Magu faces crisis of whistleblowing in anti-corruption war

  • As EFCC confiscates N17bn in four months
The whistleblowing approach adopted by President Muhammadu Buhari administration has contributed immensely to recovery of huge sums of money in both Nigerian and foreign currencies in different parts of Nigeria by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).  National Daily is of the view that whistleblowers have made it facile for the EFCC to recover looted funds at little or no cost, also at speedy time.
According to Ibrahim Magu, Acting Chairman of EFCC, the Commission confiscated N17 billion in the past four months. All the confiscations were made from monies stashed in private homes of individuals who have served or are still serving in government.
National Daily inquiry revealed that the adoption of whistleblowing in the anti-corruption war is made more functional by the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) as well as adoption of Bank Verification Number (BVN) by the Buhari administration. Both monetary instruments applied for the control of funds in both government institutions and personal transactions in banks has made surreptitious lodgment of huge amount of money in bank or diversion of public funds extremely difficult and unattractive. Thus, stashing cash at home has become alternative safety net of fraud. Unfortunately, the new tactics of invading or searching private homes by the law enforcement agencies now expose looters to unanticipated dangers.   
However, the whistleblowing approach is beginning to create its own complications in the recent operations of the EFCC at the Osborn Resident in Ikoyi, Lagos.  
The operations culminated into the recovery of over N13 billion simplified in the following order N23 million, $43.4 million and 27, 000 pounds cash in an apartment of a residential building on Osborne Street, Ikoyi, Lagos, a fortnight ago.
There were also reports of confiscations in Lagos, including offices of Bureau De Change (BDC). About N49 million was also said to be found in sacks at the Kaduna Airport and another N250 million in a popular market in Lagos.
In the various confiscations, the identities of the owners of the funds has remained undisclosed by the EFCC. The only exception has been the $9.2 million declared to be found at the resident of Mr. Andrew Yakubu, former Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Apparently, the inability to disclose the owners of the recovered funds is beginning to raise fresh controversies over the transparency of the operations of the EFCC. This is also raising suspicions that the APC-controlled Federal Government may be shielding some state actors in the various discoveries.
Some stakeholders of goodwill in the polity have argued that, “…while the EFCC could be commended for trending this path of historic feat, the entire epic is still cloaked in controversy, following the continued silence of the EFCC in disclosing the owners of the seized funds.”
These stakeholders contended further that the EFCC cannot “remain aloof at a time when Nigerians are anxious to know those behind these monumental plundering;” adding, “This is even as the issue has led to all manner of conjectures.”
Wilson Uwujaren, EFCC spokesman, was chided over the statement he was said to have made ‘that the ownership of the building at Ikoyi had not been established as “the matter is still under investigation.”
The stakeholders further argued that, “it is difficult to convince the people that whistleblowers could have divulged information about looted funds without revealing the looters.”
However, the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayodele Oke, reduced the controversies when he admitted that the recovered funds belong to the NIA.
Oke was said to have disclosed that he had discussion with EFCC one hour before the Osborn residence was raided.
A major controversy is that having known the occupants of the Osborne residence, identifying the landlord of the property would have been of less difficulty because the occupants had contract with the owner.
However, President Buhari urgent intervention led to the suspension of the NIA DG, in addition to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Bacchir Lawal, who has a different case to answer. The President further constituted a three-man administrative panel headed by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, to investigate the NIA D.G. over the Osborn cash and the SGF over an alleged N200 million contract award to a personal company.
National Daily is of the view that the transparency crisis may be a reflection of limitation of the whistleblowing approach in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
There are emerging indications that “while whistleblowing may yield results in the
interim, it may be counter-productive and a tool of conspiracy and sabotage in the long run, which could result in incomplete victory or distortion of the desired goal.”
Certain stakeholders have contended that, “seizing looted funds… without
apprehending the owners is a disservice to the whistleblowers and others and an indictment on the Change agenda of the Federal Government.”
Perhaps, the whistleblowing approach may require modification to make it more transparent and effective to deliver the desired result.