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“Nigerian government takes aim at whistle blowers”
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“Nigerian government takes aim at whistle blowers”

Abubakar UmarWhistle blowers uncover corruption and government abuse, writes Abubakar Umar, 24, a Correspondent from Katsina in Nigeria, sometimes earning reward for their work. He argues that Nigeria needs laws to protect those who expose problems at high levels.

In 1777, a midshipman in the United States Continental Navy by the name Samuel Shaw, together with Third Lieutenant Richard Marvin, blew a whistle regarding the torture of British prisoners of war by the Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Navy during the revolutionary war.

These two were regarded as heroes whose act led to the passage of the first Whistle Blower Law passed in the United States by the Continental Congress on 30th July, 1778 by a unanimous vote. The United States equally declared to defend the two in a libel suit filed against them.

In 1972, W. Mark Felt, an Associate Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was responsible for leaking information about President Richard Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal, which subsequently paved the way to the resignation of the Republican President on the 9th August, 1974. The same whistle blown by Mark Felt saw the indictment, trial and conviction of about 43 people, the majority of whom were administration officials affiliated with President Richard Nixon.

Another hero of the 1970s is Frank Serpico, then an officer of the New York police department (NYPD). Serpico was the first police officer in the history of NYPD to step forward to report and subsequently testify openly about widespread, systematic corruption payoffs amounting to millions of dollars.

In some instances, the heroic whistle blowers are awarded huge sums of money in appreciation of their honesty. Some include Cheryl D. Eckard who was awarded $96 million in 2010 for exposing contamination problems at GSK’s Pharmaceutical Manufacturing operation. Another one was Bradley Birkenfeld who was awarded $104 million in September 2012 for uncovering bank fraud and tax evasion.

Now let’s compare similar instances within mother Nigeria. Some few months ago, a whistle was blown regarding a scandal that took place in the aviation sector of Nigeria involving the then-Minister of Aviation over allegations of the purchase of two BMW armored cars at N255 million for her personal use. To our surprise, the Federal Government shortly after the leak started to witch hunt the whistle blower, allegedly an employee of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, and tagged him as criminal. This led to a great controversy and criticism against the Federal Government, while the whistle blower earned great support from every angle of the country and beyond. Among others, Nigerian human rights lawyer Aminu Gamawa, based in the United States, promised to organize 100 lawyers in defense of the whistle blower in the event criminal charges are pressed against him. Another is Femi Fani-Kayode, who equally pledged to represent the whistle blower pro bono public in the event of prosecution. After much public effort and reaction, we can say the aviation ministry whistle blower narrowly escaped if truly he is off target.

Shortly after that, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, blew another whistle with allegations of a missing crude oil fund to the tune of $20 billion from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). To the Nigerians’ greatest dismay, we woke up on the 20th of February, 2014 only to receive an update on the suspension of the same CBN Governor on the grounds of financial recklessness and misconduct. He was accused of being inconsistent with the administration’s vision of a Central Bank propelled by the core values of focused economic management, prudence, transparency and financial discipline.

At this point, we will ask what our Federal Government is really up to. This is a Government that was brought to the knowledge of inappropriate behaviour, only to suspend the one who made the call.

Whenever our government acts shamelessly, we feel nothing as to the guilt, or we mount the burden of that wrong to the said Government. Ours is the usual side criticism with a little barking from the few courageous ones, which equally fades away as the clock ticks. For the present shameless act of the presidency however, the feeling is different as I feel the guilt from everywhere, not because I was part of the decision but for being part of it as a Nigerian. I just pray with time, Nigerians will not start hiding their identity among other nationals for the shameless act of incompetency by our undeserving government.

In the history of our country, there has been a series of political scandals and shameless abuse of office, but the same Governments have a sense of guilt. It surprises me how our present Government has no any iota of shame in its dealings and always acts confidently in support of corruption, as though it is ruling the kingdom of animals.

I believe if there is any time that Nigerians needs a Whistle Blower Protection Act it is now, because it appears at present that nobody will be safe for revealing any unwarranted act of our government. We need more whistle blowers. Enough is enough!

photo credit: Truthout.org via photopin cc

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About me: I am a Nigerian born and hail from Katsina. I am a lawyer by profession and currently into active legal practice. 
I have keen interest in knowing the activities surrounding us both within national and international scenes. I am a member of ‘Taking It Global’ a network of young people working towards tackling global challenges, and presently am a student of the International Institute For Global Leadership (IIGL), an Internet based Leadership Institute.
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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit:
http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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