THE Whistleblowing Advocacy Coalition (WAC) has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for transmitting the draft whistleblower protection bill to the National Assembly for further consideration and passage before the end of his administration.
The bill, which was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in December 2022, is to strengthen the fight against corruption and protect whistleblowers that provide helpful information to the government.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr. Zainab Ahmed, speaking after the bill was approved by the FEC, said the memo was reviewed and approved by the Council with a provision to ensure alignment with the Evidence Act.
“The purpose of operationalising and putting in place a whistleblower bill is to strengthen the fight against corruption and to enable protection for whistleblowers that provide information for use by the government.
“As you know, since 2016, the Council has approved the setting up the Presidential Initiative of Continuous Audit. PICA has been working in partnership with EFCC, ICPC, DSS, and NFIU and the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.”
Meanwhile, in a statement released on Wednesday, May 10, the Whistleblowing Advocacy Coalition noted that a whistleblowing protection law for Nigeria is long overdue, adding that it’s been an interest of different Civil Society Organisations over the last two decades.
The Coalition noted that the whistleblowing policy has been in operation for more than six years but is not backed by a legal framework that would strengthen implementation and boost citizen confidence.
Part of the statement read: “Thus, the president’s decision to send the bill to the National Assembly for passage is a huge affirmation of his commitment to making whistleblowing an important mechanism for fighting corruption and wrongdoing, as well as for doing away with the culture of silence that has been the citizens’ traditional way of life.
“We salute Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the vice president, who presided over the cabinet meeting at which the draft bill was approved, for his unbounded thoughtfulness for the needs of the people for a law that would improve their lives and society at large. According to the vice president, the whistleblowing law is one important piece of legislation that Nigerians have long been waiting for.
“The Coalition also acknowledges the significant role played by Dr. Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, and the whistleblowing unit, the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), that worked with stakeholders, including civil society organisations, to ensure that a new whistleblower protection bill was drafted and presented to FEC for approval and adoption as an executive bill.”
The Coalition reiterated the importance of protecting whistleblowers facing retaliation for exposing wrongdoings in the society, stressing that workers who show courage to report fraud are subjected to all kinds of punishment at workplace.
“The importance of protection for citizens facing retaliation for blowing the whistle for the good of society cannot be overemphasized. Almost daily, workers who show the courage to report fraud and other wrongdoing in their workplaces are subjected to all kinds of punishment, including suspension without pay, withholding of salary, denial of promotion, outright dismissal, threats, and intimidation which hint at physical harm or even death in some cases.
“Therefore, we believe that more than any other time, a piece of legislation that ensures effective protection for whistleblowers is urgently needed as a means of encouraging citizen participation in whistleblowing as an effective mechanism for fighting corruption. The only way Nigerians can be motivated to blow the whistle is when they know there is a law that fully protects them from retaliation.
“Now that the whistleblower protection bill is before the National Assembly, we are calling on the lawmakers to respond positively to the President’s gesture by giving the bill the urgent treatment it deserves, so that the President can sign it into law and cap his tenure which ends May 29, 2023, with a fitting legacy of bequeathing to Nigerians one of the most critical instruments for achieving transparency, accountability and good governance in the country.”
Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M