Destiny Ugorji
A National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja, Tuesday, nullified the purported dismissal of former Director of Nigeria Financial intelligence Unit (NFIU), Barrister Juliet Ibekaku, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission-EFCC, describing the action as illegal.

The Court also ordered her immediate reinstatement as Director of NFIU and all her entitlements paid, including ‘ten percent’ of judgement debt.

The Court, presided over by Justice Babatunde A, Adejumo, in suit number NICN/ABJ/130/2014 held that: “there is no evidence to support the alleged breach of EFCC staff regulations, by illegally terminating the appointment of Claimant/Juliet Ibekaku as the Director, Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit by former EFCC Chairman, Mr. Lamorde Ibrahim.”

“The action taken against claimant /Juliet Ibekaku is defective and there is no way a seconded junior Police officer in the EFCC can be allowed to query a senior officer.”

“That the procedure taken by EFCC in terminating Claimant/Juliet Ibekaku’s appointment is defective and unknown to law and therefore illegal and oppressive.”

“That claimant should be reinstated with immediate effect and all her entitlements paid, including 10% of judgement debt.”

It would be recalled that Justice Babatunde A, Adejumo of the National Industrial Court, Abuja on the 21st of October, 2015, reserved judgement on the case of wrongful dismissal brought against the EFCC, by Barrister Juliet Ibekaku, a former Director of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU.

NFIU is an independent Unit under the EFCC and the coordinating entity for the receipt and analysis of financial disclosure of currency transaction reports and suspicious transaction reports in line with Nigeria’s anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime. It is also required to disseminate financial intelligence to law enforcement agencies and regulators.

The absence of operational independence, in line with international best practices has hindered its performance over the years.

Ibekaku’s dismissal as NFIU Director is not unconnected with her insistence on operational autonomy for the NFIU for optimal performance, hence, her support to the bill for the establishment of Nigeria Financial Intelligence Center, NFIC, a move former EFCC Chairman Ibrahim Lamorde vehemently opposed. Available statistics suggest that the bulk of foreign donor support to the EFCC comes because of the NFIU.

When contacted, Barrister Ibekaku expressed satisfaction with the decision of the Court, describing it as victory over impunity.

“We thank God. I just won the case against my wrongful dismissal by the EFCC in the Court this morning. It is a long walk to freedom and a march against impunity.”

Reacting to the judgement, a Civil Society Organisation, Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption-MIIVOC hailed the ruling of the Court, describing it as ‘justice at last’.

Executive Director of the group, Walter Duru argued that Ibekaku’s reinstatement was long overdue, insisting that her victimization and eventual removal from office was a manifestation of the former EFCC leadership’s disregard for the rule of law and due process.

According to Duru, “Ibekaku’s ordeal was a clear case of abuse of office, arbitrariness and criminal intimidation by a supposed anti-graft agency under the leadership of Ibrahim Lamorde. Lamorde’s regime in EFCC remains the worst in the history of the Agency. There is need for a total probe of his administration. Corruption and impunity flourished in the Commission under Lamorde’s watch. The Federal government must seek his repatriation to Nigeria to face prosecution for his atrocities in office.”

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Articles by Chike Duru