Federal Government Anti-Corruption War Called to Question as Whistle-blower is Sacked

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The Federal Government of Nigeria’s anti-corruption war seems to have been tainted with the termination of the appointment of Mr. Ntia Thompson, an assistant director in charge of Servicom Unit at the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA), an agency under the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for blowing the whistle on diversion of the Agency’s funds. The DTCA action violates Section 27 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act which protects whistle blowers.

 Section 27(2) of the FOI Act state: “Nothing contained in the Criminal Code or the Official Secrets Act shall prejudicially affect any public officer who, without authorization, discloses to any person, any information which he reasonably believes to show –

  1. a violation of any law, rule or regulation;
  2. mismanagement, gross waste of funds, fraud, and abuse of authority; or
  3. a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety notwithstanding that such information was not disclosed pursuant to the provision of this Act.”

 When Ntia got wind of the diversion of funds, he petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in December 2016 calling the Commission’s attention to the surreptitious withdrawal of the sum of $229,000 and another N800,000 from DTCA’s account purportedly for the purpose of celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Nigerian Technical Cooperation Fund (NTCF) which was allocated $36,852.00, and monitoring of various projects executed from the Trust Fund across Africa. He called on the EFCC to investigate the fraud.

Findings showed that the EFCC actually investigated he matter and compelled the affected officials to refund the sum of N800,000, while no further action was taken against the officials to refund the $229,000 which they had already taken.

However, a few days after EFCC begun investigation into the matter, Ntia was summoned and queried by DCTA on why he leaked official documents to the anti-graft agency and the media thereby exposing the agency to embarrassment.

The DTCA thereafter, on December 19, 2016, suspended Ntia from work and asked him to surrender all property at his disposal to the agency with immediate effect.

His suspension, conveyed to him through a letter with ref. No. DTCA/P.082 Vol 1, was entitled, “Letter of suspension from duty” and signed by Sanda Isah, Head, Department of Administration/Secretary SSAPDC.

The letter accused Ntia of indulging in a series of acts of serious misconduct bordering on “violation of official oath of secrecy”, “absence from duty without leave” and “disobeying lawful instructions from superiors” among other offences.

His alleged offences were said to be “heinous violation of the provisions of Chapter 3, Section 4, Rules 030402 (e, f, I, n, t, and w) of the PSR.

Ms Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, who supervises the DTCA, through a public notice, later approved Ntia’s compulsory retirement with immediate effect.

The termination of Ntia’s appointment was conveyed through a public notice also signed by Sanda Isah and addressed to all staff.

The letter, which was pasted in the  Foreign Affairs Ministry notice board says in part: “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”.

Competent sources allege that some of the 14-member panel that probed the allegations of breach of service rules levelled against Ntia may have been compromised. They provided a list of 11 new senior staff hurriedly employed on December 30, 2016 by the DTCA without advertisement or declaration of vacancies by the directorate. They said the new appointees are relatives of some of the panelists.