Mr Chido Onumah, Coordinator, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), on Wednesday said persecution of whistle-blowers by agents of state was a threat to anti-corruption fight.
Onumah said in a statement in Abuja that the victimization was also threatening the effectiveness of the whistle-blower policy introduced by the government to curb endemic corruption in the Nigeria.
He said at least two whistle-blowers in the public service, who were unjustly sacked for exposing financial fraud but were later recalled, were currently facing a fresh round of persecution in the service.
According to him, this time the victimisation is in form of withheld salaries.
“It is most disturbing that citizens who, at the risk of their personal safety, decided to heed the call of the government to blow the whistle on improper behaviour in the society are being punished.
“This is in spite of promises for their safety and protection.
“Abominable reprisals are continually being visited on whistle-blowers in a manner that endangers whistle-blowing as a tool for reducing corruption in the country. ‘’
Onumah said that this was the case with Mr Ntia Thompson, an Assistant Director in the SERVICOM unit of the Department of Technical Cooperation in Africa, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He said Thompson who later sought transfer to the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and Aaron Kaase of the Press Unit of Police Service Commission had been denied their salaries since they were reinstated.
“For instance, as soon as Thompson who was sacked in December, 2016 for reporting fraud totalling 229, 000 dollars was reinstated in July, 2017, he was redeployed to the library just to frustrate him.
“The emotional setback resulting from that made him ask for transfer to another government office.
“As we speak, he has yet to be paid seven months’ salary, from December, 2016 to July, 2017.
“Kaase, who got a court judgment reinstating him in November, 2017 but was not called back until March, 2018, has not been paid for three years now.
“He was suspended without pay in May, 2015 for reporting that the Chairman of the Commission, Mike Okiro, was involved in a fraud of N275.5 million in the commission,” he said.
Onumah said that Kaase was also being harassed with a trumped-up charge of visa scam in which he was being falsely accused of collecting N1 million to procure U.S. visa for somebody but failed to do so.
He said that clearly, this allegation was manufactured by those whom he had accused of fraud so as to intimidate and shut him up.
He added that although two different courts had discharged and acquitted Kaase for “lack of diligent prosecution and lack of evidence to prosecute the case, respectively’’, his tormentors had refused to back off.
The group’s coordinator said that if the unfortunate development was not quickly checked, whistle-blowing would suffer, adding that it would badly affect the anti-corruption fight.
He stated that unless Nigerians remained committed to sustaining the confidence of whistle-blowers by ensuring their full protection, whistle-blowing would not deliver the expected result.
He said that to save the situation, there should be prompt intervention of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, to rescue the patriotic Nigerians and save the lofty policy.
Onumah also urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to expedite action on the allegations raised by the two whistle-blowers.