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Monday, 5 June 2017

That whistleblowers bill of 1999 By Emmanuel Onwubiko

A certain philosopher was credited as stating that politicians think of the next election but statesmen think of posterity. 
This wise saying finds practical application in the factual political story of a bill for a whistle blowers policy that was initiated as far back as between 1999 to 2003 by the then member of the Federal House of Representatives, Prince Ned Munir Nwoko but which was never allowed to see the light of the day by centripetal and centrifugal forces not willing to see to an of the ballooning regime of corruption tearing our nation apart and impoverishing millions of households in Nigeria.  
Whilst reflecting on what could have made the House of Representatives not to pass that bill, i also reflected on how such a young man from a privileged background could have adverted his mind to finding lasting solution to corruption but i quickly remembered that perhaps the educational foundation of this Idumuje- Ugboko born  Prince (Ned Nwoko) may have created the necessary platform that motivated him to initiate the bill which if it had been successfully passed into law would have inevitably saved Nigeria of tons of cash that have now been stolen and stashed in private offshore accounts of a range of politically exposed Nigerians. 
From every conceivable assessment, the king’s college, university of London in the United Kingdom is one of the few ivory towers that provides profoundly rich educational tutelage to her scholars. 
A certain Ancient Philosopher once stated that "a person is exactly what he eats", so i can borrow an intellectual leaf from this Philosopher by stating that 'a person is what he learns'.
Prince Nwoko who obtained a Bachelor’s Degree, combined honors in law and history of the university of Keele(England),and a Master of law of the Kings, College university of London, immediately he was elected and inaugurated  into the federal house of Representatives to represent his good people of Aniocha North/South and Oshimili North/South Federal constituency of Delta State, this maritime  lawyer initiated the Whistle blowers legislation which he unambiguously called “a bill for an act to establish public funds recovery and reward commission".  
Due to inexplicable political intrigues and the serious bureaucratic bottlenecks this bill wasn't passed into law even after this young Nigerian lawyer fought bravely for its passage. 
The consequences is that we are now back to square one many  years after to dust up this unfinished  business of instituting a workable and seamless whistle blowers policy in place so as to make the anti-corruption fight  the property and business of every Nigerian from the bottom to the top.  Now the Executive is even yet to bring up a bill to be sent to the National Assembly to support the policy of Whistle blowing
Even as the nation awaits the version that would be initiated may i ask the National Assembly to invite Prince Ned Nwoko to teach them the strategic components of this 1999 Whistle blowers Bill . 
This partnership has become imperative because if the Ned Nwoko's 1999 whistle blowers initiative was followed up and passed into law, by now Nigeria would have reaped bountifully as a result of the fact that ordinary people would have made the anti-graft crusade their own and if there is ownership framework from the ordinary people it would have been much easier for anyone who sees anything to say it.
It bears repeating the fact that this attitudinal and normative change is what the Royal Institute of international Affairs otherwise known as Chatham House recently identified as the missing link or weakest point in the fight against corruption.  
In that report this intellectual institution canvassed a normative approach to connecting society and institutions in the fight against corruption. 
This was exactly what the bill on whistle blowers policy as contemplated in 1999 by Prince Ned Nwoko was set out to achieve from the benefit of hindsight as someone who has gone through the bill myself . 
We will return to debate on the merit of this legislation and to establish the nexus between lacks of continuity in policy framing to the widening scope of corruption in Nigeria.
But first, let us review other enduring bills he wrote and duly submitted before the Federal House of Representatives.
These bills include:  A bill for an Act establishing a National Disability Allowance; A bill for an Act for prohibition of corporal punishment in schools;  A bill for an Act for compulsory vehicle road worthiness test;  National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) reform bill (2000);  A bill for an Act to establish public funds recovery and reward commission;     A bill for an Act for the establishment of a National minimum wages council;   A bill for an Act to standardize allowances and fringe benefits payable to Public Government Officials;    Bill for an Act for continuity of evidence in Court proceedings;   A bill for an Act for compulsory professional indemnity in Nigeria;       A bill for an Act for the protection of Nigerians abroad;     A bill for the amendment of Fire Arms Act;      A bill for an Act for the consolidation of all decrees;    A bill for an Act for the prohibition of expensive burial rites in Nigeria;     A bill for an Act for Community Legal Service;    A bill for an Act for the convening of a National Conference; Bill for an Act for establishing a National Sports University; and A bill for an Act for compulsory Fire & Insurance Regulations at Homes and Office. 
By way of observation, may i inform our readers that right now Prince Ned Nwoko is vigorously pursuing a license for the establishment of a Sports University which he has graciously decided to site in his quiet but agrarian community in Delta state. 
Back to our thematic issue of whistle blowers policy, may i say that long before Chatham House came up with the 2017 reports in which it computed the totality of the heist of public fund by politicians to be within the region of $480 billion in the last 58 years, an erudite writer by name Max Siollun had authored a well-researched book called 'Soldiers of fortune-Nigerian politics from Buhari to Babangida, ' in which the author also queried the absence of an institutional mechanisms for effective whistle blowers policy. 
