How state govts frustrate anti-corruption fight ― EFCC

•As ICPC, CBOs demand Whistleblower protection policy, special court

Head, Legal and Prosecutions Department, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibadan Zonal Office, Dr. Ben Ubi, on Thursday, bemoaned that state governments continued to hamper the effective implementation of the whistleblower policy in their states by obtaining court injunctions.

Ubi observed this at a workshop for community-based organisations on whistleblowing and the anti-corruption fight organised by the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), held in Ibadan.

Speaking, he decried that some state government’s disposition towards queries by anti-graft agencies sent signals that they do not buy into the whistle blower policy and rather view it as a federal government policy.

This, Ubi said, was evidenced in the fact that attempts by the anti-corruption agencies to investigate some states over alleged financial impropriety are usually rebuffed by state governments who quickly get restraining orders on grounds that the accounts and staff of their states cannot be investigated by federal government agencies without any report of indictment by their state houses of Assembly.

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Quoting provisions of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004 and decided cases, he maintained that the commission had the powers to investigate and prosecute all economic and financial crimes and be a common agency for the federal and state governments in the fight against corruption.

This is as he cited section 38 of the EFCC Act as giving the commission the powers to seek and receive information from any person, authority, corporation or company without hindrance.

Though he noted that the EFCC had made recoveries since the introduction of the whistleblower policy, Ubi warned that the success of the policy was at risk except the National Assembly passes the Whistle Blower Protection Bill into law.

He noted that having such law will take care of the exposure of whistleblowers to risk and encourage more people to come up with information for the anti-graft agencies.

“The policy has not been bought into by most state governments as it is viewed as a federal government thing.

“This can be seen from the fact that attempts by the anti-corruption agencies to investigate some states over alleged financial impropriety have over the years faced obstacles from the state governments who usually rush to courts of law to obtain injunctive orders on grounds that the accounts and staff of such states cannot be investigated by Federal Government agencies without any report of indictment by the state Houses of Assembly.

“The National Assembly is yet to pass the Whistle-blower Protection Bill into law, which does posit danger in further delay in doing so as it may expose the whistleblowers to risk and discourage more people from coming up with information to the anti-graft agencies. It is hoped that the current National Assembly will expedite the passage of this bill into law,” Ubi said.

Ubi also decried delays in the dispensation of justice in corruption cases as a major challenge to the implementation of the policy with whistleblowers always at risk of being attacked by the accused who is yet to be put behind bars.

While bemoaning that the Administration of Criminal Justice Law had not been effectively administered to fast track corruption cases, Ubi advocated the need for the establishment of special courts to quickly dispense with corruption cases.

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In his own contribution, representative of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Abuja, Mr. Larry Abou advocated the need for a whistleblower protection policy to encourage Nigerians to be confident to provide information that could tackle corruption.

Speaking further, Abou’s representative, Mr. David Oluwole stressed the need for the establishment of a special court to address delays in the administration of justice, especially corruption cases.

He noted that such whistleblower protection policy will provide some succor and protection to whistleblowers who are usually suspended, sacked, posted out of office, victimized or even killed.

Coordinator, AFRICMIL, Dr. Chido Onumah, in his welcome address, emphasized the need for the passage of the Whistleblower Protection bill into law to protect the lives of whistleblowers and provide succor to anyone who suffers consequences of whistleblowing.

“The biggest challenge of whistleblowing is protection of their identity of the whistleblower. If whistleblower feels that their identity is not protected, there will not be need for them to want to blow the whistle.

“Once you blow the whistle, there is retaliation, victimization of whistleblowers by authorities. So, one of the things we have been pushing for is the passage of Whistleblower Protection law.

“With that law, citizens are assured that they are covered if they blow the whistle. The best practice is to have an enabling law that answers the questions of if the identity of the whistleblower is known if someone suffers retaliation or victimization. Is it possible for the government to provide some kind of financial support if the whistleblower loses their employment in the process? So, the passage of whistleblower law in the country is important,” Onumah said.

Noting huge consequences of corruption on the country, Executive Director, Onelife Initiative for Human Development, Sola Fagorusi, stressed the need for all Nigerians to see the fight against corruption as their duty as citizens.

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