Posted by News Express | 5 March 2014 | 5,631 times
Ali Ahmed is the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on justice. In this interview culled from Daily Trust, the lawmaker says the House will give suspended CBN Governor Sanusi protection under the ‘whistle blower’ law recently passed by the House. Excerpts:
Your committee recently came up with a report on whistle blower which was adopted by the House; can you tell us more about this?
Yes, the whistle blower protection and reward bill, 2014 is a bill that has been on for some time and was recently passed into law. The basic provision of the bill is that it seeks to protect and reward a whistle blower, who is somebody that is either inside or outside an organization and has come to have knowledge of any wrongdoing or a corrupt practice and decides to bring it out.
Whistle blower bill across the world is a corruption fighting tool, because the United Nations Convention on Corruption, which Nigeria is a signatory to, has the provision that anybody that blows the whistle should be protected, and not only that, he should be rewarded. So, in this bill, apart from protection, it sets out a fund that if you blow the whistle and it leads to recovery of funds and conviction of the offender, you take 10 percent of the amount.
It is good, so that if people in organizations or outside bring out the information that they have, corrupt practices will reduce considerably.
Looking at recent happenings in the country when Sanusi came up with some allegations of missing $20 in the NNPC and was suspended. Would you call what he did whistle blowing and how do you look at his suspension?
Whistle blowing bill is not about Sanusi, but the coincidence is what one can’t explain. The bill has been on for quite some time, Sanusi has been what he has been. He didn’t just blow the whistle now in 2013 or 2014.
Before the Farouq Lawan committee of which I was a member, he had blown the whistle. We even cited it in the report that the CBN governor had alerted the nation, that ‘look, the price of oil is going up, yet payments into the federation account is going down.’ That something was wrong somewhere, before Senator Bukola Saraki came up with his own investigation.
So, this man has consistently been talking as the CBN governor because you have institutions that are very weak. If institutions are doing their jobs, it is not the function of the CBN governor to blow the whistle, but because they’re weak; because there’re entrenched interests who will not come up with information, somebody outside that cabal has to come up.
Much as I hate to discuss Sanusi when we talk about this very important bill, we cannot escape from it. Sanusi for one is a whistle blower, and as I said, the day Sanusi was suspended, few hours thereafter, the House passed the bill for third reading; it is now transmitted to the Senate. You can see two things happened that day: Sanusi was suspended; the whistle blower bill was passed by the House.
But there’re arguments that you can’t criticize a house of which you’re part of, and it’s even part of the civil service rules; that Sanusi was part of this government, so he shouldn’t have gone public with all that...
As a legislator and in accordance with the Act which the House has passed, if we take the action of Sanusi within the context of the passed legislation, if you have that information, before you can be protected under the law, there’re some designated people that you should give the information to. If you don’t, you won’t be protected, and you won’t have the reward. Some of them, about 26 of them, number one is the president, house members, state house of assembly members, labour union, police officers, attorney-general, EFCC, National Human Rights Commission, clergy, local government chairmen and so on.
What did Sanusi do when he got it? He sent a letter to Mr President, he could have sent it to me as a member of National Assembly, he could have sent it to a labour organization, he could have sent it to broadcasting commission, but if he had sent a newspaper outfit, then he won’t be protected, because it is not listed under the designated people. Sanusi sent it to Mr President, he did the right thing.
We have to change our orientation coming from a colonial legacy, which is that you have the official secret act; you don’t talk unless your superior approves it. The EFCC and ICPC Acts came and changed that a bit. The whistle blower bill now says that if it is corruption, forget about your superior, forget about civil service rules; you’ll be protected; nobody can transfer, punish or dismiss you. If they do, come under the law; we’ll restore you.
The basic thing about whistle blower bill is that you have to speak the truth to power from inside when you’re part of the power. It’s a paradigm shift of saying if you’re inside, you cannot blow the whistle, no.
Now that the bill is with the Senate for concurrence, do you think senators will do what the Reps did, because there are instances that the House passed a bill and the Senate refused to concur?
I cannot see the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria not passing the whistle blower bill. It’s not about Sanusi. He is not the first person that has been victimized. This is a bill that protects whistle blowers from victimization and backlash. Sanusi has come and gone. There were people who had blown the whistle, but they had gone, and they were not protected because there was no law on that.
Any senator that goes against it, let him come out and Nigerians will know where everybody stands. This is a watershed bill on anti-corruption in Nigeria.
Do you personally think that Sanusi’s suspension was right?
For me, this issue is all about whistle blowing and not Sanusi. He is not the first person to be suspended for telling the truth to power. If you remember, former minister of state for finance, when he said the almighty NNPC was broke, he was fired. Dr Gwandu of NCC, when he blew the whistle, he was fired; Dr Agada of National Women Development Centre when he blew the N300 million fraud of poverty alleviation, he was fired.
When you tell truth to power from inside, they’ll come after you. You can now see where this is coming from. For whistle blowing, you don’t have to be right. The law says if you bring out information which you reasonably believe to be true. So, the issue of whether Sanusi is saying £49 billion, £20 billion is immaterial; that’s why investigation needs to be carried out to determine exactly what it is.
Within the confines of this law that we have passed, Sanusi is a whistle blower and should be protected. I know the legalistic people will say the bill is not yet passed, yes, but you can see that that is the more reason why we need this law. Nigerians should come up and tell their senators to pass this bill within the shortest possible time.
I met with those that drafted the CBN Act. We were operating a different CBN before Obasanjo. They told me that ‘look, when we drafted the law, we removed suspension because we wanted CBN to be independent, and we thought that any president will be one whose action will correspond with the rule of law, who will not go against the law, who will do everything in accordance with the law.’
They never thought that this is Nigeria. If they had known that this is Nigeria, and everything is possible, they would have put inside the law that ‘a CBN governor cannot be suspended.’ But the rule of interpretation is that when you mention something, that expressly excludes things that you don’t mention. So, by mentioning sack and not suspension, it means something.
This is academic. Whether he is right or wrong, I hope the Senate will be able to confirm the sack. If they’re not, then Nigeria will be in a terrible mess. If two-third senators do not support that sack, we’re in a terrible mess.
•Photo shows suspended CBN Governor Sanusi.
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