Sunday, 2 July 2017

Whistleblower, Are You A Referee?

“What? You a whistleblower? Are you a referee?”

That was the question Musa’s friend, Dare, had asked him on the phone last night when he had called him to bare his mind on the deep mess he was in.

“Abi what is your own with blowing whistle when you are not a referee by profession?” Dare had further said to him. “All you thought about was the money, abi? You didn’t think about the extreme danger that comes with it? This politician we are talking about here is not a soft meat. He can do and undo. I have heard stories of how he has gotten people killed for a lot less, let alone something like this. You have to run for your life, man.”

Musa looked over at his wife Safiyah where she sat with their two kids in the crowded waiting area of the Abuja Local Airport, watching him with worried eyes as he paced around restlessly. She knew something was wrong, saw it in his strange behavior and had heard it in the unusual urgency with which he had called earlier when he asked her to leave immediately for her Aunt’s place, but did not know exactly what the problem was because he had refused to tell. Being the trusting and accepting wife she was, after his initial response of “Don’t worry, something came up, but everything will be fine,” when she asked him what the matter was, she hadn’t questioned him further.

Even the children, 4 year old Ramadan and 2 ½  year old Aisha, sensed something was wrong, but they were too excited about ‘going somewhere’ to x-ray the fact that Daddy was not his usual self.

“How did I get myself into all of this? Why did I get myself into all of this?” Musa soliloquized under his breath.

It had started with a niggling thought that had refused to go away when he heard the News about the huge sum of money a whistleblower would get if he provides the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission with accurate information on embezzled funds. He had scoured through every News item on ‘whistleblowing’ he could find, and followed every story on recovered funds, telling himself “This can be it for me, this can be my opportunity to really make it big.”

As an Account Officer in a Kaduna branch of one of the country’s leading commercial banks, he managed the accounts of two of the wealthiest corrupt politicians in the country and was privy to information of how they channeled their bevy of looted funds to various covert accounts both within and outside the country that no one could trace.

One of them, if Musa totaled all the funds he had in numerous dubious accounts in the names of fictitious individuals in his bank alone, was worth a whooping Six Billion Naira. 2.5% of that is One Hundred and Fifty Million Naira, and that was what he would get if he ‘whistleblew’ on that particular politician. With that kind of money, he would be made for life.

He had flirted with the thought for many weeks, knowing there was no way he would be able to give the information to the EFCC himself; it was against the ethics of his job and to reinforce this, his bank had recently reviewed it’s policy to add a clause that anyone who leaked the banking information of any of their customers to the public domain or to any external source would be immediately terminated and prosecuted by the bank. The bank’s staff had also been informed that in the situation where a customer is suspected to have looted public funds, the suspecting employee was to simply share that information with the bank authority, and it was up to the bank itself to share this information with the EFCC and not the individual. Of course, there was no way Musa was going to do that either. He had nothing to gain from that as there would be no whistleblowing benefit coming to him.

He had also thought of fleeing the shores of the country immediately he leaked the information he had to the EFCC, but that would not yield any results as he would need to be physically present in the country in the time it took the EFCC to recover the funds before he could get his reward.

Still though he had gathered all the information he needed on the fake accounts, waiting for the opportunity to use it without incurring the wrath of his bank. This information included BVNs, account numbers, date opened, names opened with, addresses used, IDs used, thumbprints and passport photographs.

And indeed an opportunity did present itself. His bank started downsizing and he fell under the axe of sudden unemployment. Not only did his desperation to really hit it big increase now that his pipe of regular income and financial security had been hacked off, he could now whistle-blow without worrying about the bank taking any legal action against him since he was no longer bound by their policy…

“All checked in passengers of Flight 812 to Lagos can now proceed to Gate 2 for boarding,” the airport announcement interrupted Musa’s string of thoughts.

“Finally…” he breathed. The flight had been delayed for over an hour already.

Zo,” he beckoned to his family as he picked up their hand luggage and moved toward to boarding area. They had packed light because of the rush, which was good – heavy luggage would only slow them down.

He took a quick look around to be sure that no one was watching or following them. And was satisfied that that wasn’t the case. They blended right in with the myriads of families around, despite his nervous movements. Safiyah was just like any other Northern wife around in her usual flowing gown and flower patterned silk hijab.

Once the flight took off, he sank back into his rumination on the events of the past few days that had completely re-aligned his life…

With the loss of his job, his desperation had heightened with every day that went by, growing so pronounced that that was all he thought about day and night, strategizing on how to go about it, trying to weigh the risks and even dreaming of how the money would transform the lives of him and his small family.

Then he did it. He looked up the whistle-blowing process on the website of the EFCC and submitted his information via the whistle-blowing portal of the Federal Ministry of Finance. In three days, he got an email acknowledgement and was told that someone would be in touch with him shortly. In another twelve hours, he received a phone call from them, asking for more details and inviting him to the EFCC headquarters in Abuja to physically submit his evidences.

At first he had been very afraid, fearing what could happen to him there at the EFCC headquarters, and had almost abandoned the venture. But the thought of all he stood to gain made him steel himself up and go. He had told no one what he was up to, not even Safiyah nor his friend, Dare. He knew the importance of keeping everything as hush as possible.

He had gone to Abuja and shown them the evidences he had, details of the 100 plus accounts in which the popular politician had stashed away millions of naira, totaling billions in all.

The people he met at the EFCC office had been astounded at the magnitude of the information he was sharing with them. “How had he managed to do this? How could he have created so many false accounts and been able to get BVN for all of them?”

Musa had shrugged and said ‘I don’t know’ in response. And truly he did not know how the accounts came about or who had helped the politician commit this great criminal feat. He had only come to know about their existence because the politician had numerously paid monies physically into them in the period he had managed his account, arousing his curiosity and making him investigate further; which led to the realization that they were dummy accounts being used as fronts to stash away embezzled funds.

“Do you know your bank will be in deep trouble for this? Because it is clear he must have had inside help to achieve this.”

Musa had shrugged again; whatever happened to his ex-employers was not his business at this point.
They had thanked him for his information and said investigation would commence immediately.

“Should we find out your information is genuine and recover these looted monies, be rest assured you would get a minimum of 2.5% of the total loot as a reward. We do keep to our words.”

“Please keep me anonymous as promised as well.”

“That goes without being told.”

Musa had thanked them and left, and then his problems started.

The story continues>>>Click Here For Part 2

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