They say every person has his or her own personal struggles. But history is full of stories of the miseries of others that people can relate to. The plight of disengaged workers demonstrating outside the Embassy of Nigeria in Washington against alleged corruption at the embassy, and insensitive officials makes for such a story. When Per Second News reporters probed a little deeper, we found out the reasons for their troubles. Many of them narrated a common story and their account speaks volumes about the troubles gripping Nigeria’s embassy in the District of Columbia, DC.
Samantha Fox, Per Second News
Dozens of disengaged workers at the embassy of Nigeria, Washington, DC, in a peaceful protest on Monday urged the federal government to investigate allegations of embezzlement of consular and passport revenues, corruption, deception and nepotism against top officials.
The disengaged workers most of whom occupied strategic positions in the embassy before being asked to leave asked the Federal Government to order the EFCC to audit the Embassy. They alleged that the auditors and the inspectorates from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs often colluded with Embassy officials to falsify financial reports.
They said the Buhari administration is being robbed of revenue as immigration and visa fees are being diverted for personal use by corrupt officials. They claim they have credible documents to support the allegation.
The workers affirmed that the Consular and Passport Office processes visas and passports and generates huge amount of revenue weekly, stressing that, part of the revenue generated are often shared weekly by the Head of Mission, the DCM, the HOC, and the Accountant.
Most importantly, the protesters demanded that their gratuities, benefits, and overtime allowances should be paid in full.
The workers listed several grievances including discrimination, nepotism, victimization,unfair dismissal and others.
“We are fighting for our rights here. We are not here for something new. These are the same grievances we had weeks ago,” said one of the workers. “We engaged with senior officials several times but they are not taking us seriously,” he said.
They frowned at the manner in which they were being paid in piece-meal, but strongly insisted that, unless they are paid in full with the Conditions of Service with which they were duly employed, they would not succumb to cheap blackmail from the Embassy.
The protesters carried banners that read : “We can’t be silenced anymore. No justice no peace!. “Stop embezzling consular, visa, and passport revenues. Remit revenues to the Federal Government.” “Incompetence, corruption, and nepotism practices are defining Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC. “NO to Harmonized Conditions of Service. YES to the Conditions of Service with which we were employed. You can’t take away our earned gratuities! “Stop awarding fake contracts, misappropriating Government funds, and stealing consular revenues.
The workers alleged that a former acting ambassador must be asked to give accounts of his stewardship.
” The Accountant’s office purchases Embassy’s supplies and audits same. WHO’S AUDITING WHO? Corruption! The Accountant should face disciplinary action, said one of the protesters.
“We never pleaded to be placed on one-year contract. We were actually compelled to sign both the one-year contract and the “Oath of Secrecy,” stressing that Ambassador Hakeem Balogun, who is now in Indonesia, orchestrated it, according to the protesting workers.
Speaking to Per Second News in Washington the workers said that embassy officials has declared war on the truth with their use of “alternative facts,” their repeated insistence that due process was followed in the recent disengagement of Workers.
The workers said the embassy hierarchy are using their nearly unfettered access to the Nigerian media to distribute propaganda and deliberately mislead the Nigerian government and people.
“Ambassador Shuaibu of the Inspectorate Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accompanied by two officials, held a meeting at the Embassy with us on Wednesday, April 18, 2018, to explore the possibility of resolving the crisis.”
” Interestingly Ambassador Shuaibu at the meeting allowed only 2 persons from the Disengaged Workers to speak and ask questions; despite repeated pleads by the Disengaged Workers to allow others speak and ask questions as well, since Ambassador Shuaibu came to “investigate,” on the directive of the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs.
He vehemently declined the request from majority of the workers to speak, an action, the disengaged Workers lamented, is unaccepted, and amounts to unfair hearing.
They alleged that working conditions at the embassy is against the United States Labor Laws, citing the non-availability of health insurance for workers. The workers also said the embassy sacked workers with work authorizations replacing them with illegal aliens.
Again, the workers wondered why the DCM terminated the appointments of Peter, Nwabugwu, and Yakubu – but rehired Yakubu, a Northerner, while still retaining the service of a worker whose age is above 63, who ought to have retired at 60 as specified in the Conditions of Service for local staff.
Most of the workers put the blame at the doorstep of the DCM and the Accountant for misleading the Head of Mission, and urged the Minister of Foreign Affairs to recall the DCM and the Accountant with immediate effect. The workers said that sacking workers on the premise of rationalization, while at the same time conducting secret job interviews is a huge deception and unacceptable.
The disengaged workers also tok time to tongue-lash the Embassy for not organizing farewell reception after some of them had put in 10 to 33 years of commendable services. They mentioned that the manner at which they were disengaged was vicious and biased, accusing the DCM of masterminding the termination of their appointments.