As civil society groups heighten the campaigns for the enactment of the whistleblowing and whistleblowers protection law in Nigeria, one of the foremost supporters of the bill Senator Abiodun Olujimi has expressed optimism that the law can come before the end of the ninth session of the National Assembly in 2023
Both Senator Olujimi and a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Kayode Oladele called on the members of the ninth National Assembly to harmonize all existing draft bills as well as carry the executive arm of the government along to ensure the quick and smooth passage of the bill.
They made the call during a radio program organized by the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) in collaboration with the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development (PRIMORG), Wednesday in Abuja.
Olujimi who currently represents Ekiti South constituency in the upper legislative chamber revealed that the harmonization of different versions of the whistleblower bill will help in its quick passage, adding that getting the bill passed and assented to will be quicker if the executive arm of the government is carried along and their inputs included.
“We need to put down all the bills, look at them and then harmonize them in a readable and understandable way and then present it to the floor.
“We need to be able to sit down and look at all the interests to ensure that all of them are captured in one single bill that is supported, it is important to have input from the executive because they refuse bills because they are not carried along. So the minute you carry along with all the interest of the executive then it would be easy for the bill to have a quick passage and to get it assented to.”
Asked if the time is not running out already, senator Olujimi said the time is still available for the bill to be passed if all the stakeholders work in harmony.
Similarly, Hon. Kayode Oladele who represented Yewa North/Imeko-Afon Federal Constituency, Ogun State, from 2015-2019, also stressed the need for the different whistleblower bills to be harmonized by lawmakers saddled with that responsibility.
He regretted the failure of the 8th Assembly in passing the bill, saying the legislators’ inability to harmonize the different versions of the bill was due to lack of enough time; adding that the passage of the whistleblower bill by the 9th Assembly largely depends on the political will of the lawmakers and interest of politicians.
“The 9th Assembly is fast running out, passing the bill can be very close particularly when the powers that be or the authorities are not interested in that bill, but if it is a bill that concerns the powers that be it can be passed within one week, two weeks’ record time, but if it is something that is for the general good of the society nobody takes ownership of it”
Oladele, however, urged Nigerians to work with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in pushing for the passage of the bill; “Citizens should take ownership of the whistleblower bill currently in the National Assembly. The general public through the CSOs should work completely with the relevant House of Reps Committees to ensure that we do the needful.”
On his part, AFRICMIL’s Senior Programme Officer, Godwin Onyeacholem questioned the seriousness of the federal government in having a whistleblower protection law in place and the fight against corruption.
His words: “If the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is interested in fighting corruption, there is no way we wouldn’t have had whistleblower the protection law by
Immediately the whistleblower policy was made in 2016, within one year you ought to have packaged a whistleblower law that will protect those who demonstrate rare courage of blowing the whistle.
“But, it is not there, so you can see that the will to fight corruption is lacking, even though they say it but you can see the will is not there.”
Onyeacholem stated that the just concluded town hall meeting series on whistleblowing and whistleblower protection was targeted at raising citizens’ awareness on whistleblowing; to make citizens understand the importance of whistleblowing as a tool for fighting corruption and to ensure people who show courage to blow the whistle are protected.
He described the collaboration of AFRICMIL and PRIMORG as interestingly fantastic given the aim of the project and the success recorded so far.
He also revealed that AFRICMIL will not rest on their oars as plans are underway to provide more assistance and defense for whistleblowers in Nigeria.
“The way to go about whistleblower protection law is vigorous continuous advocacy. There is no way you can kill corruption completely, we can only reduce it and the only we can do it is by continuously talking about it.
“AFRICMIL is organizing a team of lawyers that will defend whistleblowers and until a whistleblower protection law is on the ground in Nigeria, AFRICMIL will continue collaborating with PRIMORG and other civil society organizations,” Onyeacholem said.
Legal Practitioner, Oluwatoyin Aladegbami stressed the need for the whistleblower bill at the National Assembly to prioritize the protection of whistleblowers, as well as called for the inclusion of protection of citizens who blow the whistle on security issues.
“The proposed bill at the National Assembly should be made to accommodate and incorporate aspects of whistleblowing on insecurity and prioritizing the protection of whistleblowers in terms of legal representation.”
While encouraging Nigerians on the need to expose every form of wrongdoings around them, Aladegbami had these to say: “I encourage everyone (Nigerians) to create the awareness on the need to blow the whistle because the more knowledgeable we are, the more we get better sanity in our society because majority of the challenges in our society will begin to diminish.”
The Radio Town Hall meeting Series is a collaborative effort between AFRICMIL and PRIMORG, aimed at increasing citizen’s active participation and involvement, and encouraging the government to institutionalize the whistle-blowing policy.
The project is supported by the MacArthur Foundation.