The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has sent an open letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, requesting him to facilitate the re-instatement of a worker sacked for reportedly exposing an alleged fraud in the ministry.
It said Ntia Thompson was sacked through a post on the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa’s notice board for exposing an alleged $229,000 fraud in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The group in its letter dated March 10, 2017 urged Onyeama to “act swiftly to comply with the whistle-blowing policy of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, and international standards, which guarantee full protection and restitution for any whistle-blower against harassment, intimidation, victimisation or any form of retaliation.”
SERAP in the letter signed by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, said that by sacking Thompson, the ministry would appear to have concealed information on the alleged fraud, which it insisted the public had 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 group warned.
The letter partly read, “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.
“SERAP is seriously concerned that Mr. Thompson’s unfair treatment by the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs simply for disclosing alleged fraud in the ministry is a fundamental violation of his right to freedom of expression, and breach of President Buhari’s whistle-blowing policy, which seeks to protect individuals who make access to such allegations possible.”
SERAP said that the allegation of fraud disclosed by Thompson should never be suppressed or withheld as a matter of public interest, transparency and respect for the rule of law.
It argued that protecting whistle-blowers encourages accountability, increases the costs for those who might engage in fraud and corruption, and advances the public’s right to know.
“The alleged fraud involving officials of the DTCA should not be kept hidden from public view, especially given the government’s whistle-blowing policy and the fact that Nigerians are entitled to a right to information of all kinds,” the group stated.