Witness Says Demoted EFCC Director not Author of Libellous Publication

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

A witness in the court action challenging the demotion of a director with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ayo olowonihi, Mr. Benjamin Mark has told the National Industrial Court in Abuja, that the demoted director was not the author of an online publication alleged to have been targeted at bringing the EFCC and its chairman to ridicule.

The witness, who testified in a suit filed by Olowonihi to challenge his suspension and subsequent demotion by the anti-graft agency, informed the court that the publisher (blogger) of the online medium, one Abu Sadiq, in the course of investigation confirmed to him that the alleged offending publication was given to him by one Mustapha Sulaiman.

Mark, under cross examination by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and counsel to the claimant, Professor Joash Amupitan, told the trial Judge, Justice Sanusi Kado, that the alleged malicious publication that led to the punishment of Olowonihi was made by Abubakar Saqid.

The witness, who claimed he was a member of the team that investigated Olowonihi and Mustapha Sulieman, over the alleged malicious publication, told Justice Kado that the blogger did not mention the name of Olowonihi, as the author or producer of the alleged malicious publication.
The cross-examination:
Lawyer: In your statement, you said the publication was made by one Abubakar Sadiq
Witness: Yes

Lawyer: Did the blogger tell you the name of the author of the publication?
Witness: He said it was one Mustapha Suleiman Lawyer: Did he tell you it was the claimant that sent the publication to him?
Witness: he mentioned Mustapha, but…

When asked if the blogger during the course of investigation said he knew the claimant, Mark stated that the blogger mentioned only Mustapha but that Mustapha is related to the claimant.

Earlier, the witness, led in evidence by counsel to the EFCC, Ibrahim Audu, adopted his statement on oath as his evidence.

He told the court that their investigation centred on a defamatory online publication against the EFCC and some management staff.
He also admitted before the court that it obtained a recorded statement from one Abubakar Sadiq in the course of investigating the alleged malicious publication.

Before commencement of the trial, the defence counsel had presented a motion-on-notice seeking an order of court to grant the EFCC leave to amend its statement of defence.

The motion, which was dated June 7 and filed on June 8 was, however, not opposed by the claimant and was consequently admitted by the court and deemed as properly filed and served.

At the end of cross examination, Justice Kado, adjourned till September 26 for continuation of defence.
Olowonihi, had dragged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission before the National Industrial Court, Abuja over his alleged demotion from grade level 17 to grade level 16/7.

In the legal action instituted against the commission, the claimant asked 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, unlawful, null and void.

Olowonihi in his statement on oath, claimed that trouble started when the current Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, assume leadership of the commission.

He said Magu had on November 19, 2015 summoned him into his office accusing him of being behind some online publications on the activities of the commission and against the person of the Executive Chairman (Ibrahim Magu ).

He said on Magu’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 police men 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 Chairman’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 commission’s Staff Regulation Handbook and replied on the 29th December, 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 said since his suspension over two years now he was never invited to appear before any panel nor was there any communication until Thursday, November 16, 2017 when he was served with a letter of Reinstatement dated November 15, 2017 demoting him and forfeiting his salaries and emoluments.