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Not until several Human Rights bodies took up the case of sacked Ntia Thompson who was eased out of office because he blew whistle leading to the immediate recovery of starched $229,000, about N45mn, that the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed issued a statement Sunday, saying the Federal Government will protect and reward whistle-blowers.
Even before the hurried weekend statement, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama in whose ministry the incident occurred has assured of his reinstatement after due investigations.
Some of the civil society’s positions that forced the weekend reaction of the Ministers include those of SERAP and another advocacy group, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, (AFRICMIL) who last week called on the minster to urgently reinstate Thompson and tender an apology.
In a statement signed by its coordinator, Mr. Chido Onumah, expressed disappointment and displeasure over Thompson’s dismissal, revealing that Thompson was initially suspended on December 19, 2016, before the minister approved his compulsory retirement on Tuesday, February 7.
Before his dismissal, Thompson was an assistant director in the Directorate for Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA), an agency the minister supervises.
He was said to have exposed the diversion of $229,000 and N800,000 by key officials in the Directorate.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday, the Minister said the Federal Government will protect the identity of all whistle-blowers, whether in the public or the private sector, and also ensure that the information they provide is kept secret.
Making a reference apparently tailored to embattled Thompson, the minister said “For those who may have suffered any backlash as a result of the information they provide, their cases will be reviewed and appropriate mitigating actions taken”.
Business Hilights discovered that the Sunday statement was ignited by aggressive presentations made to the Presidential Assets Recovery Committee by concerned citizens and groups about the safety of whistle-blowers, giving Mr. Thompson’s case as an example.
The Minister further assured that “Whistle-blowers have nothing to fear, because the committee has put in place the necessary measures to safeguard those who give useful information. As a matter of fact, whistle-blowers have everything to gain and nothing to lose”.
Explaining more, Lai Mohammed disclosed that any whistle-blower whose information leads to the recovery of up to 1 billion Naira will receive 5% of the amount; that the reward for any amount between 1 and 5 billion Naira will be 5% for the first 1 billion Naira and 4% of the remaining 4 billion Naira, and that any amount over 5 billion Naira will attract 2.5% reward.
“For example, if a whistle-blower provides information leading to the recovery of N10 billion, he or she will receive 5% of the first 1 billion Naira, 4% of the next 4 billion Naira and 2.5% of the remaining N5 billion.
“What we have done by making this information public is to reassure potential whistle-blowers that the plan to reward is real. We are not just saying we will pay all whistle-blowers, but we are letting them know in advance what they are entitled to, once the information they provide leads to the recovery of looted funds,” the statement averred.