Posted by News Express | 30 January 2017 | 2,442 times
The Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) has questioned the rationale behind the reinstatement of an indicted staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr. Akojom, by the National Industrial Court.
In a petition forwarded to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and signed by CSNAC’s National Chairman, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, the coalition urged the commission to launch investigation into the ruling of the Court with a view to prosecuting Mr. Akojom for corruption and bribery.
According to CSNAC, Mr. Akojom, a former staff of INEC was employed into electoral commission in 2002 and until his dismissal in 2013 from INEC for various acts of gross misconduct bothering on serial corrupt acts in collusion with politicians, was the Head of ICT department of INEC in Cross River state.
CSNAC said: “During the preparation for the 2011 General election as well as the Governorship election that followed in 2012, this allegedly corrupt staff in connivance with politicians at various times allegedly perfected various schemes for rigging election and accused of the following:
“He went to the Government House on the eve of election and collected millions of naira, but when confronted based on intelligence feedback, only admitted collecting six million and two hundred thousand Naira (N6.2 Million).
“He allegedly collected millions of Naira from the state owned electoral body and used INEC machines to print a voters register for the state LGA elections.”
The coalition further noted: “On account of the above and several other gross misconduct bothering on the integrity of INEC and in strict adherence to the principle of ‘fair hearing’ required of any administrative panel to follow certain procedural steps, queries were issued to him in line with the Civil Service rules to which he responded and these details are contained in his official file.
“This was subsequently followed up with a letter to him to explain why on account of these stated acts, unbecoming of one in charge of such a sensitive office, disciplinary action should not be taken against him.
“Thereafter, he was suspended through a written letter dated 7th of May, 2013 and was asked to appear before a Senior Staff Welfare and Disciplinary Committee in Abuja.
“At the panel, Mr. Akojom admitted to the above allegations particularly on the N6.2 million but that the money was meant for his father who is a senior party member of the PDP at the time, but he did not explain why the state government chose to give such a huge amount of money on the eve of election.
“The panel found him guilty on all having admitted the allegations and recommended that he should be dismissed and he was accordingly dismissed from INEC on the 20th of August 2013.”
CSNAC explained that Akojom after his dismissal, proceeded to the Industrial Court and filed an action that he was wrongly dismissed, asking for reinstatement on the ground that he was not given “fair hearing”, despite the fact that his employer, INEC, followed diligently the civil service rules contained in the staff condition of service to the letter: Query, letter of why disciplinary action should not be taken against him, Letter of suspension and appearance before the panel and Dismissal after he was found guilty.
“At the trial court, the commissioner of police of Cross River, released the police sergeant who was at the gate when this staff was conveying the ballot boxes away and was stopped and he testified positively having also admitted that ballot boxes were in the trunk of his car at the time of exiting the gate around 7pm in the evening.
“In a judgement delivered at the industrial arbitration court on September 9, 2016, Her Lordship simply said “the claimant was not given fair hearing because the Queries and letter of invitation to appear before the senior staff Disciplinary panel did not contain the allegation for which he was summoned “
“This could not true given all the Queries and Letters that contained and disclosed to the staff why he was summoned and for which he responded by himself were marked as exhibits before the court.
“And more shockingly, the judge ruled that she would not accept “the admission of the allegations by the claimant himself” without citing any case law authority. At the industrial court and during cross examination, the claimant admitted to receiving the money in question and excusing same as money for his father, a leader of PDP in the state.
“From the above, it is unclear what is meant exactly by the judge as the dismissed staff was not given ‘fair hearing’ and therefore should be reinstated back to INEC when the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court in Yusuf v. Union Bank of Nigeria LTD (1996) 6 NWLR (pt.457) and in other several cases declared that “To satisfy the rule of natural justice and fair hearing a person likely to be affected directly by the disciplinary proceedings must be given adequate notice of the allegation against him...But the complaint against him need not be necessarily be drafted in a formal form. It is sufficient if the complaints as formulated conveys to him the nature of the accusation against him”.
“If truly, the judicial officers are committed to bringing sanity to public institutions like INEC, what further kind of fair hearing required to satisfy this judge or be accorded this staff.”
CSNAC submitted: “The obviously perverse judgement of the industrial court given despite the weight of evidence before the trial Judge's and refusal to evaluate the evidence but apply the law to shield a corrupt staff of an election management body, at this time when more of such cases involving INEC officials are expected to be taken to court over the 2015 election is a wrong signal.
“The industrial court is now an open avenue through which judges who either for reasons of ignorance, compromise or otherwise, return corrupt and dismissed staff of INEC back to the Commission to do more harm having collected bribes to compromise election and no consequence is other than a reward by this curious decision. This is unfortunate and EFCC is enjoined to step into this matter.
“CSNAC is by this petition inviting your Commission to launch an investigation into this alleged case of bribery with a view to prosecuting Mr. Akojom for corruption and bribery.”
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