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$229,000 scam: Foreign Ministry recalls whistleblower

By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor

ABUJA—Exactly four months after being sacked from his post for reporting a $229,000 and N800,000 fraud at the Department of Technical Cooperation in Africa, DTCA, to Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, yesterday, recalled the whistleblower, Ntia Thompson, to his job.

The formal recall of the whistleblower, an Assistant Director in the DTCA in charge of Servicom, was done at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the presence of the embattled Acting Director-General of DTCA, Mohammed Kachallah, and some other top officials of the directorate.

The reinstatement of Mr. Thompson came a day after Vanguard’s exclusive report on Tuesday, June 20, to the effect that a top official of the Foreign Affairs Ministry had adopted a delay tactic to further prolong the recall of the whistleblower.

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Findings by Vanguard had revealed that rather than comply with the directive by the two ministers acting on the order of the Head of Service, HoS, the permanent secretary opted to forward the directive to the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission for advice on whether or not to reinstate the official.

The development, it was learned, angered the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, who ordered the permanent secretary to take immediate action to recall the officer without further delay or face his wrath.

Based   on pressure from within and outside the ministry, a letter with reference No.: PSO/C.430/11   and dated June 20, 2017, was immediately written by the Ministry recalling Mr. Thompson, who was sacked on February 7, 2017 by the DTCA and approved by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadija Abba Ibrahim, who supervises the agency.

A copy of the letter recalling the whistleblower, sighted by Vanguard in the Foreign Affairs Ministry read in part: “I am directed to refer to the appeal you forwarded to the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, OHCSF, in respect of your disengagement from service on the grounds of wrongful suspension, from service for exposing fraud in the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa, DTCA, and to inform you that the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation has approved your appeal for: re-instatement into  the  service, pending the outcome of the investigation into the fraud by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

“Accordingly, you have been reinstated into the service with effect from February 23, 2017. You are, therefore, to report to the Directorate for Technical Cooperation in Africa, DTCA, for further directives.

“Please, accept the congratulations of the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs,” the letter signed by the Director in charge of Appointments, Promotions, Establishment and Discipline Division, Mr. K. G. Dangiwa, said.

It will be recalled that the HoS had on April 5, 2017, rejected the reasons advanced by the DG of the DTCA, Mr. Mohammed Kachallah, for sacking Mr. Thompson from work, arguing that the alleged offences could not lead to sack under the laws of the civil service of Nigeria.

The HoS in the letter ordering the recall of the whistleblower and addressed to the Permanent Secretary Foreign Affairs Ministry, said, “As you are aware, by the provisions of the Public Service Rules (PSR), the offences alleged to have been committed by Mr. Ntia Thompson are not punishable by retirement from service.

“Also, you will recall that the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation vide letter Ref. No:HCSF/LU/CO RR/MFAl803/86 of February 23, 2017 had specifically directed that the suspension and all disciplinary procedures instituted against the officer be withdrawn,

pending the outcome of the ongoing (EFCC) investigation of the case of fraud in the Directorate.

“Your letter of March 7, 2017 did not reflect compliance with this directive and did not provide any update on the EFCC investigation.

“It is important to reiterate that the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation will not condone acts of misconduct by public servants under any guise.

“However, she is committed to safeguarding the policy of government on the protection of whistleblowers and directs its full implementation by all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government.

“You are, therefore, requested to furnish this office with the level of compliance of the earlier directive conveyed in the letter of February 23, 2017, Ref. No: HCSF/LU/CORRfMFAl803/86 and any other development on the matter as may be necessary.”

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