The attention of the Commission has been drawn to a publication sponsored by Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, that appeared in some online news portals and Thisday Newspaper of Monday, May 11, 2015 alleging witchhunt of two former EFCC officers, Juliet Ibakaku and Michael Nzekwe, by the Commission. The sponsored publication is a reaction to the half page disclaimer published on the two officers on Friday, May 7, 2015, which primarily sought to alert the public that the ex-officers have long ceased to be in the employment of the Commission and anyone who had dealings with them inspite of the notices, does so at his/her own risk.
No reference was made to their alleged offences in appreciation of the fact that the two had pending matters in court. However in their desperation to ascribe sinister motives to the Commission’s action, they not only supplied the vital information that they were dismissed from service, but went ahead to bring up extraneous issues that have never been canvassed by them either in court or during the exhaustive internal disciplinary processes preceding their disengagement by the Commission. What their hired megaphones, HURIWA and Emmanuel Onwubiko would have the world believe, is that the officers were dismissed because they are Igbo or were fighting internal corruption. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
For the avoidance if doubt, Nzekwe was dismissed for desertion, a serious offence against discipline. On July 30, 2013, he obtained a seven day Casual leave and was expected back at his duty post on August 8, 2013. Not only did he fail to return to his duty post, Nzekwe travelled out of the country without authorization, in clear breach of service rule prohibiting such trips without management approval. Section 43(e) (i) of the EFCC Staff Regulations states that “Any officer who willfully absents for twenty one (21) consecutive days shall be guilty of the offense of desertion and shall be dismissed from the Commission as a deserter.”
When the officer was queried for absenting himself from work without authorization, he claimed he travelled to the United States,” to shop for medical options”, for his wife, Agatha who had an alleged renal challenge and was hospitalized in India.
This information was found to be false, as evidence emerged that the officer went on a pleasure trip to the United States with his two daughters.
It is strange that Nzekwe and his publicist would claim that he was disengaged arbitrarily despite evidence that he was subjected to the internal disciplinary process and appeared before the Senior Staff Disciplinary Committee. All through the process, he did not contest the fact that he violated the Commission’s service rule by staying off duty without authorization.
Instead, he consistently pleaded for leniency. In a letter dated 11 February, 2014 addressed to the Executive Chairman, entitled, Appeal For Reinstatement on Compassionate Ground, Nzekwe, wrote: “I humbly beg to solicit your understanding and consideration for the review of my dismissal since the reason for the trip was not for pleasure, but for medical arrangement to see my wife through a medical challenge.”
Nzekwe’s appeal for leniency makes his spurious claim that he was dismissed for refusing to compromise an alleged case of corruption involving a fellow officer, a lie and an after-thought.
If Onwubiko and HURIWA are to be believed, Nzekwe was dismissed for refusing to compromise a case in the investigation of the infamous pension fraud. From all intent and purposes, this clearly ingenious fabrication is intended to mudsling and cast aspersion on the leadership of the EFCC. At no time during the disciplinary hearing of the offence for which Nzekwe was dismissed did he mention or even insinuate that he was targeted for exposing corruption.
Certain illogicalities in the claim betray the authors’ lack of knowledge of the internal working of the EFCC.
1. No petition gets to the Director of Operations without the knowledge of the Executive Chairman. All petitions are addressed to the Chairman, who may then direct the Director of Operations to investigate. So the claim that “the chairman got wind of it and allegedly wanted to scuttle the professional investigations of these damaging allegations against the officer who is reportedly said to be related to him”, does not arise.
2. Nzekwe, being a prosecutor, is not in position to investigate any matter. He could only vet a file sent to him for legal advice.
3. The Director of Operations has no direct dealings with prosecutors, and could not have given any instruction to Nzekwe “to handle” any matter, Procedurally, the Director of Operations does not issue directives to prosecutors who are not under his supervision. It is the duty of the Director of Legal and Prosecution to do so.
For the benefit of the members of the public, Aliyu Habeeb, the officer being maligned by HURIWA and Owunbiko for allegedly receiving a N50million bribe from Mrs Cyril Uzoma Atang, an accused in the Police Pension Fraud, is largely responsible for the modest success the Commission has recorded in the prosecution of pension thieves. Before he took over the pension investigation upon the emergence of Ibrahim Larmorde as EFCC Chairman, not a single pension matter had been successfully investigated, let alone charged to court. A paradox which Onwubiko and HURIWA must resolve is why an officer who supposedly collected N50million from a suspect as bribe still went ahead to prosecute the same suspect.
Mike Okorocha and Sylvester Okereke, who allegedly authored the petition against Habeeb are themselves suspects in the police pension fraud. Investigation has since established that the duo extorted Atang on the pretext of helping her to procure a soft landing,
ON JULIET IBEKAKU
Ms Juliet Ibekaku claims that she was wrongfully dismissed and did not receive fair hearing. Without prejudice to the action in court, the internal disciplinary mechanism of the Commission as it affects staff who abandon their duty posts was exhausted before her dismissal.
It is pertinent to state the case against Ibekaku as follows:
1. Following her deployment to the Legal and Prosecution Department in the Lagos Zonal office, on 15 November 2013, Ibekaku reported to her new station for documentation on 21 November, 2013.
2. On 22 November 2013, she was directed to report to her primary unit, the Legal and Prosecution Department but failed to honour the directive. Instead, she left and that was the last time she was seen in the Commission.
3. On 16 December, 2013 (after 22 days absence), she was queried for abandoning her duty post without leave or authorization. Again, Ibekaku did not respond.
4. In the spirit of fair hearing she was invited severally and given ample opportunity to state her case but spurned all.
Consequently she was dismissed on 11 February, 2014, after 81 consecutive days absence from work) for desertion from duty post, contrary to Section 36 (l) (xi) of the EFCC Staff Regulation.
Against this background, it is difficult to comprehend how the Commission’s disciplinary procedure for erring officers would be reduced to ethnic and political agenda by some mischief makers masquerading as human rights writers. Early this year, the Commission published a disclaimer on nine former employees who were similarly dismissed for offence against discipline. They include Samson Gambo, Abubakar Addu, Collins Ehichoya, Emmanuel Ohikhokhai, Umar Abdullahi, Meriam Momoh, Emmanuel Paul, Uno Edet Uno and Adamu Suleiman.
None of these former officers are from the south east and so did not qualify to benefit from the human rights writers crusading zeal of Emmmanuel Onwunbiko and HURIWA. If one may ask, did the EFCC have the Igbo ethnic group in mind when its Staff Regulation was compiled? How does the disciplinary action of the Commission imperil the ambition of “one of the two” from succeeding Lamorde as EFCC Chairman or becoming a minister of the federal republic?
Playing the primordial sentiment card is not likely to help the case of “one of the two”. The EFCC as a law enforcement agency, cannot condone indiscipline by staff. The Nigerian society frowns at indiscipline and indisciplined characters have no place in our national affairs.
Head, Media & Publicity
11th May, 2015