The African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, AFRICMIL, has described court judgment nullifying Abdulmumuni Jibrin’s suspension by House of Representatives as triumph of constitutional democracy.
Coordinator of the centre, Chico Onumah, in a statement on Sunday in Abuja, commended the court for the judgment, which also included order for payment of salaries of the lawmaker for the suspension period.
“AFRICMIL describes the judgment handed down on May 24, 2018, by Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja, as the triumph of constitutional democracy.
“It is also an enduring affirmation of the sanctity of the protection of whistleblowers.
“It is regrettable that the judgment is coming so late in the day, yet we are delighted that it vindicates good reason.
“This is because it met the expectations of the teeming lovers and advocates of justice, fairness, equity, transparent and accountable governance.”
Onumah said it was incontestable that Jibrin’s disclosure of budget fraud in the lower arm of the National Assembly was a patriotic act of whistleblowing done in the interest of the public.
According to him, every citizen is legally and morally obliged to report crime.
He said that Section 24(b) and (e) of the 1999 Constitution as amended empowered citizens to do so.
Onumah added that it was much more compelling in a society like Nigeria where rampant corruption at every facet of national life had been identified as the major reason Nigeria had remained under-developed.
He expressed regret that in spite of repeated pledges of protecting whistleblowers by top government officials and political office holders, reprisals were routinely being visited upon whistleblowers.
This, he said, was by persons or groups desperate to cover up improper behaviour.
He recalled the cases of Ntia Thompson, an Assistant Director in the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA), an agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He said that other cases were the Murtala Ibrahim, and auditor at the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, FMBN, and Aaron Kaase, Principal Administrative Officer at the Police Service Commission, PSC.
He said that another case was that of Joseph Akeju, Chief Lecturer in the Department of Accountancy, Yaba College of Technology.
Onumah said that they were all punished for exposing fraud in their offices except Kaase, who was suspended without pay; all others were sacked.
He said that although Thompson and Kaase were recalled after many months, Ibrahim and Akeju were still battling to go back to their jobs.
He said that Jibrin’s case was the second after Kaase’s that a court of competent jurisdiction would deliver judgment in favour of the protection of whistleblowers.
He said that the legitimacy of whistleblowing as a mechanism for enhancing good governance in the society was necessary.
Onumah noted that the protection of whistleblowers from all forms of victimisation was important for the success of the whistleblower policy.
“Unless people are assured of safety and protection, they will not find the courage to blow the whistle on misconduct,” he said.
“Although Jibrin was suspended for 181 days, he served 231 days in suspension,” he said, adding that his victory at the court came after 20 months of a winding legal battle.