AFRICMIL and Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) to partner for the success of whistleblower policy

The African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) and the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) have agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to formalize a partnership towards consolidating the gains of the whistleblower policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

PICA is the operational unit at the Ministry of Finance which supervises the new whistleblower policy announced by the government in December 2016.

The decision to strengthen the partnership with an MoU was reached during a courtesy visit to PICA by a delegation of AFRICMIL led by Chido Onumah, Coordinator of the Centre.

According to him, the purpose of the visit “is to engage and see how we can support each other to make the whistleblower policy a success.” He told the PICA team led by Dr. Mohammed Dikwa, Secretary of PICA, that AFRICMIL, as part of its good governance initiative, had recently launched Corruption Anonymous (CORA), a project designed to promote the whistleblower policy and funded by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Onumah said the project seeks to build confidence and support for the whistleblower initiative in three strategic ways. First is to create awareness through advocacy around whistleblowing. In this regard, he said, the Centre has been visiting various stakeholders, including the media and is circulating educational materials on the need for citizens to take charge of the policy.

Second is to help maintain the integrity of the process and share information with citizens on the workings of PICA and the challenges of performing its functions. “Citizens have to know how to submit tips, how many tips are received within a given period and how the tips are processed,” he said.

Third is to ensure the safety and protection of whistleblowers. This, according to Onumah, is key to the success of the whistleblower policy. He recalled the case of Ntia Thompson, Assistant Director and Head of SERVICOM in the Department of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA), an agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who was sacked for reporting fraud in his office.

But for the efforts of AFRICMIL and other civil society groups and the media, Thompson would never have been reinstated. And to show that persecution for blowing the whistle is real, Thompson was humiliated with redeployment to the library.

Onumah also mentioned the ongoing victimization of Murtala Ibrahim of the audit department of Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) who had been sacked since May 8, 2017, for exposing fraud, and his boss, Teslim Anibaba, who was suspended indefinitely on August 25, 2017, for the same reason.

Reiterating that the essence of the Corruption Anonymous project is to enlist citizens as the backbone of the anti-corruption war, Onumah noted that people are not likely to submit tips if they feel insecure. “When this happens, it is bound to erode confidence in the process.”

He listed a number of activities designed to aid the successful implementation of the whistleblower policy. One of them is the National Stakeholders Summit on Whistleblowing coming up November 14, 2017 in Abuja, and a Media Dialogue in December to assess the performance of the policy in the first year’.

Responding, the Secretary of PICA, Dr. Mohammed Dikwa, said he was impressed with the effort of AFRICMIL regarding the project. Noting that the office needed support in the area of funding, he pointed out that creating awareness for the whistleblower policy was lagging, and so forging a partnership with AFRICMIL was necessary.

He stated that because the policy was new, the expertise and other things needed for effective implementation were yet to be acquired. “For instance,” said Dikwa, “we would need to send some staff for overseas training where they would learn from the experience of others.” He called for a legal backing for the whistleblower policy.

Describing the CORA project as “a very good idea,” Dikwa said PICA had gone far in engaging the Ministries, Departments and Agencies in terms of checking wrongdoings in the civil service.

He assured that the MoU with AFRICMIL would provide a fresh perspective in the roadmap for implementing the policy in Nigeria.