Nigeria: Govt Weeds Out 25,000 Ghost Workers Exposed By Whistleblowers

30 September 2020

The federal government has removed over 25, 000 ghost workers from the payroll of the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government under its whistleblower policy.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, who revealed this however did not give details on how they were discovered and weeded out as well as the specific ministries that were involved in the fraudulent exercise.

The whistleblower policy is the result of the current administration's resolve to vigorously fight corruption in the country.

The policy is designed to strengthen the fight against financial crimes and corruption by increasing exposure of financial crimes and rewarding whistleblowers.

The minister noted yesterday that the federal government was committed to driving corruption down the line and entrench a culture of transparency and openness.

She made the remarks during the national conference on whistleblower policy in Nigeria held in Abuja.

The federal government had constituted a committee with representatives from anti-graft and security agencies chaired by a representative of the ministry of justice to draft a whistleblower Bill.

The draft bill was subjected to a validation exercise with stakeholders including non-state actors like MacArthrur Foundation, Afrimill and others.

The minister said, "We hope to develop a robust draft bill for the consideration and approval of FEC and eventually the National Assembly."

Meanwhile, in a bid to broaden and enhance the efficacy of the policy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has called for expansion of the scope of the current framework to include issues of public safety, security, gross mismanagement of the rights of people, and waste of resources, among others.

Osinbajo said there are a whole range of issues that may not endanger public finance directly but may constitute public safety or security risks, saying reporting such may save lives and or property.

"The scope may then cover such matters as a violation of law, gross mismanagement of the rights of people and waste of public resources, or acts inimical to public health or safety," he stated.

Speaking on the need to enhance the whistleblower policy, the vice president said, "Although, some progress have been achieved through this policy, especially at the Federal Level - with recoveries, prosecutions, and convictions; it is essential that the policy operates widely in States and Local Governments as the tiers closest to the people and overseers of about half of the nation's revenues. Exposing corruption is for the good of our nation".

He added that the goal is to harness "the huge potential of the people to deliver on their moral obligation to report cases of corruption within their immediate environments."

Calling for a legislative backing for the policy, Osinbajo said an Act of the National Assembly to back the policy was a necessity.

He stated: "Such a law should also provide for comprehensive protection of whistleblowers, including against reprisals from their employers and those whose activities they expose.

"These may include witness protection type provisions and this will give the whistleblower some protection where they may have to appear in court".

On his part, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, pledged to back any legislative draft on anti-corruption, especially on whistleblower that may be presented to the house for legislation. He said the fight against corruption needs to be strengthened.

Why Corruption Is Fighting Back - CSOs

Meanwhile, international non-governmental organisations under the auspices of Accountability Lab Nigeria yesterday explained why corruption is fighting back despite efforts put in place by the present administration, saying it is because Nigerians are not exposing the perpetrators.

Accountability Lab, an amalgam civil society Organisations (CSOs), said the ongoing anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria will be won if all stakeholders, especially the civil servants, join the fight against the scourge.

The country director, Mr Odeh Friday, stated this during a stakeholders workshop organised by the Accountability Lab yesterday in Abuja.

He noted that they are engaging stakeholders to create a better country, adding that corruption is fighting back because Nigerians are not exposing the perpetrators.

He said, "Everybody wants hostilities; it seems now that corruption is talk of town. When I hear about corruption issues it worries me. I got into this campaign to make governance work for Nigerian citizens through programmes like this.

"We engage young and old in the accountability and honesty in the government and we also educate them to move from personal to institutional integrity basically because we are looking at how to build accountable institutions and people of integrity. So if we don't have the right people at the right place, we are not going to get the right results".

In his address, the African director of Macarthur Foundation, Dr Kole Shettima, who was represented by his deputy, Dayo Olaide, said, "The initiative aims at demonstrating to Nigerian that it is possible to succeed in the fight against corruption. That is the most important thing; we are also demonstrating to Nigerians in major roles that fighting corruption is not just what the government does but what Nigerians do to fight against corruption.

"We want to make references to CSP who was yesterday celebrated as one of the integrity icons.

In her presentation, a Behavioural Change expert, Catherine Angai, said Nigerians need to look beyond the rules.

"Some people feel like corruption is cultural to us in terms of acceptability but when you look at the research that has been done we found out that people engage in corruption not because it is necessary or right but they do it as a logical responsibility to certain situations," she said.

She noted that what can be done to curb corruption is for the government to make the environment easier for people so that the right thing can be done.

UK Court Orders Release Of $200m Deposit To Nigeria's In P&ID Case

Meanwhile, Nigeria's Foreign Reserves received a boost yesterday as a London commercial court ordered the release of $200 million to the country.

The $200 million was deposited by Nigeria as security for the stay of execution granted the country for the appeal it filed against the judgment of Justice Butcher for the execution of the Arbitral award of $10billion in favour of Messrs Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID).

The Court presided over by Sir Ross Cranston rejected the request of P&ID to increase the security to $400 million and instead ordered a cost of £70,000 against P&ID.

It would be recalled that same court, earlier this month, had also granted another cost of £1.5 million against P&ID.

Commenting on the outcome, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, expressed pleasure that the Court rejected the P&ID's application to increase the guarantee, which he noted was clearly intended to be a diversionary tactic and entirely misconceived.

He said, "Due to the substantial evidence of prima facie fraud established before the Court, we are pleased that the Judge has agreed to release the guarantee.

"This release, which is an accretion into the reserves, will further enhance the nation's management of the exchange rate of its domestic currency, the Naira while ensuring monetary and price stability," he added.

Yesterday's order is seen as a further and significant victory for Nigeria in its determination to overturn the $10 billion award procured through fraud and corruption by P&ID and former government officials.

Analysts are of the view that P&ID and its backers, Lismore Capital and VR Advisory, are increasingly fighting a lost battle, as they continue to resort to employing delay tactics, disseminating misleading claims, and taking every step to obstruct investigations across multiple jurisdictions.

A government source said, "The Nigerian government is determined to secure justice for the people of Nigeria - no matter how long it takes. Investigations are ongoing, and we are confident that more of the truth will be revealed over the coming months."

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