Civic groups blast Nigeria’s foreign ministry for sack of whistle-blower

GEOFFREY-ONYEAMA [Photo credit: guardian.ng]
GEOFFREY-ONYEAMA [Photo credit: guardian.ng]

Two Nigerian civic groups have called for the reinstatement of Ntia Thompson, a whistle-blower at the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

One of the groups, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, said it is giving the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, a seven-day ultimatum to recall Mr. Thompson who was sacked after exposing a $229,000 fraud.

In an open letter sent to Mr. Onyeama, SERAP requested the minister to use his position to facilitate the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of Mr. Thompson.

Mr. Thompson was fired after sending a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, asking it to probe an allegation of fraud involving some top officials of the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa, DTCA.

Mr. Thompson, an assistant director with the DTCA in charge of the SERVICOM Unit, who blew the lid on how $229,000 and N800, 000 were allegedly diverted, was sacked on February 7.

The move came just two months after the Buhari administration, through the Executive Council of the Federation, approved the whistle-blowing policy, promising full protection and restitution for any informant against harassment, intimidation or victimisation.

SERAP in its letter signed by its deputy director, Timothy Adewale, said, “By sacking Mr Thompson, your ministry would seem to shield information on the alleged fraud that the public has a right to know.

“Therefore, should you fail and/or neglect to act as requested within seven days after the receipt and/or publication of this letter, SERAP will be compelled to pursue appropriate legal action against your ministry to challenge the unfair treatment and victimisation of Mr Thompson.”

The letter, copied to Akinwumi Adesina, President of the AfDB, reads in part: “We also urge you to act swiftly to identify those involved in the alleged fraud and hand them over to appropriate anti-corruption agencies for further investigation and prosecution, as well as recover any stolen public funds.

“Impunity for reprisals against Mr Thompson would send a message to all potential whistle-blowers that your ministry lacks the commitment to their protection.”

SERAP argued that Mr Thompson’s treatment by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a fundamental violation of his right to freedom of expression and breach of President Buhari’s whistle-blowing policy, stressing that the allegations of fraud should never be supressed or withheld as a matter of public interest, transparency and respect for the rule of law.

The NTCF is a trust fund domiciled with the African Development Bank, AfDB, but jointly managed by the bank and the agency on behalf of the Federal Government.

Information revealed that officials of the DTCA allegedly withdrew the money for the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the NTCF, for which $36,852.00 was allocated. The amount was also meant for the monitoring of various projects executed from the Trust Fund across Africa.

About N800,000 was also allegedly spent for SERVICOM “sensitisation seminar” in the Directorate.

Amid concerns the funds may have been diverted, Mr. Thompson petitioned the EFCC to investigate the allegation. He also petitioned the Police Inspector General, Ibrahim Idris, expressing concerns about his safety.

The anti-graft agency launched an investigation into the petition, but its effort only resulted in compelling the officials to refund about N800,000, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.

Shortly after, the DTCA management issued Mr. Thompson a query, accusing him of leaking official information to the Commission and thus subjecting the agency to public ridicule and embarrassment.

On December 19, 2016, Mr. Thompson was served a suspension letter and, after two months on suspension, he was sacked on February 7, 2017.

Another civic group, the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, AFRICMIL, also condemned the victimisation of Mr. Thompson.

In a statement signed by the coordinator of the centre, Chido Onumah, AFRICMIL said it views the action of the ministry not only as most unconscionable but also as another devastating blow to the war against corruption under the current administration.

Mr. Onumah noted that the sacking of Mr. Thompson shows that some top government officials are planning to ensure that the government’s whistle-blower policy and the fight against corruption, do not gain any meaningful traction.

“Clearly, the Minister of State and other key officials of the Ministry were thoroughly embarrassed by the whistleblower’s revelation and the only way to respond was through his illegal dismissal from service,” Mr. Onumah said.

The civil society group, therefore, urged the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, not to approve the dismissal of Mr. Thompson.

It also called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Police to properly investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice.


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  • Du Covenant

    Just keep the pressure on.Any inaction on the part of this minister means he is not on board with the government’s fight against and should be the one to go not the whistle blower. We must insist on making whistle blowing the norm and protect them by all means necessary. The thieving Nigeria’s elite must no longer a hiding place, let get rid of them for good!.

  • Hibason Not Exactly

    Where are Nigeria Labour Congress and National Human Right Commission? This are issues at least they should come out and defend

    • Henry_Itopa

      where are we the citizens?????

      • Mr. Ferocious

        Abeg this guy, do you think before you post? What is SERAP if not an association of concerned citizens?

        • Henry_Itopa

          Of course that old argument that someone else will fight for your rights for you. we are going nowhere with citizens like this

    • Humanity

      Which Nigerian Labour Congress. The one their leaders are chasing check-off due to build their own N1bn mansion like their former leader?

      I really wonder if the Minister is in charge of his ministry. See what is happening to Nigerians in South Africa and he is doing or saying nothing. Now cabals under him have stolen money and fired the staff who reported them to the anti-graft agency.

  • amazing2012

    Good one!

  • God dey

    Great initiative! Foreign Minister must now respond and show the speed he demonstrated while defending the US in the travel ban saga. He must not pick and choose–this is even more serious than the US wahala. Nigerians are waiting. #NigeriansNeedAnswersFromOnyeama

  • kumi

    Apc government do as I say but they don’t want people to do as they are doing shame

    • Henry_Itopa

      what has this got to do with party?

      • Netanyahu

        The party is running the govt, daft. The party should compel its responsible members in govt to act as they say. Simple.

        • Henry_Itopa

          and this impunity just started under this “party”? Clearly you did not understand my question and the point i was trying to make. sometimes you don’t have to respond.

      • True Nigerian

        I can’t believe you asked that question. It is really shocking. This is why I feel that the mentality of the populace of this country is chiefly responsible for the the sheer insanity and impunity of the political leaders. How on earth could you ask that question?

        • Henry_Itopa

          Again I ask: what has this got to do with party? Your “shock” does not answer the question.

          The impunity displayed by the officials has alwayd existed regardless of party or regime in power. It exists because we allow it to and not because of part_.

  • Mr. Thompson’s dismissal is a shameful attempt at silencing concerned citizens who have enough information to expose high-ranking perpetrators of crime. Good job SERAP and AFRICMIL at condemning this evil act. Concerned citizens of our country everywhere are solidly behind your campaign for the protection of whistleblowers like Mr. Thompson.