By Adenike Lucas
Acting Chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Mustafa Magu, has been likened to a demigod whom the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari may not be able to tame.
Mr Magu a “corrupt’ Deputy Commissioner of Police (Grade Level 15), was indicted in a 14 paragraph report to Senior Lawmakers at the National Assembly in October 2016, by the Department of State Services, DSS.
The anti-graft boss has been dragged before the National Industrial Court, NIC, by Ayo Peter Olowonihi, most Senior Top Management Director and Operative at the anti-graft Agency.
Mr Olowonihi, in the suit marked NICN/ABJ/347/2017, wants the court to declare his demotion as well as the processes that led to it, as illegal and null and void.
The Top Management Director and former Commandant of EFCC Academy, disclosed further that after he sat and passed the commission’s promotion examinations conducted by the Public Service Institute, he was promoted to the rank of Detective Commander (Grade Level 17 equivalent of AIG of Police) on August 29, 2013.
He claimed that Magu, on November 19, 2015, summoned him into his office, accusing him of being behind some online publications on the (corrupt) activities at the commission and against (exposing) the person of the Acting chairman, Mr Magu.
He said on Mr Magu’s directive, he was interrogated, his official computer taken away, while his two phones were seized, adding that his office, after being thoroughly searched by a team of detectives and policemen, was sealed up.
The complainant said further that while interrogation was still on, Magu demoted him as Commandant and redeployed him from the EFCC Academy.
He said while the letter was purported to have been issued by the management of the commission, he was not aware of any management meeting where such decision was taken being a management staff.
Mr Olowonihi disclosed that he received a query on December 22, 2015, accusing him of breaching certain section of the commission Staff Regulation Handbook and replied on December 29, 2015, denying all the allegations, but was surprised to receive that same day, a letter of indefinite suspension from work without pay with immediate effect.
He stated that since his suspension over two years now, he was never invited to appear before any panel nor were there any communication until November 16, 2017, when he was served with a letter of reinstatement dated November 15, 2017, demoting him and forfeiting his salaries and emoluments.
He, however, claimed that he was never invited by the committee to defend himself of the said allegations or any other misconduct.
Mr Olowonihi insisted that the commission Staff Regulation Handbook 2007 on which he was queried, demoted and asked to forfeit his salaries and entitlements and purported reinstatement, has not been approved by the commission or its board.
While claiming that it is only the commission that has disciplinary powers over a management staff, he said the federal government was yet to constitute the commission/board since 2015.
Mr Olowonihi said based on the above, he rejected the conditions of his reinstatement in a letter dated November 22, 2017.
However, counsel to the defendant, Ibrahim Audu, during cross-examination, asked the complainant to confirm to the court if he was still a director in the commission and commandant of the Academy.
Responding, Olowonihi answered in the affirmative, claiming that he has already written to the commission rejecting his demotion as he was never found guilty of any offence.
Responding also to question on the validity of the commission’s regulation handbook on which disciplinary action was taken against him, he insisted that the regulation was not valid because it has not been approved by the commission, adding that some staff of the commission who have been punished have been challenging the validity.
Mr Olowonihi said he played a major role in the drafting of the regulation, adding that the work of the drafting committee ended at the doorstep of the director of organisation who was to transmit it to the board for approval. He however said he cannot tell if that was done.
He also said by the mandate of the Academy, promotion examinations and other examinations are to be conducted by it, but the examinations were outsourced to the Public Service Institute and JAMB.
Mr Olowonihi claimed that the promotion examination he wrote was conducted in the Academy but not by the Academy.
After cross-examining the complainant, Audu asked for an adjournment to enable the defendant call its witnesses.
Justice Kadu, adjourned till April 30, 2018, for continuation of trial.
Mr Magu had had a running battle with senior Lawmakers over his confirmation, and believed that EFCC core staff members may have aided the DSS in the intelligence report which nailed him.
The DSS had described the anti-graft boss as a ‘perennial offender,’ and cautioned that if confirmed by the NASS Senate, he would become a ‘liability to the anti-graft War of the Buhari administration’.
Many are wondering, why despite the damning Report by the DSS, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has continued to support Mr Magu, and President Buhari is finding it difficult to do the needful on the anti-graft boss.