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Minister seeks probe of perm sec over alleged sexual harassment

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, has asked the Head of Service of the Federation, Folasade Yemi-Esan, to probe the Permanent Secretary in the…

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, has asked the Head of Service of the Federation, Folasade Yemi-Esan, to probe the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ibrahim Lamuwa, who has been accused of sexually harassing a female staff of the ministry. 

The allegations were brought by Simisola Fajemirokun Ajayi, a married employee of the ministry, through a petition to the minister filed by her lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN). 

The petition detailed alleged instances of sexual harassment and other misconduct by the permanent secretary. 

However, credible sources close to the lawyers of the permanent secretary described the allegations as false, saying he is a man of integrity who built his career over the years with integrity. 

It was learnt that the lawyers, led by Audu Anuga, SAN had responded to all the allegations raised by the woman, saying as a political appointee, she lacked knowledge of the civil service, and was frustrated to the extent that she made spurious allegations against the permanent secretary when he refused to allow her have access to financial records and other classified documents that are beyond the borders of her mandate. 

The ‘indictment’ letter

In the letter to the Head Service of the Federation, dated May 27, Minister Tuggar emphasised the gravity of the matter and urged Yemi-Esan to address it accordingly, offering his assistance in the investigation. 

The petition described several incidents, including one on October 7, 2023, during a policy retreat, when Lamuwa allegedly made inappropriate advances towards Mrs Ajayi. 

It said that another incident on November 10, 2023, involved Lamuwa inviting Mrs Ajayi on a trip to Hong Kong and requesting inappropriate physical contact. 

The petition, signed by Adebayo A. Oniyelu for Falana & Falana, also said despite earlier assurances from the minister that such behaviour would not recur, the harassment reportedly continued.

Mrs Ajayi’s petition also alleged that other female employees had faced similar harassment and intimidation, creating a hostile work environment within the ministry. 

When contacted, the Special Assistant (SA) on Media and Communications to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alkasim Abdulkadir, said the matter was being investigated. 

But the office of the HoS was silent on the matter last night. 

‘She wants to destroy his integrity’ 

Efforts by Daily Trust to reach the embattled permanent secretary were unsuccessful as calls to his phone number were not answered up till the time of going to the press.

But a document seen by our correspondent showed that lawyers of the embattled permanent secretary had responded to the allegations. 

The document read: “We are legal representatives of Ambassador Ibrahim Lamuwa (hereinafter referred to as “our client”), the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and have been authorised to make the following statement on his behalf, in response to allegations of sexual harassment levelled against him by Mrs Simisola O. Fajemirokun-Ajayi, an aide to the Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs. 

“The media, particularly the social media has been inundated with the digital copy of a petition written by legal representatives of Mrs. Simisola O. Fajemirokun-Ajayi against Amb. Lamuwa. This petition was clearly leaked in order to generate sympathy for her unsubstantiated claims.  

“We wish to state categorically that our client has never made any sexual advances towards Mrs. Simisola O. Fajemirokun-Ajayi, who he is aware is a married woman, neither has he ever made suggestive comments or innuendos that requested any form of untoward relationship between himself and her. 

“Our client distinctly recalls the events that took place at the ministry’s retreat on October 7th 2023 where Mrs Simisola O. Fajemirokun-Ajayi claims that he invited her to his room. Our client states categorically that, he never made such an invitation and that his only communication with Mrs Fajemirokun-Ajayi, which was an overt one, was where he checked on her, like he did to all participants on whether they had been well-lodged in their hotels. 

“He further recalls that the instance where he spoke of her as a nursing mother, during the same retreat was in a colloquial conversation they were having with other participants, where one participant even responded jokingly that when a woman says “her baby” it could mean either her husband or one of her children, of which he innocuously joked asking “how big is the baby?” Our client maintains that those conversations were made jokingly and sees their misinterpretation as malicious and with ill-intent.  

“Our client also maintains that it is an absurdity for Mrs Fajemirokun-Ajayi to claim that he invited her to Hong Kong, given that the conversation they were both having was on how Honk Kong had digitised its work processes as far back as 1999. Our client wonders how such a conversation became interpreted as an invitation for her to travel alongside himself knowing fully well that she is an aide to the minister. How can she possibly leave the minister to follow the permanent secretary, on a vacation? Would that not be the height of delusion for the one requesting, as well as the one heeding to the request?  

“It is clear that the minister’s aide has misinterpreted ordinary conversations, made openly and in the presence of other participants, for untoward intentions. We believe that these allegations are directly tied to our client’s firm objections raised regarding improper requests that Mrs Fajemirokun-Ajayi made, particularly to financial matters in the ministry.   

“For example, Mrs. Fajemirokun-Ajayi made a trip to the World Economic Forum (Davos), of which she sought a reimbursement from the ministry for. Our client firmly explained to her that while the ministry may look at avenues to refund her expenses, it is not the appropriate process for a trip to be made without an approval, and then funded with taxpayers money. after the fact.  

“Further to this, is the fact of Mrs Fajemirokun-Ajayi’s unfamiliarity with civil service rules and processes where she had requested from our client access to policy files and even financial records of high-level activities of the ministry. By no means, should the permanent secretary, as chief accounting officer of the ministry provide such sensitive documents to an aide of the minister, worse via a WhatsApp chat. There are due processes in government, and they must be followed.  

“We must emphasise that Mrs Fajemirokun-Ajayi is a political appointee, and not a civil servant. Thus, matters of finance and policy are out of bounds for her in this instance.  

“It is crucial to mention that our client, in all his 32 years of service in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, never received a query nor a report against him bordering on harassment, let alone, sexual harassment. In the course of this period, our client has served in Hong Kong, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Syria and more recently, Senegal, and there has never been a negative report on his conduct in any of these countries. 

“Ambassador Lamuwa has also served for nine years in the State House. From the office of the vice president, to the office of the chief of staff to the president, and to the office of the president, and no negative report or allegation of any kind has ever been raised against him,” the response said.


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