Whistle-blowers are only paid after successful recovery not for mere tracing or exposure of suspected illegitimate funds, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami has said.
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, which was made available to newsmen on Sunday, the minister said there were procedures for engagement with the whistleblowers or recovery agents.
He was reacting to a story published by the The Punch newspaper in which it relied on a letter by one Aliyu Lemu, Esq dated June 22nd, 2020 on issues revolving around payment of a whistle-blower’s fees.
In the story, The PUNCH has reported that a whistleblower, John Okpurhe, had in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari accused Malami of of refusing to pay him whistleblowers reward after he had exposed over $1billion government fund hidden in Unity Bank Plc.
But Malami in the statement faulted the claim of Okpuhre, saying thst his office pays whistleblowers only on recovery of the money and its subsequent lodgement in assets recovery account at the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The Minister listed the procedure for engagement of a whistle blower or recovery agent as stipulates by the Federal Government as follows:
“1. A Proposal is submitted to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation
“2. A Letter of engagement is issued to a whistle-blower of recovery agent where the disclosure is assed to have some prospects of success,
“3. The recovery agent or whistle-blower is expected to notify in writing the acceptance of the engagement,
“4. The recovery agent or whistle blower is expected, upon acceptance, to not only trace the assets but recover same and have it deposited in a designated asset recovery account maintained by the Federal Government of Nigeria in the Central Bank which is usually provided to the recovery agent in writing.,
“5.Where these funds are eventually claimed to have been lodged by a whistle-blower or recovery agent, the Central Bank issue acknowledgement of receipt of the fund to the Office of Attorney-General on demand,
According to Malami, “It is the satisfaction of the above elements that entitles the whistle-blower or a recovery agent to a claim of success fee and the payment is usually effected by the Federal Ministry of Finance and not the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation. The role of the Office of the Attorney-General in essence is simply that of processing the above listed documents to the Ministry of Finance which is the Ministry saddled with the responsibility of effecting payment. “
The Attorney General emphasised that “recovery is not about exposing the existence of certain assets in an account purported to have belonged to an agency of the government” but establishing that the funds in the account are looted assets or illegitimately warehouse.
“Entitlement to recovery fees is for all intent and purposes contingent on lodgment of the purported/exposed assets constituting the subject of recovery into the Federal Government Recovery designated Account maintained at the instance of the President at the Central Bank of Nigeria and the details of the account are contained in the engagement letter, ” he further said.
“The agreed remuneration, ” Malami further explained,” shall become due and payable to the whistle-blower within thirty (30) days of the receipt of the recovered/looted funds by the Federal Government of Nigeria and payment shall be made the designated/nominated account provided in writing by the whistle-blower”.