By Ogochukwu Isioma
Acoalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working to promote transparency and accountability in Nigeria has written the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, demanding urgent steps to protect Richard Oghenerhoro, a whistleblower facing retaliation for exposing and publicising fraudulent employment practice in the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
In a letter addressed to Fashola, the heads of the coalition called on the minister to ensure full protection for the whistleblower by reversing the punitive postings and ending the various acts of intimidation and assault against him by some staff of the ministry.
According to the coalition, “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.”
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 the whistleblower 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 government.
Members of the coalition include the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), and Progressive Impact Organisation for Community Development (PRIMORG).