In a bid to effect safety for whistleblowers in the country, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) along with Civic Media Lab, Premium Times, Cleen Foundation and some other organizations converged in Lagos to discuss on forms of protection and security for individuals who expose corrupt practices by office holders in the country.
Mr. Olanrewaju Suraj, Executive Director of HEDA noting that whistleblowers are prone to assaults stressed the need to protect whistleblowers in the country as there is no law safeguarding them. He maintained that Nigerians depend so much on whistleblowers and they cannot be left to suffer for a patriotic act. Mr. Suraj also lamented that people are not motivated in speaking out whenever they see corrupt practices going on on because of fear of attack.
“The government rest so much on whistleblower but have fallen short of standard in terms of protecting whistleblowers from reprisal attacks and victimization. It is apparent that we are yet to build the confidence of the citizens to confidently blow the whistle,” he said.
“There are also the experiences of what is reported in the news about former whistleblowers of how they are either victimized or vilified and nothing is done. For us, it is important that we reflect together and complement each other to provide the support needed,” Mr. Suraj added.
HEDA Executive Director urged the judiciary to effect speedy judgment on whoever is indicted in corrupt practices and has been found guilty.
“The Senate passed a bill which is not all-embracing enough while the House of Representatives is yet to pass its own version of the bill. The government should institute a high level of confidentiality for those who blow whistles and also monitor and ensure a legal framework of a speedy dispensation of cases of whistleblowers.”
Mr. Shina Odugbemi, who was present at the event, lamented the absence of protection for whistleblowers after remarking the importance of whistleblowers to the Nigeria economy and how they act as watchdogs to political office holders.
“We depend seriously on whistleblowing to expose things that are not to be revealed and we feel the persons that can do that need protection. The whistleblowers are endangered species. We need them for the public not to be shortchanged and improve transparency and accountability in the way public funds are handled.”
He moreover accused the legislative of being selective in bills they pass into law pointing that only bills that will favor and benefit them are passed adding that law-making bodies are selective in some of the bills they handle and how expedient they are with the bills.
Mr. Shina disclosed that bodies involved in whistleblowing protection discourse will put the necessary pressure on the legislative, mobilize and enlighten people and ensure that there is no foot-dragging as far as this bill is concerned.