In a February 12 2017 statement, the information minister announced that the whistleblower policy unveiled at the end of December 2016 is already producing results (for further details please see "Federal Ministry of Finance introduces new whistleblowing initiative"). According to the minister, the government has recovered $151 million and N8 billion of stolen funds from three sources thanks to information provided by whistleblowers. This was in addition to the $9.2 million in cash reported to have been recovered from a property owned by the former group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria's national oil corporation, a sum which was also recovered thanks to information provided by a whistleblower. However, the statement did not indicate whether any rewards have been paid, or have been agreed to be paid, to the whistleblowers under the policy.
The news that such a large amount of money was recovered from the former NNPC official must have been embarrassing for the government, as in July 2016 the same official was charged with money laundering, along with a number of other persons alleged to be associates of Nigeria's petroleum minister under the Goodluck Jonathan government. The charges against the official were later withdrawn and he was instead listed as a witness in the trial of the other defendants. The basis of the decision to withdraw those charges must now be examined; he clearly did not disclose that he had such a large amount of money (far in excess of what he could reasonably be expected to have had) in his custody or under his control. Further, the extent of any investigation into him and the surrounding circumstances is unclear.
The government obtained an ex parte order forfeiting the recovered cash pending further proceedings against the individual. However, almost immediately thereafter, an application was filed seeking the order's discharge. The proceedings are pending.
This type of embarrassment appears to be inevitable given the apparent absence of any guidance for prosecutors when reaching agreements with potential or actual defendants to refrain from prosecuting in exchange for testimony or plea bargains. At present, it appears that agreements and charging decisions are made without adequate investigation into the actual circumstances of the individual benefiting from the decisions taken and without stipulating:
- that the beneficiaries of these agreements must make a full and truthful disclosure of all material facts; and
- the consequences for failing to make such a disclosure.
For further information on this topic please contact Babajide Oladipo Ogundipe at Sofunde Osakwe Ogundipe & Belgore by telephone (+234 1 462 2502) or email ([email protected]). The Sofunde Osakwe Ogundipe & Belgore website can be accessed at www.sooblaw.com.