Read the five (5) pages speech delivered by the Anti-graft crusader Dr. George Uboh, the man behind the Nigeria’s Whistle Blowing Bill which has passed second reading on the floor of the senate.
More pix after the cut………
its a 2day workshop for Stakeholders’ Advocacy Roundtable on the following Bills
Proceeds of Crime (POCA)
Nigeria Financial intelligence Centre (NFIC)
Whistle Blowers Protection (WBP)
Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA)
Organized by Justice for All (J4A) in Collaboration with Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC):
Good morning ladies, gentlemen and members of the press. I truly appreciate, from the bottom of my heart, the opportunity given to me to present this paper on the subject matter I so cherish and have embraced since 2013 when my sojourn into whistleblowing started.
Definition of Whistleblower:
A whistleblower is someone who furnishes information on a person or organization regarding an unlawful or immoral activity that has occurred, is occurring or is about to occur. Because a whistleblower may in some cases become a witness against the person or organization he/she has blown the whistle against, we cannot protect whistleblowers without protecting witnesses; both are inextricably intertwined.
During the American Civil War (1861-1865), the United States of America was hit by a new crime wave whereby people were making false claims to the U.S government for fraudulent payments which was costing the U.S government so much in false claims. Because the Government did not have the man power to tackle this vice in its entirety due to the ongoing war, the False Claims Act or Lincoln Law (Abraham Lincoln was president) was passed which empowered anyone who had information on someone making false claims to the U.S government to sue such person on behalf of the government, and if the plaintiff prevails on behalf of the government he/she can earn between 15-25% of what is recovered. This strategy was used to prosecute this crime wave and it worked. The act of filing on behalf of the government was called whistleblowing by lawmen; but the Latin legal phrase was Qui Tam, which is short for qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur, meaning “[he] who sues in this matter for the king sues as well for himself.” When a Qui Tam suit is filed, it remains sealed by the court; meaning, no one can access the case, because the identity of the whistleblower and the case file are protected. The protection of whistleblowers and witnesses became an integral part of the U.S Department of Justice: relocation of witnesses and their families for sake of safety, changing the identity of witnesses whose life ae under clear and present danger, monthly salaries to witnesses etc incentives given to whistleblowers and witnesses.
Over the years, the United States of America has widened the scope of whistleblowers protection to foreigners who blow the whistle on any America company that engages in bribery and corruption outside the U.S. through the U.S Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Under FCPA, such foreign whistleblower can and will be rewarded if the information provided is vital and leads to prosecution or sanction. Also, through the U.S Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), jurisdiction is vested upon the U.S if any company, American or not, that trades on the New-York Stock Exchange engages in bribery and corruption outside the U.S.; such company is punished and the foreign whistleblower is rewarded.
The Birkenfeld Test Case: The biggest reward given to any whistleblower to date is $104 Million USD paid to Mr. Bradley Birkenfeld. Birkenfeld was a UBS banker in Switzerland who engaged in some unethical practices involving Billions of U.S Dollars for and with his clients most of whom evaded U.S taxes. When Birkenfeld stumbled into a handbook on banking ethics being circulated by UBS, which is contrary to the actions his bosses encouraged him to engage in for and with his clients, Birkenfeld realized that his bosses were setting him up to violate banking laws, and that if he were caught his bosses can easily deny him by saying “you should have followed the rule book”. Birkenfeld confronted his direct boss on this matter, and started photocopying all incriminating documents against UBS. Birkenfeld, armed with the documents, went to the FBI, even suggested to the FBI that he be allowed to wear a wire to gather more evidence; he was instead arrested, charged, jailed for 40 months on August 21, 2009. The day Birkenfeld was sentenced, the Chairman UBS America was playing golf with President Obama. The over 2,000 people he turned over to the FBI who were evading taxes included Billionaires, Celebrities and movers and shakers in American politics. Upon his release, because the U.S government had used his information to recover Billions of Dollars from UBS, Birkenfeld was paid $104 Million USD net-after deduction of taxes by the U.S government. Birkenfeld has testified in France regarding some violations by UBS that affected the French government. Birkenfeld has just released a book titled: Lucifer’s Banker. Birkenfeld is a typical case of a whistleblower-turned-witness.
