A female National Youth Service Corps member has taken the fight to her employer for allegedly assaulting her and plagiarising her work.
Mary Agbo, 28 has waited for over a month for the first signs of justice for an wrong she says no woman should ever have to face – violence against women in the workplace.
On August 1, 2012, Agbo began her NYSC primary duty with the Garki Gazette, an Abuja-based weekly lifestyle and events publication, located within the premises of Eddy-Vic Hotels on Ahmadu Bello Way, Garki II, Abuja. By August 17, Emmanuel Abanah, the magazine’s publisher and owner of Eddy-Vic Hotels confirmed her as the Editor of the publication “having satisfied preliminary conditions for the job”, he wrote in her letter of engagement.
But on November 1, she filed a complaint at the Garki Police station against Abanah, 35, for allegedly assaulting her after she requested a Performance Certificate, the necessary documentation corps members must obtain from their employers monthly, and mandatorily submit to the NYSC to be entitled to their government allowance. She reported the assault to the NYSC on the same day and asked to be reposted from Garki Gazette citing fear for her life and an unsafe work conditions.
“He slapped me and pushed me, I hit my ear hard on an iron fence by his garden. He started dragging my top (white NYSC vest) and my breast came out,” Agbo told the Police. “He brought out his hand again and slapped me. He called his manager and assistant to send me out of the premises which they did”.
Agbo explained the events of November 1. In the morning while attending her Community Development group meeting, she was advised to submit her PC the same day as NYSC officials would be busy with the new batch of corps members resuming the following week. Back at the office which was locked, both Ada, Abanah’s assistant, and Sharks, the magazine’s production manager advised she call the publisher. After several unanswered calls and an SMS, Abanah alighted from his hotel room rude and shouting at her for disturbing him. As she tried explaining herself, he began beating her in anger, Agbo said.
A medical report from the Asokoro General Hospital signed by Dr. C.N Okoli stated Agbo “presented with generalized body pain, headache, earache, dizziness, and tinge of blood in the right eye”.
The Garki Police went to Abanah’s office that same day, but met his absence. It however became clear he had gone into hiding after he failed to turn up following several other visits to his office and calls inviting him to the station. A warrant for his arrest was subsequently obtained.
Two reasons are at the root of the assault, Agbo says. She had severally asked Abanah to pay her salary and that of the magazine’s contributing journalists being owed months in arrears. This displeased him tremendously. Also, her refusal to concede to her employer’s sexual advances irked him further, she said.
The NYSC at a zonal level launched an investigation. A source within the NYSC who asked not to be named provided the internal report with the findings from the investigation. Though Abanah had refused to see the investigating officer, staff of Garki Gazette and Eddy-Vic Hotels confided “he [Abanah] has been treating them the same that he pays them salary whenever he feels like and they do not have the right to ask him”.
“Based on the information about this man, shows that he is a very irresponsible man,” The NYSC investigating officer reported. “I advise that the corper should be withdrawn from serving in this establishment and be reposted, and all possible measures should be taken to make him for his reactions. He has no right to treat her this way.”
Abanah on his own then petitioned the NYSC State Coordinator on November 12 accusing Agbo in a four-page letter of “poor parental upbringing” and being “desperate, devious, and dubious and a calculated and cold liar that thinks everybody wants to flirt with her”. He added he has no regards for the Garki Police station and was therefore taking his case against Agbo to the Commissioner of Police of the Federal Capital Territory.
“The publisher did not want a heehaw affair with a desperate woman whom he has been feeding in a local police station,” Abanah said.
“Miss Agbo has been given a fair option of proceeding to a court of law with her claims, but will not be granted the excessiveness of a shouting match with her employer at a local police station.”
Abanah in a calculated move petitioned the Commissioner of Police of the Federal Capital Territory. But contrary to what he told the NYSC, he claimed Agbo was using police officers from the Garki Police station to threaten him. He asked the case be transferred to the FCT Police command, apparently to avoid being charged to court. On November 30, Agbo was invited as an accused to make her report. She was detained and only released after her sister stood bail for her.
By December 3, when the FCT Police Command was presented with Abanah’s subsisting arrest warrant from the Garki Police station, and it was also discovered the contradicting motives Abanah had declared in his letters to the Police, and the NYSC for refusing to honour the Police invitation, he was arrested with the Garki Police Station taking him into their custody.
Speaking to Abanah while in detention behind the Police counter, he said a recent case of murder in his hotel involving an alleged prostitute in October and his unwillingness to continually bribe officers of the Garki Police station led him to refuse to honour their respective invitations. Abanah denied assaulting Agbo, but claimed she was out to tarnish his image. He described Agbo as erratic and unproductive who for three weeks failed to come to work for no apparent reason only to resurface asking him to sign her NYSC Performance Certificate.
Abanah’s staff when questioned separately however debunked his claims, instead stating Abanah had failed to provide a conducive work space for them. A visit to Garki Gazette premises revealed the only furnished office is Abanah’s office, which doubles as his office as Eddy-Vic Hotels managing director, located on the ground floor of the hotel facing the main entrance. Another space for staff remains under construction.
To further puncture his claims, Agbo, the former sub-editor of the Charly Boy magazine, provided evidence of the eight editions she oversaw as editor of the Garki Gazette, with her by-line and image featured on the editorial page.
Agbo also accuses Abanah of plagiarism. Despite not giving her a termination letter, he removed her by-line from the magazine’s 54th issue which was her ninth edition which she said she wrote 16 out of 32 pages and edited before its publication 3rd-9th November 2012. A copy of the said publication reveals Abanah replaced Agbo’s name as editor with Kaila Budango, his pen name. He removed Agbo’s image from the editorial page, but published her remarks “word for word”, passing it off as his own, she said.
Late in the evening of December 3, the Police in Garki ushered a visibly humbled Abanah into a police cell after asking him to undress and declare all his belongings on him. He spent the night and was charged to court on December 4th 2012 for resisting Police arrest.
Abanah’s friends, since his arrest, have been pleading with Agbo and her family to let peace reign and withdraw her case currently with the FCT Police Command. Agbo said she has to consult with her lawyer and rights groups which took up her case before taking a decision. She however underscored conditions Abanah must meet.
“One he has to write back to NYSC to retract the lies he wrote about me. Two, he has to write an undertaking nothing will happen to me because he knows where I live,” Agbo said. “And since my contract is not terminated, he must pay my arrears and that of other staff he owes their salary.”
Two samples of the editor's page of Garki Gazette where Ms. Agbo claimed she was short-changed