A coalition of international rights groups has called on the Nigerian Government to protect Fidelia Onoghaife, a Nigerian working at the Dutch Embassy, Abuja, who exposed Dutch Ambassador to Nigeria, Robert Petri, of leaking confidential information about an extensive corruption investigation into the operation of Shell to the oil company.
Onaghaife, who was the Senior Policy Advisor of Economic and Political Affairs at the Dutch Embassy in Nigeria, was sacked while the ambassador continued to work in the Foreign Ministry.
At the time of her dismissal, the whistleblower was not informed why she was fired as she was alleged to be high-handed in her behaviour and unpopular with staff.
Onaghaife revealed relevant information expected to aid local and international investigation into the corrupt acquisition of OPL 245 oil field involving Shell and Eni.
HEDA in a petition sent to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the Nigerian authorities failed to provide the necessary shield for Onoghaife, who lost her job in the defence of her country’s sovereignty.
The rights group stated that the country had the responsibility to take practical actions to protect a citizen, who was sacked for providing relevant information on corruption and the sovereign wealth of the Nigerian people.
The groups want the Federal Government to invite the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to explain why Ms Onoghaife was sacked despite having been promised that her job was safe after reporting Petri’s breach of confidentiality, invite the current Dutch Ambassador to explain the actions and implications of the actions of his predecessor, Petri, and the Dutch Government’s silence on the matter.
“We urge you to strongly consider suspending the Memorandum of Understanding on Bilateral Consultations between Nigeria and the Netherlands signed in 2018 and the 2019 agreements signed during the Dutch Prime Minister’s visit to Abuja in 2019.
“This dutiful and patriotic Nigerian was sacked by the Dutch Embassy for performing her civic duty. It is unfortunate that she has been left to carry her cross, all lone,” HEDA said in the petition jointly signed by its Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju; Dr Godwin Ojo, ERA/FoE; Nicholas Hildyard, The CornerHouse; Simon Taylor, GlobalWitness; and Luca Manes of Re:Common and sent to Onyeama.
The groups said Nigeria cannot and should not look on when one of its citizens was being so shamefully abused.
According to the groups, Nigeria has also been treated with disdain, adding that a relationship between two governments was always based on element of trust and this element has been violated.
They said that information sharing between Nigeria and the Netherlands was critical to fighting corruption and to promoting common interests.
Onaghaife had filed a suit at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, challenging her dismissal.
The judge is expected to deliver his verdict on the case on September 9.
In 2017, Petri allegedly warned a local director of Shell about an impending visit by officers of the Dutch Fiscal Information and Investigation Service, a government agency that investigates financial crimes.
The investigators were to meet the EFCC as part of a criminal investigation into allegations of widespread bribery by Shell in Nigeria.
The groups said the ambassador’s actions potentially put the integrity of that investigation at risk, not least because of the risk that Shell might destroy documents or influence the process of investigation not open to Shell at the time.