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Treatment of West African Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research personnel in Nigeria

Volume 603: debated on Thursday 17 December 2015

The petition of Geoffrey Moffat,

Declares that the petitioner carried out two tours of duty as a field officer in Nigeria between 1957 and 1961 with the quasi-government organisation W.A.I.T.R (West African Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research); further that the petitioner believes he was treated unjustly and that he should have not been recruited in the manner he was; further that on arrival in Nigeria, he was denied the usual formal induction process; further that later, the petitioner had his terms of service deceitfully changed; further that the petitioner believes that information was withheld from him by the Colonial Office following termination of his services; further that such information would have enabled him to put forward a formal redress of grievance to W.A.I.T.R; further that since 1961, the petitioner has continuously complained to the Colonial Office and its successor, DFID, about his shameful treatment; further that in 2011, the petitioner submitted a twelve page analysis supporting his allegation to DFID but believes that it was not put in front of the Minister for political consideration; further that the petitioner notes that he had received a very poor (mainly wartime) education and following short R.A.F service had intended to undertake extended higher education; further that the petitioner gave up the opportunity for education to take up long term employment with W.A.I.T.R because qualifications were not required; and further that this meant that the petitioner was extremely disadvantaged when his employment was terminated without any provision for readjustment.

The petitioner therefore requests that the House of Commons urges the Government to set up an independent inquiry into treatment of W.A.I.T.R personnel in Nigeria, particularly in relation to the petitioner’s own service and further requests that in doing so, considers the case of John Hare (author of “Last Man In”) who received compensation after similar treatment.

And the petitioner remains, etc.—[Official Report, 22 October 2015; Vol.600, c. 10P.]


Observations from Minister of State, Department for International Development (Desmond Swayne): Mr Moffat served for a short time at the West African Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research (WAITR) in Nigeria in the late 1950s. He was appointed by the Crown Agents in 1957 on a probationary agreement for two tours of service of 18-24 months each as a Field Officer. At the end of his second tour, his contract was not renewed, as the country was heading towards independence and there was no prospect of a permanent and pensionable post for him at the Institute. He left Nigeria in 1960 at this point.

Since then, however, he has maintained that he should receive compensation for loss of career prospects as an overseas officer, along the lines of that paid to certain permanent members of the Colonial Service whose careers were interrupted when Nigeria achieved independence. This is not the case as the facts concerning his appointment clearly exclude him from consideration for compensation arrangements.

Although the original offer of employment referred to a prospect of appointment subsequently to the permanent and pensionable establishment, the Crown Agents contract which he signed deliberately contained no reference to permanence, as his was a probationary appointment. Furthermore, he specifically acknowledged at the time, as officers were required to do, that he had not been promised a pensionable appointment.

Towards the end of Mr Moffat’s first tour, and with Nigerian independence in sight, the Institute was overtaken by the need to employ local people in field officer posts, and it became clear that there was no prospect of his being considered for a permanent and pensionable appointment. The Institute paid Mr Moffat a gratuity for his first tour and he was then switched to straight contract terms for the second tour at the 10% higher rate of salary associated with these terms. His employment ended on completion of the second tour. He then left Nigeria on terminal leave in August 1960. Mr Moffat never held a permanent post and therefore cannot claim compensation for loss of permanent and pensionable employment. The Institute were not committed to providing him with a permanent post, nor did they do so.

Mr Moffat has sought to persuade Ministers and officials in DFID that the British Government have not paid proper regard to the claims of people like himself who, although not actually in permanent and pensionable employment, nevertheless felt that they had lost career prospects as a result of the move to independence. There is no doubt that the British Government’s arrangements for pension protection and ex-gratia compensation clearly excluded all except permanent and pensionable Colonial Service officers in quasi-governmental bodies like WAITR.

The Government’s view is that Mr Moffat has no case for compensation, as he was never employed substantively, nor was the Government under any obligation to offer him a substantive permanent and pensionable appointment.