From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Two directors of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), sacked over alleged insubordination for responding to an international request on financial transactions involving former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, have dragged the agency before the National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja.
Before they were controversially dismissed from office in June 2021, the claimants, Mohammed Mustapha Abdulrahman and Fehintola Salisu served as associate directors in charge of Intelligence and Investigation, and Compliance and Analysis, respectively.
But in the suit marked NICN/ABJ/253/2021, the claimants prayed the court to set aside their dismissal from public service, which they said was done in contravention of the law.
They informed the court that their ordeal began last year after they acted on an EGMONT group request from Malta, requesting details of transactions linked to the former vice president and his business partner, Gabrielle Volphi.
As the most senior person in the organisation, in the absence of the Director of NFIU, Modibbo Hamman-Tukur, Ms Salisu initiated action to respond to the request for information as expected by the partner organisation in Malta.
Mr Abdulrahman also wrote to investigative authorities in Nigeria requesting details about the subjects.
But NFIU’ Director, in separate queries, served the two officials later, accused them of bypassing his authorisation before acting on the EGMONT Group request.
Like Atiku, Hamman-Tukur also hailed from Adamawa State.
The duo was indefinitely suspended after they were queried in August 2020.
Six months after they were placed on suspension, they were invited to appear before Appointments, Promotions and Disciplinary Committe in February.
After submission of the committee’s report, the two were issued with dismissal letters, though the committee did not outrightly recommend their dismissal.
In its report, the committee indicted the two of “negligence and insubordination” which it said could attract “maximum punishment of dismissal” but recommended that Mr Hamman-Tukur used his discretion in view of the long years of service of the two persons.
The NFIU’s director opted to dismiss the two staff who were first employed in 2004 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In the suit filed by their counsel, P.T. Akan Esq., the plaintiffs prayed for an order setting aside the findings and recommendations of the committee on appointments, promotions and discipline constituted by the director, upon which the NFIU, the 2nd defendants in the matter relied upon to dismiss the claimants.
They prayed the court to determine the following: “Whether in the light of Rules 030102 of Chapter 3 of the federal government public service rules, 2008, the defendants are vested with the power to dismiss the claimants from its services without such power expressly delegated to them by the Federal Civil Service Commission.
“Whether within the meaning and definition of Section 1 of Chapter 16, Rules 160101 and 060102 of the Federal Government Public Service Rules, 2008, the 1st defendant NFIU does not qualify as parastatal. And if it is, whether the defendants are not bound to comply strictly with the provisions of the Public Service Rules, 2008 before dismissing the claimants from its service.”
They also prayed the court to declare the following: A declaration that the purported dismissal of the claimants from the Service of the 1st defendant by the defendants is arbitrary and unlawful and consequently null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
“An order of this Honourable Court directing the Defendants to issue a letter recalling and re-instating the Claimants into the Public Service of the 1st defendant and restoring all the privileges, entitlements and positions held by the Claimants before their purported dismissal by the defendants.
“An order of this Honourable Court directing the Defendants to pay to the Claimants’ salaries, allowances and all their entitlements from the period of their purported dismissal to the period of reinstatement.”
In the affidavit in support of the originating summons, the plaintiffs said the probe by the disciplinary committee was not transparent as it was shrouded in secrecy and in clear violations of public service rules.
They said the director of NFIU has no justification to dismiss them from service because they were subject to disciplinary action for up to nine months from when they were issued with a letter of query to when they were issued with a letter of dismissal.