National Conference On Whistleblower Policy Organised By Ministry Of Finance
KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON WHISTLEBLOWER POLICY HELD AT NAF CONFERENCE CENTRE JABI ABUJA TUESDAY, 29TH SEPTEMBER, 2020.
I am especially pleased to join you at this National Conference on the Whistle Blower Policy. The policy is designed as an initiative of the Federal Government spearheaded by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
PICA is one of the first initiatives of the Buhari administration, upon assumption of office in 2015. Its principal tasks are the validation of controls and ensuring compliance with public finance management principles and also to maximize the utilization of the resources through continuous assurance to ensure efficiency in Government spending.
The Federal Government Whistle Blower Policy was also developed as a tool towards the attainment of these tasks and the exposure of corruption and corrupt actors in Government.
As we all know, the fight against corruption, in all its facets, has remained a lifelong preoccupation of President Muhammadu Buhari. The President has repeatedly restated the commitment of this administration to this fight; and in order to invigorate that commitment, the Federal Government adopted the Whistle Blower Policy for implementation in all its Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
The whistleblower policy presents a unique opportunity for men and women of conscience who are appalled by the level of corruption in society and are looking for safe avenues to expose such perpetrators and such corrupt activities. And to do so in a way that their identities are protected and their positions in their places of work remain secured.
Civil servants and suppliers of Government services are specially placed in positions where they are usually the first to uncover acts of corruption. It is therefore particularly important that an avenue is created for them to present such findings to the authorities for action.
Exposing corruption is for the good of our nation. The direct and indirect detrimental impact of corruption to our economy and its growth trajectory is well documented and needs no further restatement. But, the ability of our Government to deliver on our promises, especially in the areas of human capital development, provision of quality infrastructure and the general economic progress of the country, depends significantly on the protection of the scarce resources from being looted and its application for the benefit of Nigerian citizens.
Indeed, we cannot achieve the level of sustained economic growth that would propel our nation out of the economic malaise triggered in the main, by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, without recognizing the existential need to put an end to decades of mismanagement of Government resources.
Although some progress has 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.
Our goal in this regard is to harness the huge potential of the people to deliver on their moral obligation to report cases of corruption within their immediate environments.
We must however not lose sight of the difficulty inherent in upturning years of impunity. Corruption will surely fight back! As we deliberate on the finer details of the implementation of this Policy, we must consistently remind ourselves of the importance of the task at hand notwithstanding the difficulties.
It is often said that prosperity and poverty are determined by the actions of Governments and those governed. It is my hope that the opportunity provided by this Policy will energize the people to guard and police their resources, through increased exposure to financial and related crimes.
Certainty and clarity of the reporting processes and adequate protection of the whistleblowers would improve confidence in the initiative. Similarly, enhanced transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Policy will result in more discoveries and recoveries.
There is an issue I would also like to be considered in your deliberations today. It is the expansion of the scope of wrongful acts that may be reported by whistleblowers. It is clear that under the current whistleblowing policy, it’s only with respect to acts of corruption that whistleblowing is considered lawful. However, there are a whole range of issues that may not endanger public finance directly but may constitute public safety or security risks. Reporting such may save lives or property.
The scope may then cover such matters as a violation of the law, gross mismanagement rights of people, gross mismanagement of resources of the state, waste of public resources, acts inimical to public health or safety.
As we reflect on the policy, we might also consider the necessity for an Act of the National Assembly to back the policy. Such a law would also provide for comprehensive protection of whistleblowers, including against reprisals from their employers and those whose activities they may expose. These may include witness protection type provisions and this would give the whistleblower some protection where they may have to appear in court as witnesses.
Finally, I commend the Honourable Minister of Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and her team for their foresight in organising this Conference. I also commend the collaborating agencies – the EFCC, ICPC, NFIU, DSS and the Nigeria Police Force, for the tireless efforts in the implementation of the Policy; and the Federal Ministry of Justice for its coordination efforts.
It is my hope that the outcome of deliberations will further enrich the framework and I look forward to receiving the proposals and recommendations that would emerge from here.
It is now my pleasure and privilege, to declare open this first Whistleblowers Conference.