Nigeria: Inside Story – Death Threats, Job Losses – Nigerian Whistleblowers Who Risked Everything for Public Interest

The report examines how the combat towards corruption has put the lives of Nigerian whistleblowers at hazard and why a coverage meant to encourage and safeguard them is failing.

The nation was shell-shocked in April 2017 when operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) learned $43.4 million, amongst different currencies, inside the wardrobe of a four-bedroom condo in Ikoyi, Lagos. Videos and pictures of the sting operation shared by the anti-graft company had been clone of scenes from a raid of the stash dwelling of a drug cartel. The EFCC credited a whistleblower’s confidential alert for the significant healing. That second represented a shift inside the anti-corruption efforts of the federal authorities and inspired whistleblowers to return ahead with worthwhile details. But at the same time the federal government has made a number of recoveries, how have the whistleblowers fared? In this report, DYEPKAZAH SHIBAYAN examines how the combat towards corruption has put the lives of whistleblowers at hazard and why a coverage meant to encourage and safeguard them is failing in Nigeria’s long-drawn-out battle towards graft.

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Blow The Whistle, Face Persecution

Citizens aspiring to get into public service search to have a positive profession and earn a dwelling to maintain their households. Most intend to spend both 35 years in service or attain 60 years of age to retire from their careers consistent with the general public service regulations.

However, people who have the center to overtly combat corruption inside their organisations are usually persecuted, dismissed and left in a state of despair. Joseph Akeju, a former bursar on the Yaba College of Technology in Lagos state, located himself during this boat when he travelled the lonely highway of whistleblowing a couple of years in the past.

Mr Akeju would have beloved to give you the option to adequately assist his household and have a satisfying profession earlier than retiring from service – however that was not his lot.

The former bursar mentioned he first bumped into sizzling waters when he refused to partake in a “loot” in 2009. He mentioned he was in the end dismissed for his “principled stance” and after seven and half years of despair, he was reinstated by Adamu Adamu, the minister of schooling, in 2016.

He mentioned in the course of the means of attempting to get his job returned, supplying for his household grew to be herculean at the same time some men and women benefited from his plight.

“This story was quite sensational. Some press people were using my name to eat. Some of them went to my then-boss to go and collect money from him,” Akeju instructed TheCable.

“They twisted my position, my words and it became a lot of crisis. They were pursuing me with juju up and down. I just thank God that those things are past.”

After he was reinstated, Mr Akeju was transferred from the school to the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). The lecturer mentioned the school was financially healthful when he left for FAAN and upon his return after two years, he located out that the establishment was broke and borrowing.

“I left for another assignment at FAAN, I was taken there as the director of finance and I had to leave Yaba College of Technology as bursar,” he mentioned.

“Before I left there was a lot of money. After two years when I came back to the college, we were borrowing. Students were suffering and I looked into our finances [and saw] that frivolous contracts were given.”

The former bursar mentioned he then raised the alarm that the staggering sum of N1.6 billion was lacking, prompting his second dismissal from service. The sum, he alleged, was diverted between 2008 and 2014.

‘I Lost Everything’

Before his second dismissal, Mr Akeju mentioned, his life was threatened by way of diabolical means by the men and women related to the alleged fraud that he blew the whistle on.

“The threat to life was there and it did not come physically but you know the Nigerian way of making you scared, I became very sick,” he mentioned.

“I was always sick. It is through the grace of God [that I survived]… I lost everything.”

Amidst the ordeal, Mr Akeju mentioned he misplaced his mom, a spouse, and will not afford to pay the institution costs of his youngsters.

“I lost my mother, I could not bury her in the [morgue]. Up till now I have not been able to balance up [payment], it was around that time I lost my junior wife. I had to stop the education of my children. I couldn’t fund their schools and it is still affecting me till today,” he mentioned.

“The governing council didn’t want to listen to me. They just cooked up stories and dismissed me.”

Court Battle…Then Soft Landing

While out of a job over again, the money owed piled up for Mr Akeju, chiefly considering that he was in courtroom for greater than eight years attempting to get justice.

“A new person was elected as rector and gave me a soft landing. They paid me depreciated money. The money they gave to me had already lost value and I was paying debts that I had already incurred,” he mentioned.

“After I used to be reinstated, most of the folks that persecuted me had been nevertheless there.

“They wanted to deal with the woman who brought me back, I resisted and they dismissed me.”

He mentioned the letter conveying his third dismissal was delivered to him at the same time he was quickly bedridden inside the hospital.

