OrderPaperToday – The federal government has been charged by media practitioners to do more to protect whistle blowers as they opined that the current whistleblower policy of the government has too many lacunae.
The members of the fourth estate recommended sincerity and transparency as key pivots in maintaining a balance that would allow the policy to thrive as obtained in other climes.
These positions were expressed during a media dialogue on the evaluation of the governments’ whistleblower policy organized by the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) at the Yar Adua center in Abuja on Thursday.
The moderator of the dialogue and the Executive Director of OrderPaper Nigeria, Oke Epia, in his opening remark stated that the essence of the dialogue was to provide recommendations of how to improve the whistle blowers policy.
The dialogue had in attendance journalists from different media organizations, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and the Ministry of Finance.
The Whistle-blower policy was introduced in December 2016. It specifies between 2.5% to 5% of total recovery as reward for citizens whose acts of whistle-blowing lead to the recovery of looted public funds. One of the major concerns about the policy has been the safety and security of whistle blowers. The whistle blowing policy has been described by Nigerians as an important tool in the fight against corruption by the current administration.
While giving an opening remark, the Secretary of Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), Muhammed Dikwa, who was represented by Muhammed Isa, said the policy is still at infant stage, stressing that the dialogue was to seek ways of improving the policy.
He said: “We may have two motives here, one is the financial motive, and the other is the public service motive, but what is important is to institutionalize the policy as we can all agree that the corruption war has been institutionalized.”
The panelists, which included of seasoned journalists took turns to dissect the whistle-blower effort and the performance of the policy in the last one year, taking it from different perspectives.
Yusuf Ali who is the Managing Editor (Northern Operations) of The Nation newspaper noted that the policy is complimentary to the existing anti-graft bodies but observed that there is a need to move the unit out of the Ministry of Finance and buttressed his argument with examples of nations that have adopted the policy.
“In some countries, whistle-blower unit is domicile in the parliament, because you can’t probate and abrogate,” he said, adding that the success of the policy involves Nigerians taking active role in supporting it.
Another member of the panel, Catherine Agbo stated that the media has continued to do the job of whistleblowing from time immemorial. She disclosed that people have better trust in the media which explained the inclinations of the people to approach journalists with tips and leaks instead going to government.
Also speaking on the policy, Aisha Hashim from Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) further buttressed the position of Agbo that the media plays active role in whistle-blowing.
She stated that in furtherance of the whistleblower role, a coalition of media organizations, which includes OrderPaper Nigeria, recently launched Leaks.ng which allows Nigerians to anonymously give tips to journalists without the fear of reprisal.