The Nigerian Whistleblowing Experience: As a service provider who provided lucrative security services for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), I turned my back on the EFCC at the time when the EFCC had written President Jonathan in June/July 2011 to release N1.47 Billion Naira for the second phase of my security services. The act of turning your back on your future earnings is the sine qua non to being a true and dedicated whistleblower. Edward Snowden turned his back on the National Security Agency (NSA) along with his future salaries in order to pursue his desire of whistleblowing and now lives in far away Russia; Bradley Birkenfeld turned his back and lucrative pay at UBS along with his high worth clients he was helping to launder money/evade taxes (who were giving him perks) in order to pursue his desire for whistleblowing, even when it landed him in prison for 40 months. I turned my back on the lucrative security contract I was doing for the EFCC even when it exposed me to physical, cyber and spiritual threat along with a criminal conviction pronounced by a judge who stated in open court that EFCC did not prove the first ingredient of the offense: “EFCC could not prove that George Uboh was under the employ or servant of Police equipment foundation”; but asked, “should I let the defendant go”? And answered “No”; then found me guilty. I am still celebrating my conviction, because it has elevated me to the status of my idols who have been arrested, detained and in some cases jailed for blowing the whistle globally.
Blowing the whistle in Nigeria can never be compared to other countries because of the absence of the requisite enabling laws. Anyone who decides to blow the whistle in Nigeria is not protected hence must be commended more than his foreign counterparts who stand to be compensated for whistleblowing. Apart from Birkenfeld, they are hundreds of Americans and foreigners who were rewarded by the American government for whistleblowing. In such society, even if your whistleblowing quest lands you in jail, you may still be rewarded as in the case of Birkenfeld, because the law is clear and unambiguous on reward whether you are an ex-convict, prisoner etc. In Nigeria, however, after going through threats, arrests, convictions etc you are looked upon as an outcast without compensation even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the government has benefitted or may benefit from one’s whistleblowing activities. I adduced evidence in form of EFCC’s own documents on August 26, 2015 before the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions showing that EFCC recovered N2.051 Trillion Naira from 2003 to 2013, that EFCC only remitted N6.7 Billion Naira to the Nigerian Government leaving a balance of N1.993 Trillion Naira. A country with a robust whistleblower protection law would have compensated me with nothing less than 10% of the N1.993 Trillion Naira. Although not required of me, but I went further to adduce evidence of how EFCC stole most of the funds it failed to remit. Despite the fact that Ibrahim Lamorde did not appear at the Senate four times, nothing has been done to him till date. Again, I was engaged to trace Federal Government funds trapped in financial institutions after the EFCC/Lamorde debacle; within 27 days, precisely February/March, 2016 I unprecedentedly traced 324 Billion Naira while the Federal Government traced N117 Billion Naira in one year. when I asked for my 5% fee as clearly stated on my letter of engagement I was labelled an ex-convict and detained on June 7, 2016 for 17 days by the Department of State Security. The case was recently struck out for want of diligent prosecution because the DSS did not appear in court four times consecutively.
I started my whistleblowing quest in 2013 when I represented Bayelsa State against the EFCC. After EFCC had meetings with me with a promise to pay Bayelsa the monies they stole from Bayelsa through me, EFCC reneged, turned around to intimidate Bayelsa Governor who revoked my engagement.
Ladies, gentlemen and members of the press, I have blown the whistle during PDP era, I am blowing the whistle during APC era, I have blown the whistle against the banking sector mafia and I have blown the whistle against the Nigerian Oligarchs; whistleblowing (fighting corruption) is a cause I cherish so much and, according to my mentor Nelson Mandela, if need be, it is a cause for which I am prepared to die.
Hmmmmmm, truly there are still Nigerians who are ready to lay-down their lives in order for the country to grow.