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N700bn recovered through whistleblowers – Finance minister

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The Federal Government had recovered over N700bn from corrupt individuals since the commencement of the whistle-blower policy in 2016, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said on Tuesday in Abuja.

She spoke during an interview with journalists at the National Conference on Whistle Blower Policy in Nigeria.

She said some of these recoveries were made during the cleaning of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System; stoppage of non-compliance with the Treasury Single Account and violations of the procurement Act 2007 among others.

The minister said at inception of the policy, there was widespread enthusiasm as Nigerians volunteered numerous actionable information.

Such information or tips, she noted, were referred for further investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission; Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit and the Department of State Services.
However, she lamented that after sometime, interest in the implementation of the policy nosedived.

To address these issues, she said a committee with representatives from anti-graft and security agencies, chaired by a representative of the Federal Ministry of Justice, was set up to draft a Whistle Blower Bill.

The committee was set up taking into account all the complaints received from the public and the observations of the various stakeholders.

Also speaking at the event, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the Whistle Blower Policy was developed as a tool to expose corruption and corrupt actors in government.

“The Whistle Blower Policy presents a unique opportunity for men and women of conscience who are appalled by the level of corruption in the society and are looking for safe avenues to expose the perpetrators of such corrupt activities to do so in a way that their identities are protected and their positions in their places of work are secured,” he said.

The Vice President urged the developers of the new Whistle Blower Bill to expand the scope of wrongful acts that might be reported by whistleblowers.

He said, “As a violation of law, gross mismanagement, waste of public resources, or acts inimical to public health or safety should be included in the scope of activities that whistleblowers can report to the authorities.

“The law should also provide for comprehensive protection of whistleblowers, including against reprisals from their employers and those whose activities they expose.

“These may include witness protection type provisions should the whistleblower have to appear in court.”

The VP said the ability of government to deliver on promises in the areas of human capital development, provision of quality infrastructure and the general economic progress of the country depended significantly on the protection of the scarce resources from being looted and its application for the benefit of Nigerian citizens.

He also said the policy should operate widely in states and local governments as they were closer to the people and oversee about half of the nation’s revenues.

Osinbajo said government’s goal was to harness the huge potential of the people to deliver on their moral obligation to report cases of corruption within their immediate environments.

The new whistleblower policy, he insisted, would energise the people to guard their resources through increased exposure of financial and related crimes.

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Zamfara killings: Buhari says it’s time to crush bandits

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President Muhammadu Buhari was aghast by the latest orgy of violence visited on innocent people in Zamfara State by bandits and issued a fresh order to security agents to crush the gunmen.

More than 25 people were killed in attacks on Gobirawa, Rini, Gora, and Madoti Dankule in Bakura and Maradun LGAs in Zamfara — the death toll has since risen.

The gunmen were said to have invaded the communities on motorcycles and shot sporadically, on Wednesday.

Reacting, Buhari said the “insane and persistent violence against innocent people must stop”, adding that “such wanton disregard for life will be brought to an end sooner than later”.

A statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, on Thursday quoted Buhari to have said this, adding,“These criminals should stop pushing their luck too far by believing that the government lacks the capacity to crush them.

“The violence against poor villagers who are struggling with poverty and other severe economic challenges is not going to be tolerated by this administration.”

He directed security agencies to close all existing gaps in their operations while expressing hope that the special operation launched by security agencies will prove decisive in ridding the state of the “frequent and horrifying” bandit activities.

“Let’s not give these criminals any opportunity to succeed by taking the war to their own camps and stop them in their tracks before they even have the time to respond under our massive fire power,” the president added.

Buhari reassured residents of the state of his administration’s determination to defeat the enemies, despite the latest setback.

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MASSOB rejects UK asylum offer, says it’s plot against Biafra

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The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has turned down the United Kingdom’s offer of asylum for its members.

It said the offer was an arrangement probably taken with President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government to divert the attention of the people of Biafra.

A statement by MASSOB leader, Uchenna Madu, made available to journalists in Enugu, said the asylum offer was part of plans by the Buhari regime hatched with the British government against the emergence of Biafra.

The statement read in part, “The government of Britain is the sole architecture of the political, economic and religious problems of the people of Biafra in Nigeria even till today.

“It has not shown any remorse or apologise to the people of Biafra.

“Britain killed, maimed mesmerised and wounded our fathers, mothers and brethren through the Hausa Fulanis. MASSOB rejects their asylum gift.

“How can the chief persecutor of the people of Biafra suddenly turn to be our pacesetter? Britain and Nigeria can no longer deceive the world again concerning the plights of the people of Biafra.

“Our unified resilience, resolutions and unshakable spirit of no surrender will continue to hunt down this geographical expression called Nigeria.

“MASSOB demands referendum on Biafra not asylum.”

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Security: Avoid 14 Nigerian states, US warns citizens

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The United States has asked its citizens to stay away from 14 Nigerian states considered as hotspots of terrorism, banditry and kidnapping.

It stated this in its latest travel advisories even as it urged its citizens to “Reconsider travel to Nigeria”.

The US State Department in the updated advisory added at least 116 countries this week to its ‘Level Four: Do Not Travel’ list.

The UK, Canada, France, Israel, Mexico, Germany and others are on the list, citing a “very high level of COVID-19.”

Before Tuesday, the State Department listed 34 out of about 200 countries as “Do Not Travel.” The State Department now lists 150 countries at Level Four.

Nigeria is categorised as Level 3.

Unlike countries categorised as Level 4, based on the advice of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nigeria has a good rating on COVID-19 prevalence.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 1 Travel Health Notice for Nigeria due to COVID-19, indicating a low level of COVID-19 in the country”, the State Department said.

It listed areas American visitors should avoid, while in Nigeria as Borno, Yobe, and northern Adamawa states due to terrorism and kidnapping, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, and Zamfara states due to kidnapping.

It also banned American citizens from going to Coastal areas of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, and Rivers states (with the exception of Port Harcourt) due to crime, kidnapping, and maritime crime.

In a country summary on Nigeria, the U.S. State Department wrote:

“Violent crime – such as armed robbery, assault, carjacking, kidnapping, hostage taking, banditry, and rape – is common throughout the country.

“Kidnappings for ransom occur frequently, often targeting dual national citizens who have returned to Nigeria for a visit, as well as U.S. citizens with perceived wealth. Kidnapping gangs have also stopped victims on interstate roads.

“Terrorists continue plotting and carrying out attacks in Nigeria, especially in the Northeast.

“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting shopping centers, malls, markets, hotels, places of worship, restaurants, bars, schools, government installations, transportation hubs, and other places where crowds gather. Terrorists are known to work with local gangs to expand their reach.

“There is civil unrest and low-level armed militancy in parts of Southern Nigeria, especially in the Niger Delta region. Armed criminality, including kidnapping and maritime crime, is also pervasive in this region.”

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