Tribune: The Travails of Ikoyi Fund Whistle-Blower

IF the whistle-blower who blew the lid off the $43.4 million found at a flat in Ikoyi, Lagos ever thought of profiting from his enterprise based on the expected commission, he must be revising his obviously conservative perception now. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at first claimed that it had paid the whistle-blower’s commission, a claim which his lawyer stridently denied. Then, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, the immediate past chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), declared that, on the contrary, the whistle-blower had actually been in detention serially in three different institutions.

Although the EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, claimed in Vienna, Austria, that the anti-graft body was working with the Ikoyi fund whistle-blower, counselling him and making sure that he is out of harm’s way, the whistle-blower’s experiences, according to Professor Odinkalu, have been mainly unsavoury. Magu was quoted as saying that “we are currently working on the young man because this is a man who did not have one million naira of his own before. So, he is under counselling on how to make good use of the money— and also the security implication. We don’t want anything bad to happen to him after taking delivery of his entitlement. He is a national pride.”

Apart from the opinion of the EFCC boss, the government’s attitude can also be surmised from the expressed view of the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PAAC), Professor Itse Sagay who, in a magisterial manner, declared that the whistle-blower could run mad seeing the sudden wealth which his enterprise had earned him. This statement is juvenile, disrespectful and preposterous. It is none of the government’s business if the whistle-blower runs amok or not on receiving his duly earned commission, and neither is it its business how he chooses to spend the money. This is a democracy, not a dictatorship. The said whistle-blower has in fact alleged that attempts had been made on his life by unknown persons.

At the outset of the policy, we adumbrated its demerits and highlighted the missing links, pointing out how to avoid the embarrassment that now threatens the government’s integrity. We had reservations about the implementation of the policy considering the administration’s inexperience in handling matters of this nature. Now, the whistle-blower who squealed on the find at the flat in Ikoyi appears to be in more trouble than he ever bargained for. Not only has the Federal Government been hesitant about keeping its side of the bargain, the whistle-blower’s identity which ought to be held in firm discretion is now almost being compromised. Why has the government hesitated in compensating the whistle-blower when it made no such hesitation in confiscating the Ikoyi millions?

All of a sudden, the government thinks that the compensation is too huge to keep the whistle-blower sane and it is seemingly so bothered about the welfare of the whistle-blower that it prefers frittering away its integrity. Was losing the sanity of the whistle-blower part of the initial considerations? Why is the government bringing it in now? Has it even occurred to the authorities that the whistle-blowing may not have been a solo operation, in which case the identified whistle-blower may just be holding the fort for an array of informants who are also entitled to pieces of the cake? The government’s hesitation and reluctance can only spell the death knell for the novel policy. In any case, a group of persons claiming to have been the ‘original whistle-blowers’ have now gone to court, asking the Minister of Finance and the EFCC to stop payment until the determination of their suit.

Henceforth, nobody will be encouraged to squeal on questionable funds anywhere, seeing the unsavoury developments that have attended the present case. If those who expose corruption are mistreated by the government, it will send wrong signals to those who have any useful information on other recalcitrant looters. The cynics who predicated their scepticism on the doubtful sincerity of the government may eventually be proved right in their opinion that the fight against corruption was a ruse merely used to gain power by this administration.