The Foreign Affairs Ministry is offering no explanation for its decision to flout a new government’s anti-corruption policy, by sacking a whistle blower who exposed an alleged $229,000 fraud.
Ntia 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.
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.
Mr. Ntia, 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.
Official documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES showed that although the money was withdrawn from the Nigerian Technical Cooperation Fund, NTCF, there was no evidence it was used for the purpose it was meant.
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.
The documents show that officials of the agency 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.
Some employees of the DTCA suspected fraud when another N800, 000.00 was withdrawn by the same officials allegedly for SERVICOM “sensitization seminar” in the Directorate and the sale of boarded government vehicles.
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.
Although the anti-graft agency launched an investigation into the petition, 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, thereby subjecting the agency to public ridicule and embarrassment.
On December 19, 2016, Mr. Thompson was served a letter by the Head, Department of Administration/Secretary to the Senior Staff Appointment, Promotion and Disciplinary Committee, Sanda Isah, suspending him from office with immediate effect.
Mr. Isah’s letter, seen by PREMIUM TIMES, accused Mr. Thompson of petitioning the IGP over alleged threat to his life and that of his family members by the Acting Director-General and Head of Programmes Management of DTCA, Mohammed Kachallah and Garba Mohammed, respectively.
“In view of the weighty nature of this allegation, the police carried out a thorough inquest into the matter and turned in the final report. The report exonerated the two officers mentioned in the allegation of criminal intimidation, thereby establishing that you made false claims against government officials.
“Against the backdrop of these serious infractions, the Inter-ministerial meeting of the Senior Staff Appointment, Promotion and Disciplinary Committee met and looked into these issues in line with the provisions of the PSR.
“The committee recommended for your suspension from office pending the outcome of a final report of a sub-committee set up on the matter.”
After two months on suspension, the whistleblower’s career was abruptly terminated on February 7, 2017.
Mr. Thompson was only aware of his sack through a post on the DTCA’s notice Board informing staff that the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadija Abba-Ibrahim, who supervises the agency, had authorised his compulsory retirement from service.
The notice was signed by Mr. Isah, the same Head of Administration Department in DTCA, who had earlier issued the suspension letter.
A notice posted on the board of the DTCA to all staff read: “I am directed to inform you that following the recommendations of the Senior Staff Appointment Promotion and Disciplinary Committee on Acts of Serious Misconduct against Mr. Ntia U. Thompson, the Honourable Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chairman Presidential Inter-Ministerial Committee on the DTCA, has approved the Compulsory Retirement of Mr. Ntia U. Thompson from the services of the DTCA with effect from 7th February 2017.
“In view of the above, Mr. Ntia U Thompson ceased to be a staff of the DTCA with effect from 7th February 2017. All members of staff and the general public are hereby advised to take note”.
When PREMIUM TIMES called Mr. Isah on telephone to clarify some issues about the circumstances of Mr. Thompson’s sack, he said he could not give such details, as he was directed to sign the letter that conveyed the information.
He refused to mention who gave the directive, neither was he prepared to speak on allegation that members of the 14-member panel constituted to investigate allegations of breach of civil service rules leveled against Mr. Thompson were compromised.
The Director-General of DTCA, Muhammed Kachallah, refused to respond to our calls and text messages.
The spokesman for the foreign affairs ministry, Clement Aduku, did not also respond.
Gideon Dangiwa, the man tasked with interrogating Mr. Thompson as the disciplinary panel met, also refused to give details of his findings.
“I cannot discuss the details of my findings with you. Go to the Chairman, DTCA, he will give you his file, record of service and details of what he (Mr. Thompson) did. I was only co-opted into the committee. He is not working here (Ministry of Foreign Affairs),” he said.