The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has sent an urgent appeal to Mallam Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education, requesting him to “order an immediate, unconditional and full reinstatement of all the twenty-three Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities sacked by the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta simply because they reported cases of corruption on campus to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission”.
SERAP said that unless Adamu is able to “prevail on the University Council to recall the victimised 23 staff members within seven days after the receipt and/or publication of this letter, our organization will be compelled to pursue appropriate legal action to challenge these unjust acts against whistle-blowers”.
In the letter dated December 6, 2016 and signed by SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization said: “SERAP has been fully briefed by the twenty-three SSANU members of staff of the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta who were sacked whistle-blowers because of their public interest disclosures on alleged corruption and unlawful enrichment of the Vice Chancellor and Pro Chancellor.
“Allegations of corruption, unlawful enrichment and the misuse of power or any position of authority by university personnel for personal gain threaten and harm the public interest. SERAP is seriously concerned about the alleged systemic and widespread nature of the crimes in an ivory tower which is supposed to be bedrock of learning and good culture.
“We are seriously concerned that these dismissed SSANU staff members were not being appropriately treated or protected by the University authorities or Council to remedy the exposed threats or harm to them. No whistle-blower should ever be penalised simply for making a public interest disclosure.
“SERAP strongly believes that every individual should feel safe to freely raise public interest concerns, just as the SSANU staff members have done in disclosing information on alleged corruption, fraud and unlawful enrichment in the University of Agriculture Abeokuta. Unless 23 staff members are granted the appropriate protection deserving of whistle-blowers and unconditionally reinstated, a significant opportunity to protect the University and public interest would be missed.
“By terminating the appointment of these staff members, SERAP believes that the University Council has acted improperly or attempted to cover up the alleged corruption and fraud rather than promptly addressing it by referring the allegations to appropriate anticorruption agencies and institutions such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission.
“Victimisation of whistle-blowers will not under any circumstances or anywhere be tolerated especially under the watch of the President Muhammadu Buhari government, which builds its reputation on the fight against grand corruption. As a matter of law, the Council has a responsibility to promptly and thoroughly investigate allegations of corruption and fraud disclosed by whistle-blowers such as the 23 SSANU members, and where appropriate bring those suspected to be responsible to justice.
“Encouraging whistle-blowers to speak up improves public services and strengthens transparency and public accountability. Therefore, it is in the interest of the University community and all Nigerians that allegations of corruption in the University system are promptly revealed, investigated by an independent body and suspected perpetrators brought to justice.
“The termination of the appointment of these staff members amounts to retaliation. Their status as a whistle-blower is not diminished even if the perceived threat to the public interest has not materialised, since they would seem to have reasonable grounds to believe in the accuracy of the disclosures on alleged corruption and fraud in the University.
“SERAP believes that whistleblowing is very important in deterring and preventing corruption, and in strengthening democratic accountability and transparency in the country in general. Whistleblowing is indeed a fundamental aspect of freedom of expression and freedom of conscience and is important in tackling gross mismanagement of our commonwealth. Whistleblowing can act as an early warning to prevent damage as well as detect wrongdoing that may otherwise remain hidden.
“Whistleblowing can also help ensure the effective compliance with Nigeria’s international anticorruption obligations by allowing those legally responsible for the alleged misconduct the opportunity to address the problem and to account for themselves, and by more readily identifying those who may be liable for any damage caused.
“Dismissal of the 23 SSANU members breaches the letter and spirit of international anticorruption treaties such as the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.”
The names of the dismissed SSANU staff members are: Bankole E. A; Salaam A. O; Somoye O. P; Fasunwon O. W; Ojoye A. B; Dr. Anjorin O S A; and Adeleke H A.
Others are: Obiriwonsi B; Alayode O. T; Iyeh R. O; Adebesin B. M; Eyiowuawi C. A; Olafimihan A. O; Dasaolu C. A;Sonde J. O; Ogunromila O. O; Adeyemi O. R; Alabi K. O; Dr. Olaniran I. O; Dr. salami O. O; Dr. Ajayi A. O; Oyero E. A; and Adeyemi K. O.