A coalition of civil society groups has called on the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, to act on the corruption allegations against the director-general of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading PLC (NBET), Marilyn Amobi, and the alleged victimisation of the whistleblowers at the agency.
The coalition made the call in an open letter, a copy of which it made available to Premium Times.
The signatories to the letter are the Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom, Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), PREMIUM TIMES, Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), Order Paper NG, International Press Centre (IPC), Daily Trust Newspaper, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), The Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation, Civic Media Lab, Sahara Reporters and HEDA Resources.
The coalition said the alleged victimisation of whistleblowers is a breach of Section 27 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 and Chapter V of the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2014, Safeguard Against Victimisation.
The section in the FoI Act states: “The Central Government shall ensure that no person or a public servant who has made a disclosure under this Act is victimized by initiation of any proceedings or otherwise merely on the ground that such person or a public servant had made a disclosure or rendered assistance in an inquiry under this Act”.
The coalition, therefore, demanded the salaries and emoluments of the affected staff members, Abdullahi Sambo and Waziri Bintube, be restored with immediate effect.
It also asked that NBET compensate them for the emotional and psychological trauma they experienced through the years of injustice and neglect allegedly perpetrated by the NBET boss.
The whistleblowers’ ordeal started in 2017 after they raised a petition addressed to the Minister of Works, Power, and Housing alleging misappropriation of funds in the agency.
Shortly after, in a letter dated June 13, 2017, the NBET management led by Mrs Amobi announced an organisational shakeup that culminated in the redeployment and demotion of Mr Sambo, who was Head, Internal Audit Unit, to Project, Research and People’s Development Department on his extant salary grade level.
The coalition noted that the allegations against Mrs Amobi which have not been investigated since the petition was raised.
The CWPPF called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to expedite action on the allegations raised by the two whistleblowers and ensure that anyone found wanting is prosecuted.
It also called on the Nigerian Electricity and Regulatory Commission (NERC) to do its duty by investigating the allegations against Mrs Amobi.
The coalition also accused NERC of neglecting the allegations two years since they were made and is yet to take appropriate actions.
“It is past time for them to do the needful to curb corruption in the sector by investigating these allegations leveled against an institution under their control”.
“CWPPF advocates strongly that better laws protecting the whistleblower against blowback should be legislated so that incidences such as happened in the case of Bintube and Sambo will not be repeated and as such deter other whistleblowers”.
CWPPF also urged the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to prioritise the implementation and entrenchment of the Whistleblower Protection Act.