Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Washington DC
The Executive Director of Center for Civil Society LegislatIve Advocacy Center (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, has warned that President Muhammadu Buhari is at the verge of losing the confidence of Nigeria in regard to the fight against corruption that endeared him to millions of voters in the 2015 general elections.
According to him, while the Nigerian government has demonstrated commitment in the fight against corruption, there are a lot of setbacks that, if not corrected, can jeopardize the confidence Nigerians have placed in the President.
Rafsanjani listed the case of the Acting Director General of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Muhammed Dauda, who exposed the Ikoyi Towers cash haul which his predecessor, Ambassador Ayodele Oke, was indicted for but was retired and never prosecuted.
He described as sad that instead of being applauded for exposing the demand for bribes by top persons in government to facilitate his confirmation, he was sacked and his life under threat.
Rafsanjani said this state of affairs was making a mockery of the government’s whistleblowing policy, which was designed to incentivize the exposure of corrupt public officials.
He also noted that the recent naming of treasury looters with nobody from the ruling party indicated that the fight against corruption was not sincere.
Nigeria’s whistleblower policy was launched in December 2016. It allows the individuals exposing public corruption, including fraud or theft of public funds, to be given no more than five percent of the the sum recovered from the looters through their help.
Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, had in March disclosed that the Federal Government had recovered approximately N9.12 billion from its whistleblowing policy since it came into being.
Rafsanjani, who briefed journalists at the sidelines of IMF/World Bank Spring meetings in Washington DC, called on President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the National Assembly to investigate the circumstances surrounding the sack of the former Acting DG NIA and threats to his life.
“The Nigerian government had come up with a policy on whistleblowing that will encourage citizens to expose corruption and then even get rewarded,” said Rafsanjani, speaking on the Muhammed Dauda case.
“Even though we felt we needed to institutionalize that framework to guarantee the safety and security of whistleblowers, what shocked us is that recently the National Assembly called for public hearing to investigate the circumstance that surround the NIA scandal that led to the sack of the former Acting Director General.”
“The sacked Acting DG came and gave testimony and exposed how some highly placed people were demanding bribe for him to be confirmed. What shocked us was that instead of him to be actually celebrated as somebody who exposed corruption, he was actually sacked. Not only was he sacked but, from the information that we heard, his life has been threatened. So you just wonder whether the policy on whistleblowing is actually real and operational.
“If it is real and operational, how can somebody who exposed this kind of monumental corruption at the NIA get sacked, [with] even his life being threatened?”
“We are worried for anti-corruption activists that anybody who actually exposes corruption he or she might not be protected by the state because if the policy does not have sincerity in it, it means that people fighting corruption can even get killed, not only sacked.
“So we are calling on the Nigerian government, particularly the President, to investigate the circumstances of the sack of the former Acting DG of the National Intelligence Agency, because we believe that what happened is a setback to exposing corruption and the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
“If somebody can be rewarded with sack and threat to life, it means other people in the different ministries and parastatals cannot be able to expose corruption that is going on in the MDAs.
“So we are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and the National Assembly leadership to investigate those who demanded bribe for [Dauda’s] confirmation for which, as a result of not paying, he was sacked and his life threatened,” rafsanjani said.
The CISLAC ES said that his organisation was raising the alarm because it does not want the integrity of the anti-corruption fight to be jeopardized.
“We are doing this because we want to maintain the integrity of the fight against corruption, because anybody can be a victim. If you are honest and a patriotic Nigerian and you expose corruption, instead of you to be protected, you will now be victimized. We don’t want this victimization to silence further exposure of corruption in Nigeria because if we allow this to go [on], many people in government and outside government will not come out to expose corruption,” he said.
On the list of corrupt looters recently released, Rafsanjani said, “there was nobody from the ruling party on the list. We think that can jeopardize the sincerity and effort of fight against corruption in Nigeria. The fight against corruption must not be selective, sectional and protect those who are in the same ruling party, it must cut across everybody. We believe that exposing the looters is a good step because we need to begin to name and shame people who have looted the country but it must be done in a manner that it cuts across people who have been involved in occupation.
“We believe there are people also at the local and state governments level who have been looting the country and their names are not in that list. So we want the Nigerian government to continue to expose looters but must be comprehensive.
“Recently there was even a court order instructing the Nigerian government to publish the names of all the looters across parties, ethnic, religious divide. If government continue to do selective fight against corruption, it will loss the confidence of Nigerians, it will also boost the confidence of looters.”