Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has stressed the need to protect the identities of whistle-blowers and persons who divulge vital information leading to the exposure, arrest, and prosecution of corrupt elements within the society.
Osinbajo also said anonymous ownership of companies must be discouraged while noting that though secret ownership of companies “are not always illegal, nevertheless secrecy provides a convenient cover for criminality and corruption”.
This was contained in a speech delivered by the vice president on Tuesday and released by his Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande.
Osinbajo, who spoke in a webinar marking the 20th anniversary of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission themed ‘Combating Corruption And Illicit Financial Flows: New Measures And Strategies’, appreciated the ICPC board for maintaining the ideals of the anti-graft agency two decades after establishment.
Set up in the year 2000, the ICPC has the mandates to enforce laws against corruption, prevent acts of corruption, and educate the public against corruption.
The vice-president said, “For us in the developing world and especially in Africa, breaking the wall of secret corporate ownership is crucial because secrecy around corporate ownership is implicated in our underdevelopment.
Although anonymous companies are not always illegal, nevertheless secrecy provides a convenient cover for criminality and corruption.
“Our experience in Nigeria as in other developing countries is that anonymous corporate ownership covers a multitude of sins including conflict of interests, corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, and even terrorism financing.”
He added, “Secondly, we must protect, even more, whistle-blowers – persons who come forward with information against corruption.
We must protect those who are ready to fight against corruption and who are prepared to do so without necessarily disclosing their identities and even those who are ready to disclose their identities.
“The thing that we must take note of is that corruption fights back. And it is fighting back and it has the resources to do so. In recent times, one of the chief ways that we are seeing more frequently is the use of unscrupulous individuals who are paid to use social media platforms to make outrageous allegations against persons perceived to be fighting corruption.
“The technique is not new, the idea is to tie everybody with the same tar so that you cannot recognize the truly corrupt or the truly corrupt activity, and the genuine whistle-blowing is discredited as a result.
And because our court system is slow, they count on the possibility that these victims may not pursue litigation or prosecution: you must devise a new legal strategy to ensure that this dirty trick not only fails but is penalized.”
The vice president appreciated the current ICPC Board led by Prof Bolaji Owasanoye and the management and staff of the organisation for its tireless effort at fighting corruption and any of its appearances.