Author's words: "Why was all this corruption possible, and why did the perpetrator’s get away with it? The lack of detail in press exposes of corruption was a factor. They often presented in sensationalist rhetoric akin to rumor and innuendo. They rarely contain substantiated detailed instances of corruption that could be used to prosecute."
"Even when sufficient evidence existed, those supposed to investigate corruption were unable to do so because they were appointed, paid by, and served at the pleasure of those in the government they were supposed to investigate and prosecute. However, there are other social and cultural factors".
The author listed these factors to be primarily identified in a collegiate term as "Patrimonialism" which is at the heart of Nigerian governments, politics and society. 
Political leaders he affirmed compete to appropriate a “share’ ’of national resources which they can then redistribute to their own community and personal network of followers. 
The resources accumulated by political leaders, he informed are used to maintain their power. 
According to the author : “The need to obtain access to state resource is often camouflaged in verbal metaphors referencing basic necessities such as food and clothing. For example, Nigerians frequently refer to the practice of consuming state financial resources for personal gain as “eating”. STATE resources are seen as food or cake to be consumed by public officials". 
"A politician that has become rich through the state is often referred to as having “eating” government money. Patrimonialism has led to a failure to distinguish between the public purse and private pockets", the author averred.
This author is visionary because only last week when the Yaradua center in Abuja hosted the crème de la crème to a talk shop on 50 years of Biafra, a former two times Head of State of Nigeria and a retired Military General Olusegun Obasanjo reduced the all-important agitation for self-rule to the unequal sharing of the proverbial national cake. Obasanjo comically asked the indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB) to shelve their agitation for Biafra and embrace a united Nigeria because in his words "there by is enough cake to go round".
This basically brings usto the imperative of disclosing that this piece is a clarion call for the political class especially the ones in the National Assembly to endeavor to become critical thinkers or to hire technocrats and good thinkers as their special technical assistants so they can deliver world’s class legislations that would stand the test of time and basically be set out to address peculiar developmental challenges that bedevils our country such as corruption, insecurity, unemployment and lack of good governance. 
The absence of a strong institutional and legal framework such as the Whistle blowers legislation, the comprehensive kind proposed in 1990 by Prince Ned Nwoko may have informed the findings by CHatham House which listed three solid missing points in the anti-graft war.
CHatham House stated that social norms of corruption are limited to specific contexts and sectors in Nigeria. 
Social norms exist around specific sectors and practices, for example, law enforcement and bribery, but are not as widespread as people may assume. 
The findings of this research project show that social norms drive the solicitation of bribes by law enforcement officials, whereas the giving of bribes is influenced more by circumstances and by people’s beliefs about what other people are doing. 
There are thus opportunities for targeted interventions to address the specific beliefs and expectations that motivate corrupt behavior in specific sectors and practices.
Chatham House further found out that If the environment or options change, behavior will change. 
"A clear majority of respondents in Nigeria’s rural and urban areas know when a practice is illegal, and think that others know this too. But individuals may engage in a practice that they know is wrong because they observe others doing so, or as a rational response to a situation. In many of the scenarios analyzed in this study, corrupt behavior was rationalized as a response to the choices and pressures that people face".
The researchers from the British Royal Institute of international Affairs think that  collective action is sometimes impeded because people have misconceptions about what other people really think. 
Survey respondents they met frequently underestimated the extent to which fellow citizens believe corruption to be wrong. 
Hear them: "If people were aware of how commonly held their personal beliefs are, they would be more motivated to act collectively against corruption. Anti-corruption efforts may have the greatest chance of success if they stem from a shared sense of responsibility and urgency – and thus foster collective grassroots pressure". 
"President Buhari is certainly not alone in his high-profile stance on corruption; a significant number of Nigerians agree that it is morally unacceptable. The crucial step is translating this shared belief into an effective and sustainable coalition for collective social action", the averred.
The Presidency and the National Assembly are hereby admonished to dust up that 1999 whistle blowers initiative by Ned Nwoko and embellish the copy they are working on so the nation can have the fortune of getting one of the best legal instrument supporting Whistle blowers in their national task of battling the scourge of corruption.  Luckily, this gentleman Prince Ned Nwoko is back to Nigeria from Britain to concentrate on his project of erecting an imposing Sports University institution in Delta state and currently partners with the Federal Government on a number of good governance projects, so it is easier to tap from his enormous intellectual talents because as they say 'Charity begins at home'. 
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human rights writers Association of Nigeria  (HURIWA ) and blogs;

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