ABUJA- The Whistleblowing Advocacy Coalition (WAC) has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for transmitting the draft of whistleblower protection bill to the National Assembly for passage.
Dr Chido Onumah, Coordinator, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) said this in a statement signed by 20 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on Wednesday in Abuja .
Onumah said that the coalition believed that a whistleblowing protection law for Nigeria was long overdue, being a conversation that had been on among different interest groups over the last two decades.
He said that given that the whistleblowing policy which had been in operation for more than six years was not backed by a legal framework that should strengthen implementation and boost citizen confidence.
“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.
“It will as well do 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,” he said.
Onumah said also acknowledged the significant role played by Dr Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, and the whistleblowing unit.
He also thanked the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), that worked with stakeholders, including CSOs, to ensure that a new whistle-blower protection bill was drafted and presented to FEC for approval and adoption as an executive bill.
He said that the importance of protection for citizens facing retaliation for blowing the whistle for the good of society could not be overemphasised.
He said that almost daily, workers who showed the courage to report fraud and other wrongdoing in their workplaces were subjected to all kinds of punishment, including suspension without pay.
He listed others to include : withholding of salary, denial of promotion, outright dismissal, threats, and intimidation which hint at physical harm or even death in some cases.
Onumah said that the coalition believed that more than any other time, a piece of legislation that ensured effective protection for whistle-blowers was urgently needed .
This, he said was 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,”he said
Onumah called on the National Assembly to respond positively to the president’s gesture by giving the bill the urgent treatment it deserved.
He said this was so that the president could sign it into law and cap his tenure which ends May 29, with a fitting legacy of bequeathing to Nigerians one of the most critical instruments for achieving transparency, accountability and good governance in the country.
The umdesigned CSOs included :AFRICMIL,Progressive Impact Organisation for Community Development (PRIMORG) ,HEDA Resource Centre and Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) .
Others included : Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) ,Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) Order Paper Advocacy Initiative (Order Paper)International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) and Amnesty International .
It also included : CLEEN Foundation ,Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) ,Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) ,and Centre for Fiscal Transparency and Integrity Watch (CeFTIW) .
Others were :Accountability Lab Nigeria Connected Development (CODE), TAP Initiative, PLAY!YA , Civic Media Lab , Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED) and Human Rights Observatory.(NAN)