Nigeria will compensate whistleblowers with up to 5% of recovered loot, according to the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun. This was recently approved by a Federal Executive Council meeting, chaired by President Buhari.
The Bribecode Team is pleased that government is open to new anti-corruption ideas. However, it is dangerous to implement the Bribecode in phases. Although one of the three main pillars of the Bribecode is financial compensation for whistleblowers, the objective is to prevent corruption in the first place, not just to create a profitable ‘anti-corruption industry’ for insiders, like the Abacha billions recovered and relooted via Dasuki and others.
Information alone neither secures recoveries nor stops future corruption. Information on the Haliburton scandal, which earned the US government hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, has been in the public domain for a decade but a Nigerian whistleblower who was waiting for 5% of recoveries from the actual recipients of the $180million bribes (whose names litter US court records) would still be waiting. Financial incentives will only work in the context of an effective overall strategy that guarantees the political will to prosecute every proven case and ruin egregious offenders.
The Bribecode is that strategy. It proposes that
- companies convicted of serious corruption be liquidated, while individuals who assist them suffer total assets forfeiture,
- whistleblowers who provide information leading to conviction get 1% of the recoveries and assets of the liquidated company.
- action can be filed in any Federal High Court in Nigeria by any of Nigeria’s 37 attorney generals.
A whistleblower’s 5% is only the ‘sweet’ part of the medicine, easy to swallow by the political class. Yet, unless these three elements of the anti-corruption strategy are implemented at the same time, even a 50% reward to whistleblowers will not do much for good governance, and may actually be counter-productive. This is because political corruption is impossible without collaborators in government. For whistleblowers to be rewarded, they cannot be anonymous, and once they reveal their identity via the website promised by the minister, the information is technically available to the relevant corruptocrat. Potential informants will have to balance this risk with the knowledge that a single phone call to – and from – the right person, WILL kill any prosecution or recovery under our present system. Every government has sacred cows who can only be prosecuted at risk to the prosecutor’s, and informant’s career or even life.
The proposed Bribecode changes all that. Under that proposed law, once viable information has been provided by a whistleblower, it is impossible to suppress the logical prosecution that will follow, because a prosecuting attorney general gets to recoup the resulting assets as internally generated revenue for his state. And no one person, party or godfather can control the federal government, and all the states of the federation.
The government’s new 5% strategy requires potential whistleblowers to study newspapers and gossip columns to eliminate those corruption scandals that implicate the members, godfathers, friends and family of the ruling party and the government in power. To report a political outsider will of course result in a midnight raid and immediate recovery verging on victimisation. To report a political insider may (for those who survive the resulting victimisation), result in a ten-year ‘panel of inquiry’, the pages of whose report will eventually be used to sell guguru in the Garki market. This is not the future we want for Nigeria.
The Bribecode will introduce Competitive Prosecution that finally equalises everyone under the law irrespective of connections. The temptation to corrupt will disappear, because probity will be the only route to economic survival. The doctor’s real prescription for corruption may be bitter for our politicians to swallow, but only the full dosage can heal Nigeria. We, once again, recommend the bill, as proposed, to government. The sick cannot cherry-pick their medicine.
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