“People are wicked. I was in the hospital when they dismissed me. They brought the letter to me in the hospital. God saved me,” the previous bursar mentioned.

Mr Akeju mentioned certainly one of his former college students helped him file a petition on the institution’s senate, and he was subsequently reinstated, however it was too little too late as he was nearly due for retirement.

“I do not have anything. I haven’t recovered from it,” he mentioned.


In 2020, Joseph Ameh, an architect with the Federal College of Education (Technical), Asaba, Delta State, was sacked after petitioning the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) about alleged contract fraud inside the establishment.

Until his sack, Mr Ameh was head of the bodily planning division on the establishment, the place he had labored for 10 years.

In his petition to the anti-graft company, the architect alleged that over N60 million – voted for 12 initiatives – was diverted by the Treatment of the establishment.

“One of the members of the visitation panel from the federal ministry of education said what they had put into that institution in the past three years was over N15 billion but he did not see anything that looks like N3 billion there,” Mr Ameh mentioned.

The architect mentioned he acquired wind that the school was planning to sack him over his petition and he knowledgeable the ICPC so he might be protected.

He mentioned Mohammed Lawal, ICPC’s lead investigator on his case, suggested him to hunt the intervention of the Architect Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCN).

He was fired after the ARCN weighed in on the case.

His sack letter reads partly: “I’m directed to notify you that the Governing Council of the College at its twelfth assembly held on May thirteenth 2020 took a resolution on the report investigating the alleged petition to Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON) by Arch. Ameh Joseph Eche.

“After due deliberation, the Council located you responsible of the offence levelled towards you and authorised the termination of your appointment from the service of the College.

“Consequently, in line with extant rules, your appointment has been terminated from the Service of the College with effect from 13th May, 2020.”

‘ICPC Failed To Protect Me’

Mr Ameh failed to disguise his identification when he petitioned ICPC, however he, nonetheless, wonders how these he accused of malpractice acquired to know of the petition and in the end pressured him out of the system.

“ICPC exposed me. The petition I did, I did not hide my identity. I gave my identity because I’m 100 per cent sure of what I am saying,” he mentioned.

“The ICPC is not supposed to put my name out there but the people I accused already knew me and that was how I was victimised.”

Members of faculty Treatment who had been located culpable of malpractice had been arraigned by the ICPC however they had been later discharged over “faulty prosecution”.

“Concerning me having to testify, they refused,” he mentioned.

“Until the last day of entertaining witnesses, the SAN, Femi Falana, put a call to the ICPC office to say that it was wrong. I wrote a letter to ICPC that since they refused to allow me to testify in court, I would testify in public.”

Mr Ameh claimed that the paperwork he gave the ICPC attorneys had been rejected and in no way tendered in courtroom as displays.

The accused – Ignatius Ezoem, provost; Ugbechie Linus, registrar; and Chukwuka Jonas, director of works – continued their duties at the same time the case was ongoing.

They would later retire from service.

Letters written to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Civil Service Commission by Mr Ameh failed to yield any end result.

In a correspondence seen by TheCable, the ICPC mentioned it couldn’t intervene in Mr Ameh’s declare of victimisation considering that the matter was earlier than the commercial courtroom and discussing it might be “subjudice”.

When contacted Azu Ogugua, the ICPC spokesperson, requested that a message be despatched. After that was carried out, Mrs Ogugua in no way reverted.

The ordeal additionally took a toll on Mr Ameh’s relationship together with his spouse after she acquired in touch with a cleric over his plight.

While Mr Ameh was battling his sack, his spouse Rosemary acquired launched to Israel Ogaga, a prophet, who allegedly instructed her that if she returned residence, both she or her husband would die in three days. The couple, thus, grew to be separated.

The architect mentioned the prophet claimed that his ordeal was “spiritual”.

“I still wonder what and where lies the interest of the pastor in breaking and putting a family and marriage asunder,” Mr Ameh, a father of three, mentioned in a petition dated August 11 and addressed to the Delta State commissioner of police.

When contacted, Mr Ogaga denied the allegations levelled towards him.

“I’m a clean man. I don’t have anything in my cupboard,” he mentioned.

“The way you are now, somebody says he takes your wife. It is even shameful for you to cry that someone took your wife from you and you are a man. I am a happily married man and I have a wife.”

‘Nigerians Losing Interest In Whistleblowing’

In 2016, the federal authorities launched a whistleblowing coverage, domiciled inside the federal ministry of finance, in an effort to sort out corruption.

