By Kayode Crown
When the Federal Government came up with the concept of whistleblowing, it was a welcome development. With one stone the government would be killing two birds.
The whistleblowing arrangement would encourage the people to cooperate with government. The eyes of the 180 million citizens in the country become the eyes of the government.
Also, the money gotten fraudulently by all manner of people can be discovered and put back to the coffers of government.
The conception was great, but the execution is now a joke, especially in this “madness” story that I will talk about here.
At an apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos State, Nigeria, a whistle-blower led the government to get billions of naira that was starched away there.
The whistle-blowing arrangement is supposed to be something secret and in three steps. One: The citizen points the attention of the government to possibly looted money. Two: the government gets the money. Three: the citizen gets a maximum of five percent of the recovered loot. Simple. Right? But it has proved not to be that simple.
There comes the tale of madness. What concerns the government whether the person who will get the money might run mad if given the money, his percent cut of the recovered cash, or not?
That is exactly what the government said, that it does not want to give the money, running into multiple of millions because the individual may run mad having not seen one million naira in his life.
See the way the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), insulted the man who risked his life to blow the whistle in the Ikoyi case as reported by Punch Newspaper.
Sagay said, “What I gathered from my inquiry is that the man is not sufficiently stable to receive such a huge sum of money. He is like someone who will almost run mental when he gets the money and will use it in an irresponsible manner, attracting not only undesirable people, but even danger to himself.
“I think what they wanted to do for him was to provide counsellors. Not just counsellors for character and mental situation but counsellors who would be like consultants that would help him to really invest the money and plan in such a way that he doesn’t throw it away in five minutes.
“They are trying to help him. Nobody is denying him anything. They are trying to help him but he just misunderstands the intention and like everyone that has been deprived for a long time, he is so desperate to have it but from what I can see, if they just give him everything, it won’t last more than a month or two because so many people will start finding ways to get to him and taking their portions from him. So, they were just trying to help him but he became hysterical.”
How can someone be able to say that with a straight face? Is there a “madness” clause in the provision for whistle-blowing in the country? There is none.
This is a major set back for the whistle-blowing policy of the government as far as I am concerned. If the government cannot be trusted to follow through with its own side of the bargain in a timeous manner, then what is the encouragement for the whistle-blower of the future, with the way this has been bungled?
What message does this send to the people? It is the fact that the government cannot be trusted, that the whistle-blowing thing may be a ruse.
The Federal government ought to have given the man his money. Why bother itself about “madness” or no “madness”?
In the guide for the whistle-blower operations, is there any provision for the need to have counselors (who will get there own cut), or was it assumed that it is only those people who are already millionaires who will blow the proverbial whistle?
If the government can’t really make this work, what else can it make work? This is so shocking. They should have given the man the money and not insult him that he may be mentally unstable.
The Yoruba will say: “Ai lowo lowo o pani loruka da”, which roughly translates: lack of money does not make you an inferior human being.
If giving the man the money means he would become mentally unstable, how is his mental state your concern? It was the same mental state with which he led the government to the billions. We need more people with such mental state. The man should have been given the money without much ado.
But the “madness” in the matter does not even end in the accusation that somebody may go mad if the money, running into hundreds of millions of naira, is paid to him.
No it doesn’t. Now we have another claimant to the money, who have sued the government that it should be the person the money should be paid to.
But that is not the only court case. The original claimant, the one they say might go mad, has said he does not want anything less than five percent of the money recovered, and has rejected the N325 million he is being offered, asking the court to rule in his favour.
So it does not only rain, now it pours. This is compound “madness”, if there is a phrase like that.
For starters, why should there be two sets of people laying claim to the money. How is that even possible? If two people “whistle blow” on a money, is it not the first person who came forward, the one who has the right to the money?
Why would another set be able to come forward, if not that somebody somewhere has something to gain from the confusion and has the means and ways to “pour sand sand” in this whistle-blowing “gaari?” This is a classic case of “our husband has gone mad again”.
On the matter of which percentage should be applied, it should have been made incontrovertibly clear from the get go.
The original claimant is rejecting the money on another basis. He wants the court to judge that he should be paid in the exchange rate at the time of the discovery of the money and not the present rate, since foreign currencies was part of the recovered money.
I guess the man is trying to show that that: “since you say I am ‘mad’, let me show you the madness, let’s go to court and let me show you that you are one that is ‘mad’ for not giving me my money months ago.”
As the Yoruba will say: if you stay too long on feaces, big and small house flies will meet you there. That is the case of this Ikoyi discovery. The money should have been paid urgently, then changes can be made to the provisions of the law afterwards, if need be.
But to say that you won’t pay the money because you want to counsel the person is the height of insult and it is such an insult that can make a man go mad in the first instant.
There should be a clearly defined timeline for the whistle-blower to get his money. There should be a clearly defined percentage of the money that would be applied for the money, lucidly outlined on a table, and not subject to any official’s meddling or interpretation.
That level of transparency is needed, otherwise, what has been set up to deal with corruption would end up as a conduit of corruption. And that would truly be a ” “mad” situation.