When the delegation of Katsina State Governor Aminu Masari sauntered into the Hausa section of the Voice of America (VOA) in Washington DC in January 9, 2018, none of the over 15 staff he met had a premonition that the governor’s visit was pregnant with so much trouble that may lead to their unceremonious sack.
The interview was conducted and the governor’s entourage was taken round the expansive office of the America’s foreign broadcasting agency.
As the governor entered his car, one of the Katsina State senior officials on the entourage handed down “a brown envelope” containing $5000 to one of the VOA staff that walked them their car.
Governor Masari’s spokesperson Mr Abdu Labaran, however, denied that his principal had given any money to the VOA staff during the visit.
But multiple sources told, Daily Trust on Sunday that the ‘North-West governor’ referred to by the VOA was the Katsina governor.
The governor’s “gift” was subsequently shared to all the Hausa Service staff on duty at that time. And everyone went back to work. Some of the beneficiaries of the gift include Sahabu Imam Aliyu, Jummai Ali, Ladan Ayawa, Ibrahim Jarmai, Abdoulaziz Adili Toro, Ibrahim Alfa Ahmed, among others.
There was no any sign of trouble over the governor’s ‘gift’ until when the head of the Hausa Service who was on leave in Nigeria at that time returned and decided to be a whistleblower.
Mr Leo Ken wrote a petition to the VOA management over the governor’s “improper payment” to his colleagues.
The federal law in the United States prohibit VOA journalists from taking any money in excess of $20 in their line of duty.
An investigation was subsequently launched over the “gift.” On October 2, the VOA announced that it has fired or proposed to terminate 15 staff of its Hausa language service following an investigation that found the individuals had accepted improper payments from a foreign official in West Africa.
Director of VOA, Amanda Bennett, informed the American-funded radio station staff of the move in an agency-wide email.
“It is therefore with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that we have terminated or (in accordance with all applicable Federal laws and regulations) proposed to terminate 15 members of the Hausa Service,” she wrote.
The director said the action was taken after simultaneous investigations by VOA staff and the Office of the Inspector General into “allegations of improper conduct by members of the service, which involved accepting improper payments from an official in the coverage area.”