19 March 2017

Nigeria: Govt Pledges to Review Cases of Citizens Punished for Exposing Corruption

Photo: The Guardian

Against the uproar that followed the recent sack of a whistle-blower by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the federal government has promised to look into cases of Nigerians who got punished for helping to expose corruption.

Ntia Thompson, an assistant director in the Foreign Affairs Ministry, was sacked for exposing an alleged $229,000 fraud among top officials of the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa, DTCA.

The sack of Mr. Thompson is seen as a big blow to the government's whistle-blower policy which is meant to encourage the citizens to help in exposing corruption.

A civic group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, had given the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, a seven-day ultimatum to recall Mr. Thompson.

"Impunity for reprisals against Mr Thompson would send a message to all potential whistle-blowers that your ministry lacks the commitment to their protection," the deputy director of SERAP, Timothy Adewale, said in a letter to the minister.

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, on Sunday, restated the government's resolve to protect whistle-blowers, as well as reward them.

"For those who may have suffered any backlash as a result of the information they provide, their cases will be reviewed and appropriate mitigating actions taken," a statement issued by the ministry quoted Mr. Mohammed as saying.

The statement said Mr. Mohammed's assurance followed presentations made to the Presidential Asset Recovery Committee by concerned citizens and groups about the safety of whistle-blowers.

Mr. Mohammed said further, "Whistle-blowers have nothing to fear because the committee has put in place the necessary measures to safeguard those who give useful information. As a matter of fact, whistle-blowers have everything to gain and nothing to lose."

The minister reiterated the government's readiness to reward whistle-blowers.

"If a whistle-blower provides information leading to the recovery of 10 billion naira, he or she will receive 5% of the first 1 billion naira, 4% of the next 4 billion naira and 2.5% of the remaining 5 billion naira," Mr. Mohammed said indicating a whistle blower would get N335 million for every N10 billion fraud exposed.

"What we have done by making this information public is to reassure potential whistle-blowers that the plan to reward is real. We are not just saying we will pay all whistle-blowers, but we are letting them know in advance what they are entitled to, once the information they provide leads to the recovery of looted funds," Mr. Mohammed said.

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