An all white Employment tribunal yesterday in London ruled in favour of a black British senior civil servant, Sonia Warner who oversees grants to Nigeria organizations under Anti-Corruption in Nigeria, ACORN over alleged sexual abuse and delcared that the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, FCDO formerly known as British Department for International Development, DFID in Nigeria racially descriminated against Sonia Warner because she was from the black race.
It was gathered that Sonia Warner who have been in the British civil service had worked across Africa, Asia and Latin America for 33 years; moved to Nigeria in 2017 as senior governance adviser on anti-corruption and came into attack when she decided to do a close monitoring in 2019 on the 2 million euro grant given to a Nigerian charity organization over observed infractions.
Two days after, Warner, whose job was to help Nigeria tackle endemic corruption by providing grants to both government and civil society organisations was accused by persons suspected to be working with the charity organization of having an affair with an employee of the charity, allegation, Warner promptly denied but she was subsequently accused of misconduct of alleged failure to report a conflict of interest due to a relationship.
The allegations resulted in a six-month investigation by an all-white FCDO team that gave Warner a final written warning.
The Tribunal proved all the allegations false and ruled that Warner had been a victim of unconscious bias by senior colleagues assessing and conducting claims against her.
The Tribunal ruling reads in part: “We have found that the claimant [Warner] was treated with an unwarranted degree of suspicion, that unfair assumptions were made about her, that minds were closed, that she was treated unfairly in the disciplinary process, which took an unreasonably long time.
“The explanations that we received from the respondent [FCDO] for this treatment were not just poor or unreasonable excuses. They simply did not adequately explain the degree of unfairness and unreasonableness in the treatment and we infer that the missing part of the explanation is the claimant’s race.
“The claimant was ‘pushed away’, ‘disowned’ or ‘othered’ during the disciplinary process in a way that we consider would not have happened were she a white civil servant with equivalent length of service and experience,”
The tribunal is yet to rule on any compensation she may receive. A remedy hearing has been fixed for February.
The ruling follows media reports last year that found that many black, Asian and minority ethnic men working in development for the government claim to have experienced prejudice at work, including racist jokes and doubts about their legality as UK citizens.
Many said despite the controversy that trailed her wild accusation, Warner’s programme turned out a huge success as it significantly contributed to poverty reduction, anti-corruption reforms and massive awareness creation around the issues of corruption, asset recovery and utilization.
In a swift reaction to the employment tribunal ruling, Warner said: “After 33 years of dedicated service I felt heartbroken and humiliated by the treatment I received from white colleagues who I trusted to act in a fair and impartial manner, regardless of my race.
“It has taken two years to be heard on this issue because conscious and unconscious bias is a real barrier to fairness and equality. This is a victory for racial justice, which I hope will lead to a stronger commitment to strengthening HR systems and processes to protect black staff.”
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