The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said on Sunday that the federal government’s whistle-blower policy has started yielding fruits. He said the policy has so far led to the recovery of over $151 million (46 billion naira) and 8 billion naira in looted funds.
The minister said the looted funds, which did not include the $9.2 million in cash allegedly owned by a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr Andrew Yakubu, were recovered from just three sources through whistle-blowers who he said gave actionable information to the office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN). He said that the $9.2 million cash and others, were also dividends of the whistle-blower policy.
The minister said that the biggest amount of $136,676,600.51 (42 billion naira) was recovered from an account in a commercial bank, where he said money was kept under an apparently fake account name. This, he said, was followed by 7 billion naira and $15 million from another person and 1 billion naira from yet another.
Mohammed said, “When we told Nigerians that there was a primitive and mindless looting of the national treasury under the last administration, some people called us liars.” Well, the whistle-blower policy is barely two months old and Nigerians have started feeling its impact, seeing how a few people squirreled away public funds. It is doubtful if any economy in the world will not feel the impact of such mind-boggling looting of the treasury as was experienced in Nigeria.
He appealed to Nigerians with useful information on looted funds to continue to provide the authorities with such information, saying confidentiality would be maintained with regard to the source of the information.
The minister also reminded Nigerians of the financial reward aspect of the policy, saying “If there is a voluntary return of stolen or concealed public funds or assets on the account of the information provided, the whistleblower may be entitled to between 2.5 per cent (minimum) and 5 percent (maximum) of the total amount recovered.”
Meanwhile, some human rights groups – the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and the Campaign for Democracy – have called on the Federal Government to show value for the recovered loot by immediately injecting it into the economy.
The SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said the Federal Government must immediately inject the loot back into the economy so that Nigerians could feel the socio-economic impact.
He said, “We are not just looking at recovery for recovery sake. We want whatsoever is recovered to be pumped immediately into the economy. What will be the benefits of Nigerians from recovered loot? Is it recovery to keep in personal purses or to inject into the economy?
“Another area is that if the loot was recovered as a result of the whistle-blower initiative, the government must keep its promise. You will recall that when the idea came up, it was promised that if a whistle-blower gives information and it leads to the recovery of sums of money, compensation will be given to the whistle-blower. I hope the government would not go back on that. I think the whistle-blower policy should continue.”
“The critical areas of our economy include building infrastructural facilities and the Federal Government should immediately deploy these funds.
The Campaign for Democracy President, Bako Usman, said, “It is very unfortunate that the Federal Government has been recovering loot without meaningful development. Such recovery can take care of some of our debts, provision of social amenities and others. Up till now, we have not seen the value of the recovered loot. The government must work on this.”
Also, the Executive Secretary, Anti-corruption Network, Ebenezer Oyetakin, noted that the whistle-blower policy was yielding positive results.
He stated, “I have a concern about what follows the recovery. Is it that we secretly collected back the loot and let go the looters without serving any deterrence, or worse still, we do not want such looters name to be known to the public?
“That will be a gross disservice to the intention of the anti-corruption fight. What is worth doing at all, is worth doing well. Everyone who has participated in the disgraceful act of national sabotage, betrayal of trust and blatant thievery of our common patrimony should be exposed.”