The Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) has urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the National Industrial Court over its reinstatement of an indicted former staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Mr. Akojom, former head of the ICT department at INEC in Cross River State, was dismissed from the electoral commission in 2013 for gross misconduct bordering on collusion with politicians.
In its petition signed by CSNAC Chairman Olanrewaju Suraju, the coalition stated, “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.”
Given these findings, Mr. Akojom was subsequently suspended from INEC in May 2013. He was then asked to appear before the Senior Staff Welfare and Disciplinary Committee in Abuja.
At the hearing in Abuja, Mr. Akojom admitted to the allegations leveled against him, saying that the N6.2 million he collected was for his father, who was at the time a senior Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member. He was subsequently dismissed from INEC on August 20, 2013.
Mr. Akojom, however, appealed his dismissal to the National Industrial Court, arguing that he was wrongly dismissed and was not given a “fair hearing.”
At the industrial arbitration court, the judge ruled that “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.”
CSNAC said this could not be true, as “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.”
The petition continued, “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 is required to satisfy this judge or be accorded this staff?”
CSNAC therefore concluded that the court, in its above judgment, shielded a corrupt government official.
“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," the petition read.