26th April, 2017
By Zainab Suleiman Okino
That not all Nigerians accept corruption as a way of life and that the majority even abhors it is not in doubt; this has been demonstrated in the acceptability and efficacy of the whistle-blowers’ policy recently introduced by the federal government. Many are prepared to collaborate with the government to reduce corruption to the barest minimum, and even expose their ogas and relations engaged in corrupt practices, especially in lieu of the financial rewards attached to such exposés.
Buoyed by the success of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in recovering looted funds with the help of the new policy, the Federal Government is considering expanding its scope to deal with the illegal possession of arms and ammunition. Arms proliferation has added a frightening dimension to the country’s security challenges, as Nigeria is known as a destination for illicit arms.
The whistle blowers’ policy was conceptualised by the Ministry of Finance to encourage the populace to report stolen or looted funds kept outside the banking system. Since the government began the implementation of the TSA and BVN, there has been no comfort zone for those who emptied the treasury, enriched themselves and rendered the country broke. Now, the federal government wants to replicate and extend the same to those in the illegal possession of arms for nefarious purposes.
One cannot blame the federal government; the APC-led administration has been in dire straits since it took over the mantle of leadership in 2015. The foreign reserves had been depleted considerably by the previous government and country’s stock of foreign exchange, depending on oil receipts for replenishment had falling to a very low level due to the massive plunge in oil price at the international markets, besides the pipeline vandalism and disturbances attendant upon the restiveness in the Niger-Delta region, largely resulting from the activities of the Niger-Delta Avengers. With this myriad of problems, the nation’s economy came to near comatose. An ingenious way of tackling the the various problems with the economy – particularly driven by corruption – became needed, hence the birth of the whistle bowers’ policy.
Originally, the skeptical public who had endured the government’s lack-lustre performance in fulfilling its campaign promises did not consider the novel policy capable of any success. However, the big break came with the EFCC’s discovery of looted monies (or alleged gifts) hidden in a decrepit building in a run down location in the Sabo Tasha suburb of Kaduna State, which was allegedly owned by the former Group Managing Director of NNPC. In quick succession, other monies were also found at the Kaduna airport and a market in Lagos, with the biggest of them located in a flat in a luxury highrise on Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, where over N13 billion was recovered.
Eager to shore up its sagging image and loss of popularity, the federal government is latching onto the workability of that process to expand the frontiers of the policy to include reining in on illegal weapons. The National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retd) is said to have initiated a template for the discovery and recovery of illegal arms circulating illicitly in the country. According to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, Monguno’s approach would focus on gun control. The mechanism, according to them, would also help to eradicate and prevent the illegal ownership of small arms and light weapons, which criminals maximise in terrorising or getting even with presumed enemies without recourse to the due process of litigation. Ditto with politicians who harbour arms for election-day violence, and who equally arm their thugs with weapons to harass their opponents. Meanwhile, arms are commonplace because our borders are porous and the provision of the law on them are either not sufficient, archaic or weak. The 1959 firearms act is yet to be amended despite our practise of civil rule in the past more than 17 years and being in the fourth democratic republic.
By far, this is about the most successful policy ever initiated by this government. On the economic front, the administration has failed woefully. In conjunction with the central bank, the federal government’s economic policy has been a resounding failure; it has only succeeded in pauperising Nigerians, as most families are unable to meet their basic needs. The costs of food have risen astronomically without a concomitant rise in citizens’ personal finances.
The government has been unable to manage its success after winning the 2015 election. Although Boko Haram was fought to a standstill, its vestiges still remain. Only last week the terrorist group sacked an army battalion and killed several soldiers and officers, not to talk of their attack on soft targets, through teenage suicide bombing. The party in power is in disarray. Instead of a cohesive party working in sync for the good of the people, what we see is a conclave of aggrieved members carving their own niche for the advancement of their interests.
The whistle blowing policy on illegal arms and weapons may be explosive and daunting. Although there is apprehension regarding whether it will work or not, in my own opinion, it is worth trying and it will work if government has the will to implement it, and is transparent about its operation.
The technical details that will go into the planning of the policy, how it would work, who will pay the whistle blower and the training of security personnel to handle such sensitive matters are not difficult to fix in the interest of the nation, if the government is determined to do it and the legal framework is clearly spelt out, such as the protection for the whistle blower and monetary inducement. The policy should be all encompassing without prejudice to political affiliation, status or ethnic consideration.
[email protected], www.zainabokino.blogspot.com