Alex Enumah in Abuja
A witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Bawa Usman Katungo, on Monday told the National Industrial Court in Abuja that he never wrote the Interim Investigation Report that led to the suspension and subsequent demotion of a Director and former Commandant of the EFCC Academy, Ayo Olowonihi.
The first Defence Witness (DW1), who made the revelation at the ongoing hearing of Olowonihiâ€™s suit challenging his demotion by the commission, told the court that he was called in to sign the report, which according to him, was written by the leader of the investigation team, one Bello Yaya.
Olowonihi had dragged the commission before the National Industrial Court in Abuja over his alleged demotion from grade level 17 to grade level 16/7.
The former director, in the legal action instituted against the commission, is asking the court to restore him to his position as a substantive Director of grade level 17 and as commandant of the EFCC Academy.
The complainant in the suit marked: NICN/ABJ/347/2017 wants the court to declare his demotion as well as the processes that led to it, illegal, null and void.
At yesterdayâ€™s proceedings, the witness led in evidence by counsel to the defendant, Ibrahim Audu, adopted his witness statement on oath as his evidence in the case.
He told the court that he was a member of the team that investigated the claimant and one Mustapha Suleiman.
He alleged that the investigation related to an online publication that maligned some senior staff of the commission, including former Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, and current acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu.
He added that based on the allegation of crime against the senior staff, a committee was set up to investigate the issue.
Katungo added that after the team completed the investigation, the case file was transferred to the Legal and Prosecution Department for legal advice.
However, during cross-examination by complainantâ€™s counsel, Prof. Joash Amupitan (SAN), the witness told the court that though he was part of the team that investigated the matter but that the report was written by the team leader, Yaya.
He said while investigation was ongoing, he was transferred to Lagos, adding that there is nothing wrong in his signing of the report prepared by the team leader since he was part of the investigation.
The witness, who stated that the investigation has to do with malicious publication, however, could not tell under which law the investigation was set up. He also said he could not tell if the committee was established orally or written, but that the team leader is in a better position to tell.
Katungo also could not remember when the committee was set up.
When confronted with his witness statement where he said the committee was set up to investigate some members of staff which include the claimant, Katungo on evidence however told the court that the claimant was not included.
He said it was in the course of investigating Mustapha Suleiman that they found a link connecting Olowonihi.
According to him, â€œThe only link is the headline that was published which was forwarded to the director and other staff,â€ he said, adding that the order link discovered was in his statement that Mustapha took him to one Mr. Debo where he submitted his Curricula Vitae Â for the position of chairman of the commission or the NDLEA.
While admitting that nothing in the report implicated the complainant in the said malicious publication, he however fingered Mustapha as the author of the malicious publication which he gave to one Abu Sadiq, a blogger for online publication.
Another witness of the commission, one Femi Gbarufu, Head of Human Resources of EFCC, in his evidence, said Olowonihi was queried in respect of breach of confidence.
He tendered exhibits showing how the claimant was first issued with a query and following his response, was suspended and then recalled from suspension and redeployed to the office of the chairman of the EFCC.
He added that when the issue of the malicious publication came up, both the claimant and himself were redeployed to the chairmanâ€™s office.
Â Gbarufu also told the court that the Staff Regulatory Handbook that the commission used for the discipline of staff, including the claimant, was approved by the commission.
After the end of cross examination, Justice Sanusi Kadu, adjourned till June 14, 2018, for continuation of defence.
Olowonihi, in his statement on oath, claimed that trouble started when the current Magu assumed leadership of the commission.
He said Magu had on November 19, 2015, summoned him to his office accusing him of being behind some online publications on the activities of the commission and against his person.
The statement noted that on Maguâ€™s directive, he was interrogated, his official table top computer taken away, while he two phones (MTN and Glo) were seized, adding that his office, after 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 to the acting Executive Chairmanâ€™s office.
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.
He disclosed that he received a query on December 22, 2015, accusing of breaching certain section of the commissionâ€™s Staff Regulation Handbook and replied on the 29th 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.