The federal Government is in receipt of no fewer than 400,000 telephone short messages from whistleblowers on looted funds, Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, said yesterday.
Mohammed told The Nation on Saturday that contrary to speculations that the Whistleblowers Policy might be on the wane, it is thriving quietly and the “discreet but vigorous support from Nigerians” can ensure eventual return of more billions of looted funds.
He said Federal Government’s optimism rests on Nigerians’ massive embrace of the policy.
A web portal, http://whistle.finance.gov.ng, has been launched by the Whistleblower Unit (WBU), a multi-agency team, resident in Federal Ministry of Finance Headquarters for the recording of information on violation of financial regulations, mismanagement of public funds and assets, financial malpractice or fraud and theft that is deemed to be in the interest of the public.
Giving a breakdown of citizens’ preferred means of communicating tips on the existence of looted funds, Alhaji Mohammed advised more Nigerians to “take advantage of the Federal Government’s Whistleblower Policy even though it is clear that people’s interest is being sustained.
”As of 21st September this year, we had received a number of communication totaling 2940 and this includes enquiries , tips, compliments and general advice from the public.
”We have received, through our Whistleblower website, 208 enquiries , and 1580 telephone calls.
Government, he added, has recently received 35 classified tips and another set of 546 unclassified ones.
”We have received 79 tips through telephone calls; 413, 213 through SMS and 145 through our websites.
”Through e-mails, we received 109,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed also said that after distillation processes by various finance, security, legal and law enforcement teams indicate that of all the tips received and reviewed, 321 are poised to yield results.
”From all the tips received and reviewed, only 321 have been deemed to be actionable. These are tips that can be worked upon for further action,” he stated.
However, he said that he could not give specific information on any amount involved and payments made to whistleblowers thus far.
Mohammed said in February that the policy had yielded $151million and N8billion in looted funds.
He said at that time that the looted funds were recovered via the clues provided by three whistleblowers who gave actionable information to the office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation.
The biggest amount of $136,676,600.51 was recovered from an account in a commercial bank, where the money was kept under an apparently fake account name.
This was followed by the recovery of N7 billion and $15 million from another person and 1 billion Naira from yet another.
This is besides the $9.2 million in cash traced to a former Group Managing Director of the NNPC. In all,over $160million had been recovered in February.
Later in June,the Federal Ministry of Finance said it had paid N375.8 million to 20 providers of information under the Whistleblower Policy.
The payment, according to the ministry ,was in respect of recovered assets that had been declared free of legal disputes or litigation by the Attorney-General of the Federation.
”This payment, which is the first under the Whistleblower Policy, underscores the commitment of the President Muhmmadu Buhari-led administration in meeting obligations to information providers under the Whistleblower Policy,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Whistleblower Policy was recently amended to include the introduction of a formal legal agreement between information providers and the Federal Government.
The amendment is aimed at ensuring the protection of the identity of information providers during the payment process.
The Whistleblower Unit (WBU) is the first line of response to whistleblower information, where initial review is undertaken before cases are forwarded to the relevant investigative agencies.
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