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Lack of protection inhibiting whistleblowers — CSOs

”So we need to refigure  the policy, by setting stronger legal backing and also try to ensure that there is more transparency in the administration of whistle blower,’’

By Angela Atabo

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have said lack of protection for whistleblowers is inhibiting the effectiveness of the whistle blowing policy in the country.

This was disclosed at a training for lawyers, on the ‘Whistleblower Protection in Nigeria’ organised by the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), in collaboration with Cleen Foundation, with support from MacArthur Foundation on Friday in Abuja.

Dr Kole Shettima, African Director, MacArthur Foundation said the number of whistleblowers in the country had reduced, compared to when the policy started.

According to him, at the beginning of the policy, there were more people coming out to reveal individuals and institutions that were not doing things right.

”I see that the tempo has reduced because of certain reasons, including the fact that there is no adequate protection for them.

”I think also that it is because there has been delay or no payment of incentives for whistle blowers and I also think that informed the reason, the policy has not been effective as it used to be before.

”So we need to refigure the policy, by setting stronger legal backing and also try to ensure that there is more transparency in the administration of whistle blower,’’ he said.

Shettima added that lawyers play critical role in the whistleblower policy, because at the end of the day, whistleblowers might be taken to court where lawyers’ support, experience and knowledge would be needed.

He therefore urged lawyers to help in providing pro bono services for people who are blowing the whistle, to avoid reprisal attacks.

Dr Chido Onumah, Coordinator, AFRICMIL, said that the training was part of activities to strengthen the organisation’s work in the area of protection for whistle blowers.

”You will all agree with us that whistle blower protection is key to the sustenance of the whistle blower policy.

”This is because, if people are not assured of their protection, there is no way they will come out to blow the whistle.

”We have had a lot of engagement with journalists, government institutions and agencies and just like we are having with lawyers, because we also realise that they are key in the whole circle of the survival of the whistle blowing policy,’’ he said.

Onumah said that the CSO hoped to rely on the expertise and experience of the lawyers, as the group looked forward to the formulation of the whistleblowing law for the country.

He emphasised the need for the enactment of the whistle blowing law that will protect whistle blowers and their loved ones.

According to him, there is also the need for government to fulfill its promise of payment of incentives to whistleblowers to increase the effectiveness of the policy.

Mr Noah Ajare, Principal Partner, Noah Ajare and Co, while presenting a paper on: “Legal Protection for Whistleblowers; The Role of Lawyers and Civic ParCners”, said it was sad that there was no law to protect whistleblowers.

Ajare said that apart from protecting whistleblowers, there was also the need to protect accused persons.

”So lawyers should embrace advocacy for whistle blowers to provide pro bono services for indigent whistle blowers and also join the campaign to ensure the law is passed,’’ he added (NAN)

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