By Aderogba George
Sustainable Initiative for Nurturing Growth (SING), a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), has called for a mechanism to strengthen legal instruments to punish public officials who abuse power for selfish reasons.
The acting Executive Director of SING, Dr Itari Turner, made the call in Abuja on Monday at a news conference in respect to a judgment by the National Industrial Court, delivered by Justice Rakiya Haastrup, in March.
Turner disclosed that the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), an agency of the Federal Government, had in June 2021 dismissed two of its directors, Mr Mohammed Mustapha and Ms Fehintola Salisu on allegations of gross misconduct in their offices.
The acting Executive Director of the CSO hinted that the duo had approached the National Industrial Court following their dismissal, and the court granted their claims in its judgment.
She said that the court in its judgment ordered that the claimants be reinstated, but the agency (NFIU) had yet to comply with the judgment in March.
Turner quoted Justice Haastrup as saying that the dismissal of the duo was in contravention of the law, as against the claim of NFIU that the dismissal was done in line with the recommendations of the disciplinary committee constituted by the Executive Director of the agency.
She also said that the court judgment highlighted a major contradiction in the NFIU position that the disciplinary committee found the duo guilty of negligence, dereliction of duty and insubordination, different from the allegations levelled against them in the queries issued to them.
She further quoted the Judge as saying that the punishment of dismissal meted out to the duo was not commensurate with the allegations they were said to be guilty of.
Turner quoted the Judge as describing it as an unlawful dismissal of the staff, pointing out that NFIU did not have any condition of service in existence, and that the provision of the Public Service Rules (PSR) was only the instrument that can be used to discipline the duo.
She also quoted the Judge as saying that under the PSR, “it is the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) that could take a disciplinary action against them, which the Executive Director of the agency has the power to initiate.”
Meanwhile, the CSO, through its acting Executive Director, stated that the action of the NFIU, based on the facts presented by the court, was an arbitrary abuse of power.
She called for a mechanism to strengthen legal instruments to punish public officials who abuse power for selfish reasons.
“At the core of our operations at SING, Nigeria is our devotion to ensure that public officers mandatorily comply with various codes of ethics in government business.
“They are expected to, at all times, and in all matters display efficiency, honesty, integrity, transparency and impartiality.
“As an organisation that is committed to working with stakeholders to ensure transparency and regards for the rule of law in the nation’s public service, and without prejudice to NFIU’s constitutional right to appeal the judgment of the court.
“We deemed the actions of NFIU, based on facts presented by the court, arbitrary and an abuse of power.
“In this case, the NFIU jettisoned the provision of the PSR which specified that the affected staff of the agency can only be disciplined in line with rules and standard of the FCSC.
“A situation where the leadership of the NFIU instituted disciplinary actions against its staff, and became the arbiter in the same case, contravenes the disciplinary provisions stipulated by FCSC,” Turner stressed.
She, therefore, called for a mechanism to strengthen legal instruments to punish public officials who abuse power and to serve as a deterrent to others.
She also called on the NFIU to obey the court judgment, stressing that rule of law must be firm and be made to work in the country. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by AbdulFatai Beki/Vivian Ihechu