The acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, told a global forum in Austria a scandalous lie that could discredit the whistleblower policy which is currently helping the anti-graft agency recover troves of public funds from corrupt Nigerian officials.
While trying to oversell his prowess at the 7th Conference of State Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in Vienna, Magu told the participants that the EFCC has rewarded the whistleblower whose hint was the open sesame to the secret vault of a flat in Ikoyi, where the then-Director General of the Nigerian National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke, stashed $43,449,947, £27, 800 and N23, 218,000. Magu said the EFCC has paid the anonymous informant 5% of the loot stipulated as a gesture of thanks to patriots who provide actionable tips. He claimed that, by the virtue of that modest token, the unknown citizen was ‘’already a millionaire’’.
Taking the window dressing farther, Magu remarked that the EFCC had elected not to release the whistleblower into the streets like the proverbial prodigal son intoxicated with his share of his father’s riches. He said they were going beyond the call of duty to teach the whistleblower how to manage his newfound wealth: “We are currently working on the young man because this is just a man who has not seen one million naira of his own before.
“So, he is under counselling on how to make good use of the money and also the security implication. We don’t want anything bad to happen to him after taking delivery of his entitlement. He is national pride.”
This was a lie. No sooner had the echo of Magu’s speech reached Nigeria than the lawyer of the whistleblower came out to debunk the untruth.Yakubu Galadima told reporters that the EFCC has effectively abandoned his client and reneged on their promise to pay the whistleblower his 5% share of the recovered N13 billion loot. Mr. Galadima said the EFCC did not so much as know the whereabouts of his client and the talk of the whistleblower undergoing some counselling on financial discipline was an extra falsehood.
In some public positions, one can afford to take liberties with facts. But there are certain sensitive offices that should not suffer one instance of the open practice of dishonesty by the helmsman because of their strategic importance in the polity or the nature of their mandate or the centrality of integrity in their corporate existence.
EFCC is one of the most critical institutions in the ultra-corrupt country called Nigeria and the head of that institution ought not to go out of his way to undermine its credibility by lying in the public.
The whistleblower policy is a good policy. But honesty remains the best policy. Magu should not have lied to prettify the story of the big recovery he made thanks to the whistleblower policy.
There was no simply need for Magu to make the false claim that the whistleblower was ‘’already a millionaire’’. The EFCC have yet to fulfill their obligation to the young man. Magu knew that that was the true situation. He shouldn’t have proceeded to spin a tale against the state of the whistleblower.
Following Magu’s assertion that he has created a millionaire, the whistleblower’s lawyer made clear that he and his client were almost weary from fighting a debt recovery battle. Galadima said he has written to President Buhari and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation. Both he has yet to receive any response.
The court granted a forfeiture of the seized cash in Ikoyi Flats to the federal government in early June. Since then, Magu has taken no single step to fulfill EFCC’s obligation to the whistleblower. In all probability, the whistleblower is an ordinary person the EFCC and federal government feel obliged to ignore.
The news that he was ‘’already a millionaire’’ must have shocked the whistleblower like a cynical joke. He had not received any dime. And there was the EFCC chairman telling the world that he was being trained to enjoy the millionaire’s life.
Ironically, Magu concluded the same speech wherein he lied that EFCC has rewarded the Ikoyi Flats whistleblower by inviting Nigerians to start a whistleblower revolution. Waving the 5% promissory note as incentive, he asked every Nigerian to cash in on the chance to ‘’benefit from the illicit acquisition by the looters.’’
He said this was one way to ‘’put an end to the looting madness in the public sector.
‘’When they know that they have no place to keep the loot, as all eyes are on them, they will find looting of public treasuries unattractive.’’
It is very unlikely that the use and dump treatment meted out to the Ikoyi Flats whistleblower will encourage many potential whistleblowers to follow in his steps. The denial of the whistleblower’s entitlement and the conversion of his pitiful abandonment to a material for Magu’s vainglorious propaganda represent the mockery of an honorable Nigerian. It’s the most warped thank you an anti-graft institution can possibly give a noble whistleblower.
Criminologists have always grappled with the question of whether it is morally right to gift a whistleblower a fraction of the stolen public funds he helped the government of his own country recover. Many ethicists believe that a whistleblower’s reward should be the inner satisfaction of exposing a financial crime, the joy of participating in the improving his society. These thinkers hold that the whistleblower who accepts part of illicit money as reward partakes in the original criminal after the fact.
Others embrace the view that a reward system for the whistleblower is essentially a matter of pragmatism. They opine that the token acknowledges both the basic goodness of the human nature and the tendency of the modern civilization to orient human character to profit.
Nigeria chose the pragmatic path of incentivizing whistleblowers. She must have summon the decency to fulfill her own part of the agreement. When a whistleblower gives a tip that leads to a real recovery, the nation should not cheat the citizen of his due.
The handling of the Ikoyi Flats whistleblower matters. The future of the whistleblower policy depends on whether the state will do right by him and others like him. Many Nigerians are watching whether EFCC and the federal government of Nigeria will give him his due and treat him respectfully, like a decent citizen who did his country a good service. Or whether the state will leave the debt unpaid because he is a nobody who can’t take the suicidal risk of protesting publicly.
Nigeria’s 99% is as big a potential whistleblower population as anyone can get. They are essentially passive spies that can be harnessed to great effect. 1% cannot plunder a country where 99% are vigilant.
That’s why EFCC must forge a vital alliance with the people. The streets and the commission must unite and collaborate like one fighting force. But that partnership cannot happen when the head of the EFCC lies to the people against the people.
Magu should immediately apologize to the Ikoyi Flats whistleblower and take urgent steps to facilitate the release of the young man’s 5%. The fight against corruption cannot take place in a vacuum of honesty. Going forward, he should take care to verify that every statement he intends to make in the name of the EFCC is factually correct.
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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