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Economy of whistle blowing

By Abraham Ogbodo
25 December 2016   |   4:21 am
The Nigeria public has President Muhammadu Buhari to thank for this new way of making money. I have always known the man to be kind-hearted, but each time I say this, cynics will call for my head.
The Editor of the Guardian, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo

The Editor of the Guardian, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo

There is big business in town that could change the equation overnight. It is simple to transact too. It works this way. If one man, likely a poor man, can prove that another man, who is very wealthy, has stolen N100 billion from government to add to his wealth, he that has asserted and proven, walks home with N5billion, being 5 per cent of N100billion, just like that. And it is legitimate earning, because there is a new policy that allows for that percentage of recovered stolen money to be given to him or her, also called a whistleblower that facilitated the recovery.

The Nigeria public has President Muhammadu Buhari to thank for this new way of making money. I have always known the man to be kind-hearted, but each time I say this, cynics will call for my head. Maybe the problem has to do with communication. Apparently, time has come for Buhari to step-up to a vocal or more measurable mode, instead of this body language thing so that others outside Alhaji Lai Mohammed can understand him too.

For instance, much as he tried to push the responsibility elsewhere, critics have tied the current economic hardship in the land to him. I don’t know why they are doing this to him. The man has been around for only 18 months. Nigerians should take it easy with Buhari. Agreed he had said so many sweet things during his campaign to become president, he has also repeatedly explained the dilemma of a 74-year old man in the middle of a fast-pacing operation.

The result is a crushing recession that is threatening to dip into a depression. Helpless, Buhari has been doing a great deal of policy juggling to create some succor. Nothing seems to be working out perfectly though. Importation of certain items have been banned and unbanned for close to a dozen times without generating the momentum to re-jig the anemic economy. There were also bailouts to states to bring them up to date with salary obligations, but as we talk and even on a Christmas day, 33 out of the 36 state governments have not paid salaries of their workers with some actually owing arrears.

Given this backdrop of failed past efforts to put money in people’s pockets, the Buhari’s policy of five per cent accruals to whistleblowers from recovered looted public fund should be encouraged. In fact, the only bad thing about the policy is that it is coming too late in the day. If this had been in place before the start of the recovery of the Abacha loot, a stupendous amount would have been earned and ploughed back to the economy to give it a kick by some whistleblowers.

Because what Abacha looted was humongous, the recovery has been in phases. I cannot say exactly the phase it has reached right now, but overall estimates put recovery at above one billion United States dollars. Five per cent of that is $50 million and that is what Nigerians have lost. Even so, the matter cannot be rested like that. I am sure some people blew whistle many times over or even sounded a gong that led to the massive recovery in Switzerland and elsewhere. Therefore, for peace to reign, this five per cent policy must be made retroactive the same way the decree on death sentence for drug trafficking was made in 1984 when Buhari was military head of state.

That is the meaning of equity. You cannot claim to be fighting corruption on one hand and on the other hand denying people of their legitimate earnings. I do not want to be a party to that kind of monkey business. Having said this, I want to formally signify my intention to blow the whistle still on the Abacha loot. So far, government has focused on loot deposited in banks. I am therefore asking the Federal Government through all its agencies for recovery of looted public fund to leave the bank deposits alone and come to home deposits. With or without a warrant, a search should be conducted in all the houses belonging to Abacha for monies far beyond the threshold of petty cash that may be lying fallow in the houses.

Report that a housemaid of the widow of the late head of state bolted with some millions she picked casually in the wardrobe could constitute a lead. I have a few more things to say. Here is a government looking for whistle blowers to give five per cent of recovered monies. Didn’t government hear when some people (a judicial commission of enquiry actually) blew the whistle on Rotimi Amaechi and his ‘misdeeds’ as governor of Rivers State? Another was sounded on the incumbent Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Yusuf Buratai a thousand times over. Even now, two whistles have been loudly blown. One was on the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir Lawal, calling attention to how he has been handling business at the camps of Internally Displaced Persons in the Northeast. The other was on Ibrahim Magu, which made the Senate to withhold his confirmation as substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

I can’t get it. Which whistle is government asking to be blown? Is it the type used by referees in football game? I use this opportunity to call on all the whistleblowers in the above instances to follow up and earn their legitimate five per cent commission on the loot that shall be recovered, isha allah, from quarters so named.

All things being equal, I should also have some outstanding with government in this regard. Last two years, at the height of the Boko Haram carnage and the attendant helplessness of the Nigerian military, I had done a-two part article on this page to state how the huge defence budgets over the decades had been mismanaged. I returned with the verdict that if the budgets had been appropriately channeled to building institutional capacity and capability, the Boko Haram insurgency could have been far less challenging to the military.

Buhari came in 2015 to begin a probe of the utilisation of budgets under successive leadership of the military. Although the effort did not go far enough into time, I can legitimately claim, and I stand to be contradicted, that the probe, which has yielded good returns, is a consequence of the whistle I had blown earlier. In effect, I am asking the finance minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, to make full disclosures regarding monies recovered in the military probe so that I can present my claims. I can also say right away that some people ably aided by the Lagos State Government have stolen substantial part of the Atlantic Ocean in the name of creating a new city within Lagos City that will be called Atlantic City. I do not know how the five percent will be computed in this case but I deserve my dues all the same for blowing the whistle on the stolen Atlantic Ocean.

We should play by the rules if we really desire to create a good economy around the five percent policy. Nobody should be short-changed. It can even be planned to make everybody a winner. For instance, I can facilitate my friend, Eddy Odivwri, to loot N10 billion, which he puts in a bank and gets a hefty 15 percent interest upfront. I return to blow the whistle on him and he returns the N10 billion intact to government from which I earn my N500million (5 per cent) and government gets N9.5billion instead of losing everything. Perfect deal! Nobody is fatally hurt!