Paschal Chukwuemeka, Abuja
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy for Centre (CISLAC) on Thursday says the absence of a law backing the present administration’s whistleblowing policy is a huge setback to Nigeria’s criminal justice system.
Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa, while addressing the press, said times abound when people are willing to offer valuable information but are afraid of being victimized if they speak out.
“The absence of a law on whistle blowing is a setback in Nigeria’s criminal justice system.
“We have scenarios where individuals with valuable information are scared to speak out for fear of being intimidated” Musa said.
He therefore calls on the National Assembly to fast track the passage of the whistle blower legislation before it to ensure the protection of whistle-blowers.
“We are aware the Ministry of Finance has developed a whistle blower policy which is commendable” Musa said.
However, the policy he says “is just suited for the recovery of stolen funds”.
He urges the Nigerian institutions to emulate the Ministry of Finance by creating institutional whistle blower policies that will suit their respective institutions and ensure victim’s protection.
The culture of obedience and secrecy AC CNN riding to him, “needs to be challenged and this can be done by having internal policies that will enable safe and legal way of bringing complaints outside the hierarchy.
The conference preceded a workshop organised by CISLAC on criminal justice system (CRMJUST) in Nigeria.
He says the CRIMJUST project aims at strengthening institutional integrity of the Nigerian Police, the National Drug Law Enforcement and Agency (NDLEA), and the Federal High Court.
Meanwhile, CISLAC has called for an increased budgetary funding for the Nigerian Police, the National Drug Law Enforcement and Agency (NDLEA), and the Federal High Court.
CISLAC opines that increasing the funding of these institutiontions will go a long way in helping them to perform optimally.
CISLAC notes that the institutions are “under resourced to carry out their mandate” as a result of “lack of political will to effectively change the status quo”.
“The lack of adequate resources for institutions especially those in the criminal justice system is a sad reality.
“We now have agencies relying on foreign aid for substantial amounts to carry out their activities. In the last three years, there has been a decline in the budget of the NDLEA.
“For example in 2015, the budget of the agency was 0.20% of the National Budget around NGN 9 billion, 0.14% in 2016” around NGN 8.5 billion and 0.12%, around NGN 9 billion in 2017.
“With about 5,000 officials, this budget is not sufficient for the agency and its various commands” Musa said.
More so, he says there has been a decline in the budget of the police force in the last three years.
According to the Executive Director, “In 2015, the budget of the police was 7.16% of the national budget. This budget is grossly inadequate to purchase basic equipment talk less of modern equipment for a force of about 370,000 personnel.
“From the World Internal Security & Police Index released in 2017 there are 219 police officers and men for every 100,000 Nigerians, which is well below both the Index median of 300, and the sub-Saharan Africa region average of 268.
“The report noted that this limits the capacity of the force to measure up to its law and order mandate” he stated.
As regards the judiciary, CISLAC says in 2015, the budgetary allocation was 73 billion representing 1.62% of the national budget while there was a decline in 2016 as the budgetary allocation dropped to 70 billion 1.15% of the national budget.
Though there was an increase in the budgetary allocation to the judiciary in 2017, which amounted to 100billion, Musa said, it was still insufficient for effective and efficient administration of justice.
He expressed dismay that despite these amounts being budgeted, most times not all appropriated funds are released, and especially for the Nigerian Police and the NDLEA that are not in the first line charge.
“Prompt payment of the complete salaries and allowances of police officers is very essential. Law enforcement agents should not be forced to the street to protest for the payment of their salaries and allowances” the CISLAC boss said.
He therefore called for the publication of budgets and expenditure by the Judiciary to pave way not just for public scrutiny, but also to enable the public pressurize for its increase.
Musa called on all these government institutions not to perceive or view CSOs, the media and non-state actors as enemies or threats but as partners who are only striving to give support to those institutions and ensuring an effective criminal justice system.