A group called the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy has urged Babatunde Fashola, the Nigerian Minister of Works and Housing to ensure the protection Richard Oghenerhoro, a whistleblower facing a backlash for exposing and publicizing fraudulent employment practices in the ministry.
Premium Times reported that Mr Oghenerhoro had, in a petition dated 22 July 2020, alleged that some civil servants joined the ministry with fake appointment letters.
This led to the setting up of a panel tasked with investigating the allegation. He was reportedly found guilty of misconduct, breach of oath of secrecy, unauthorised disclosure of official information and copying of official documents, contrary to the provisions of the Public Service Rules.
In a letter addressed to the minister, the heads of the coalition of civil society organisations working to promote transparency and accountability in the country, called on the Minister to ensure the full protection for Mr Oghenerhoro by reversing the punitive postings and ending the various acts of intimidation and assault against him by some staff of the ministry.
“From our findings, we observed that his courageous act has elicited retaliation in form of punitive postings from the Appointment Unit where he uncovered the employment scam, to Open Registry and then a removal from the headquarters altogether to the Gwagwalada office as head of administration department, the coalition said.
It noted that other than his ill-advised redeployment, the whistleblower has also been continually abused and threatened by some staff who are clearly angered by a gesture aimed at achieving good conduct.
The coalition pointed out that the assault on the whistleblower “is reprehensible and should not be condoned.”
It said that Mr Oghenerhoro does not deserve any form of punishment either by the institution or by any person, adding that the matter he reported is in the public interest and within the scope of the whistleblowing policy of the Nigerian government.
Consequently, the letter noted, the whistleblower is guaranteed full protection not only under Section 12 of the policy, but also under Section 27 of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, 2011, and Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution which covers his fundamental right to free expression.
The coalition noted that the only way whistleblowing would succeed as an anti-corruption mechanism is when whistleblowers are protected by the law or the system put in place by the government.
Members of the coalition include African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Progressive Impact Organisation for Community Development (PRIMORG), Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) and Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).