefit from this policy and any patriotic Nigerian will support it. The policy has started yielding fruit so far. The Federal Government has recovered $136,676,600.51 from an account in a commercial bank under a fake name, followed by 7 billion Naira and $15 million from another person and 1 billion Naira from yet another (Vanguard 12 February, 2017).
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said “when we told Nigerians that there was a primitive and mindless looting of the national treasury under the last administration, some people called us liars. Well, the whistle-blower policy is barely two months old and Nigerians have started feeling its impact, seeing how a few people squirreled away public funds. It is doubtful if any economy in the world will not feel the impact of such mind boggling looting of the treasury as was experienced in Nigeria. Yet whatever has been recovered so far, including the $9.2 million by the EFCC, is just a tip of the iceberg” (Vanguard 12 February, 2017).
In recent years, we have had two whistle blowers whose claim were futile and unfortunately both of them were suspended. This happened before the whistle blower policy was adopted.
Some $9.8m and 74,000 pounds were found in the house of a former Group Managing Director of NNPC. This is mind boggling; the mode of concealing the illicit funds was exceptional. In an era where the general populace thinks that illicit funds are hidden in Lagos and Abuja, he brought it to Kaduna. In Kaduna State one would expect that the funds will be hidden at U/Rimi or Malali amongst others. As a good strategist, he was able to divert attention and confuse anticipation: he took the money to Sabon Tasha and hid it in a fire proof safe. Outstanding!
Sabon Tasha is not one of the posh areas in Kaduna State. Sabo as it is popularly called is one of the slums in Kaduna. If Sabo had anticipated being in the limelight as the hideout of illicit funds it would have declined such offer. One expects that the house that will keep such a whopping amount will be beautiful, but hell no! The house had no fence or gate. To cut a long story short, the house does not seem capable of stashing a million. Certainly, looks deceive.
The children and grandchildren of Sabo will be told stories of how it housed such amount without benefitting. If Sabo had a deity it will surely curse this man.
A Federal High Court sitting in Kano ordered the forfeiture of the money to Federal Government. This man fought back and asked a court in Kano to set aside the order of forfeiture (Daily Trust 20 February, 2017 Page 4). He is telling us that he got the money as gift from unnamed persons. If it was found at the residence of one of the country’s billionaire – with a legitimate business – the case would have been different.
It was alleged that the Southern Kaduna Coalition of Professional issued a statement supporting him; saying he is being witch-hunted. This kind of sycophancy and ethnic bigotry is annoying and disappointing. Why not wait and see how things unfold? Or prove that the money is legitimate. Yet they call themselves professionals.
The whistle blower policy was adopted at the right time. People are now on the lookout, they don’t care if it’s their relative or friend. This policy will aid in the fight against corruption.
At a two-day judicial colloquium, organised by the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS). The then Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walker Onnoghen highlighted section 1 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act signed into law by President Jonathan in 2015. He said “the purpose of this act is to ensure that the system of administration of criminal justice in Nigeria promotes efficient management of criminal justice institutions, speedy dispensation of justice, protection of the society from crime and protection of the rights and interests of the suspects, the defendant and the victim” (Daily Trust February 21, 2017 Page 31). It’s been two years since the act was signed into law, but the pace at which it is driving the anti-corruption fight is lethargic. Nigerians want something better that will serve as a catalyst to this fight.
A lawless society is in the state of anarchy and impunity will surely reign. A society without law is in a terrible condition. A society that will jail a goat thief and allow a looter to keep roaming about is slightly different from the aforementioned. The law is not fair and we are tired of this inequality.
These looters are rich. In the society they are influential and wield a lot of power. Their CVs can be intimidating and some have reached the peak of their careers. We the youths used to look up to them. This makes one to believe that in Nigeria you reach the top only by contact with the corrupt: either by brushing their shoulders or to wine and dine with them. Now that their masks have been unveiled – no need to look up to these characters.
A glance through the illicit funds forfeiture cases pending shows a huge amount of funds yet to be recovered. The siphoned money will significantly fund the budget of most African countries. If the looted funds were invested in infrastructure, Nigeria would have been better off in terms of socio-economic development.
Identifying these looters is a defining moment in the history of this great Nation. Posterity and history will judge this administration for exposing the bad eggs. I urge the National Assembly, Judiciary, Ministry of Justice, Nigerian Bar Association and all stakeholders to support this fight. Necessity is the mother of invention; so they should create and implement measures that will facilitate the fight against financial crimes in Nigeria. Those culpable should face the full wrath of law. No more excuses! No more prolonged detention! All we want is conviction!
I support what the erudite columnist Jibrin Ibrahim said “we should open a register in what should be called the National Hall of Shame, where the names and terrible deeds of mega thieves will be displayed”.
I duly believe this will help in curtailing corrupt practices for subsequent generations.
Khalifa Musa Muhammad (Malam Wiz)
A Concerned Nigerian….