The coverage seeks to compensate whistleblowers for exposing corruption.

Notably, in 2017, the coverage added in some inflow of money after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) mentioned it learned $43 million, £27,000 and N23 million stashed away at a flat in Ikoyi after a tip-off from a whistleblower.

In June 2022, the president mentioned round $386 million was recovered in 2021 by way of the whistleblowing coverage.

However, the quantity of prepared whistleblowers is mentioned to be on the decline.

Abdulrasheed Bawa, EFCC chairman, attributed the drop to “false whistleblowers who were prosecuted for wanting to turn a serious programme to memes, unnerved some other would-be informants”.

Similarly, Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, funds and countrywide planning, mentioned Nigerians are dropping curiosity in whistleblowing. “After about two to three years of the implementation of the policy, the interest of the public and the policy began to nosedive,” the minister mentioned in July 2022.

Experts consider that apathy toward whistleblowing may encourage sustained corruption inside the civil service.

In September 2022, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) mentioned the most important instances of corruption are allegedly perpetrated by civil servants.

Ahmed Idris, a suspended accountant-general of the federation, is at the moment being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged N109 billion fraud. Also, the trial of Abdulrasheed Maina, a former civil servant who’s accused of embezzling billions of naira in pension funds, continues to be ongoing after a number of years.

Failed Legislations

Questback, a web-based survey and suggestions application organisation, said many people believe that the international most useful practices for whistleblowing should have security, incentives, laws and a simple strategy to report or expose corruption in place for these fascinated about ridding society of malpractices.

It mentioned the anonymity of the whistleblowers – who is perhaps afraid of the lack of their jobs or the risk to life – is worthwhile inside the combat towards corruption.

The eighth Senate led by Bukola Saraki surpassed the Whistleblower and Witness Protection Bills individually.

But the whistleblower invoice acquired caught in the course of the second studying inside the House of Representatives and failed to reach it by way of to a 3rd studying by the point that meeting wound down.

The laws sought to safeguard whistleblowers towards victimisation and lack of jobs.

In 2019, below the Senate led by Ahmad Lawan, the Whistleblower and Witness Bills had been consolidated and reintroduced as one single laws.

However, Benjamin Uwajumogu, the senator representing Imo north and sponsor of the invoice, died a month after he reintroduced it.

After his demise, nothing has been heard concerning the invoice.

In December 2022, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) authorised a brand new whistleblowing invoice to be despatched to the countrywide meeting for consideration and subsequent passage.

With solely a couple of months to the tip of the ninth countrywide meeting, the prospect of getting a whistleblower invoice materialise is just not encouraging.

Legislation Is Still The Solution

The African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), a civil society organisation (CSO) devoted to the security of whistleblowers by way of its Corruption Anonymous programme, has been working to get hold of justice for Messrs Akeju and Ameh.

In a survey printed in 2021, AFRICMIL mentioned whistleblowing has had little influence in tackling corruption owing to some challenges – lack of authorized security for whistleblowers, extended durations of investigation and delay/miscarriage of justice.

Kola Ogunbiyi, AFRICMIL programme supervisor, mentioned sufficient laws would stronger safeguard whistleblowers and encourage them to reveal corruption. He mentioned the countrywide meeting ought to confirm that it really works on the invoice and transmit it to the president for assent earlier than it winds down in June.

“Having realized the challenges faced by whistleblowers and having realised the decline in whistleblowing because of the absence of legislation, I think the way forward is to advocate vigorously for legislation before the end of this administration,” he mentioned.

“When they come back [from the elections] we still have about two months before the end of the administration.”

Amnesty International additionally believes that the absence of a regulation defending whistleblowers has rendered the coverage weak.

“It is imperative that the legislators pass the Whistleblower Protection Bill into law and present it for the president’s assent before this administration’s cycle ends,” Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria, instructed TheCable.

“Anti-corruption human rights defenders – journalists, members of civil society organisations, whistleblowers, and others – play a vital function inside the prevention of and inside the combat towards corruption and the promotion of human rights.

“Over the years, they’ve been instrumental in investigating and exposing corrupt practices and in demanding transparency and accountability and the security of human rights.

“The government has a responsibility in line with international standards to protect human rights defenders and foster an environment that allows them to thrive.”

Although Messrs Akeju and Ameh shouldn’t have regrets about exposing corruption on the organisations they labored for, the ripple outcomes of their actions have adversely affected them and altered the course of their lives.

**This story is funded by Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development below the Media Freedom Project by way of Justice for Journalists Foundation.**

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