Whistleblowing as a catalyst in the fight against corruption

By Nuhu Ribadu

I am happy to be here this morning, and I appreciate the invitation for me to chair this very important discussion on a topical issue around the fight against corruption in our country.

Let me commend the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy and its other partners for putting this together and also the MacArthur Foundation for supporting this and similar initiatives. The decision to empower government mechanisms, media and the civil society in an attempt to strengthen the current push against corruption is a wonderful decision on the part of the Foundation. There is probably no better way to help our country to find its feet than helping to entrench the fight against corruption into a coherent, systematic crusade and one that has the support of the critical mass. I appreciate you for this.

There is no gainsaying that for us to put up a formidable fight against the corruption scourge, there must be uniformity of purpose. What this means is that the government and the people – through the media and civil society organisations, would have to find a consensus. This consensus does not mean civil society serving as trumpets for the government, but it means working together to mobilise citizens, consolidate what is good and point out mistakes along the line.

The importance of the government/people synergy in the fight against corruption is best measured by the trust people have in the integrity of the system. The manifestation of that trust, in turn, is when people go beyond expressing verbal support for the work to volunteering tips and information.

Giving information about crimes to law enforcement agents is a traditional role of the citizen. In fact, to do otherwise is not only unpatriotic but a punishable inaction. However, citizens, especially in our climes are often reluctant to play that role for a number of reasons. This is not because of lack of patriotism. Anytime people see individuals who are serious about the work or a government that is committed, you see surge in such information offers.

While working at the EFCC, for example, we benefitted immensely from generous tip offs and whistleblowing that, in some cases, were from insiders who would decide to bolt out. A number of our successful cases were triggered by information by patriotic whistle-blowers who came forth with tips that turned out to be very useful for investigators.

Whistleblowing is therefore a very important catalyst that can help law enforcement agents and it is therefore not out of place for the government to provide incentives for informants with vital information. That shows that the government is not only willing to fly with those tips but it actually values them.

I am aware that humongous amounts of money have been recovered by the EFCC and other agencies since whistleblowing was made a government policy last year. I am also aware that a proposed whistleblowing protection law is undergoing legislative processes. These show seriousness on the part of policymakers to make best use of this opportunity as an anticorruption tool.

I know, however, that it is not yet a perfect policy and there are still issues and grey areas that need to be tweaked to arrive at a more tightened template. The back end of the public interface platform needs serious tightening to make it fool-proof and ensure that it is not compromised. Those who volunteer information need to be sure of their security and confidentiality. Whistle-blowers also need absolute protection from retaliation and redress for undue harassment.

I am impressed by the list of speakers lined up to speak to us and I am sure they are all going to make us better informed and bring out all sides to the argument on the initiative as currently practised both here in Nigeria and elsewhere.

Thank you for your attention.

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu is a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He made these remarks at the National Stakeholders Summit on Whistleblowing and the Fight Against Corruption organised by African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) on Tuesday, November 14, 2017