The scandal that caused the sack of 15 Voice of America Hausa Service Staff

International radio broadcasting service, Voice of America terminated the appointment of 15 of its Hausa language international radio service employees in Washington, D.C, the capital of the United States of America, following bribery allegations reported by a whistleblower.

The U.S government-funded broadcaster terminated their employment after the employees were reported to have accepted cash from an official in their area of coverage in January 2018. Nigerian local newspaper, Daily Trust, reported that the employees accepted improper payments of about $5,000 from a Nigerian state governor on a visit to VOA’s DC offices.

On 9 January, Nigeria’s Aminu Masari, Katsina State Governor, visited the Hausa radio service with his entourage for an interview, after which they were given a tour of the premises. Upon getting to the vehicle, one of the Northwestern governor’s senior officials gave a VOA staff an envelope containing $5000 cash.

The head of the Hausa Service, Leo Keyen, who was on leave in Nigeria as at the time of the improper conduct, wrote a petition to the VOA management stating the governor’s improper payment to his colleagues as soon as he returned back to America.

In an email to staff on 4 October, VOA director Amanda Bennett said the agency’s leadership was notified of the allegations and had launched several investigations, including a request to the Office of the Inspector General to determine if any coverage was improperly influenced.

Should the investigations reveal improper conducts, the implicated Voice of America Hausa staff would have violated a series of United States federal laws and regulations, particularly those prohibiting government employees from receiving improper gifts. They would, therefore, be penalized for their criminal offences as public officials because the law prohibits the acceptance of gifts given based on an employee’s official position.

One of the 15 employees dismissed includes VOA’s former Hausa Service chief, Fred Cooper who will serve as acting chief until a permanent chief is selected. Others include Sahabu Imam Aliyu, Jummai Ali, Ladan Ayawa, Ibrahim Jarmai and Ibrahim Alfa Ahmed.

Hausa is the Chadic language with the largest number of speakers, spoken as a first language by some 44 million people, and as a second language by another 20 million. Radio listenership of the Voice of America’s Hausa service is high in Nigeria’s Hausa-speaking regions, as well as Niger, Ghana, Chad and Cameroon.