By Chukwudi Obi
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) has received heavy knocks from the FCT High Court for unlawfully interfering in what the court adjudged a civil matter arising from simple commercial transaction, which it tried without success to criminalize.
The court presided by Honourable Justice V.V.M. Venda in the strongest of terms lampooned the commission for delving into a matter that does not only fall outside the scope of the ACT establishing it but also smirks of a corrupt interference in what could pass simply as a normal commercial transaction and without criminal undertones. This is the meat of the judgment delivered in Nature Assets Limited v. Aso Savings and Loans Plc on June 27, 2019.
While in the employ of Aso Savings & Loans Plc, Ms. Maimuna Aliyu was assigned the property known as house No. A6 Plot 3111 Cadastral Zonee FFO4, Mpape, FCT, Abuja as performance bonus, in recognition of her exceptional performance on her job role in the financial institution. Upon retirement, she registered the property in the name of her company Nature Assets Limited. Several years after, following Ms. Aliyu’s anti-corruption posture which led to her stepping on “some big toes” in her former employers’ board, attempts were made to dispossess her of the property hitherto given to her as performance bonus. This led to the suit before Hon. Justice VVM Venda.
During the pendency of the suit, the Defendants – Aso Savings and Loans Plc, approached ICPC and got the commission to assist her with forfeiture order against Nature Assets. It should be noted that the facts to be relied upon and evidence are the same as what the Defendants hoped to use in securing their “black market forfeiture order.” ICPC failed to avoid being dragged into this clear abuse of court processes, as it was a ready tool to helping the Defendant in the earlier matter – ASO SAVINGS to achieve her aim.
The ICPC in doing the bidding of her hirers instituted another case in the guise of the Federal Republic of Nigeria against Maimuna Aliyu at FCT High Court, Kwali. The said suit was on the same facts, circumstances and narrations as that pending in before Justice V. V. M. Venda. ICPC sought for and obtained an Interim forfeiture order of the court on the same property, which is subject of litigation before Hon. Justice V. V. M. Venda.
When Ms. Aliyu discovered the corrupt act of the ICPC, she instructed her lawyers to write a petition to the Chief Justice of the FCT High Court. The Order was later set aside.
Reprieve; however came the way of Ms. Aliyu when on June 27, 2019 Hon. Justice V. V. M. Venda gave her judgment on the suit before her.
In the said judgment, the judge held that the allegation of fraud and criminal breach of trust against Ms. Aliyu was not proved. In the words of the Hon. Judge:
“Is a far cry of an attempt to prove a criminal allegation. These allegations of fraud and criminal breach of trust are therefore not proved.”
The Honourable Court further held:
“The Defendant is hereby restrained from forcefully evicting or otherwise dispossessing the Plaintiff of the subject property.”
It is curious to note that Ms. Aliyu has never known rest since her nomination in 2017, into the Board of the ICPC. Notwithstanding that her nomination and that of another were later stood down, no thanks to her detractors, it is such an irony that same commission on whose board she was to serve has become a ready ally of her traducers.
As the ICPC shops for courts to decimate Ms. Aliyu, the God of justice surely has stood in her defence. Recently, the ICPC suffered an embarrassing defeat in a criminal suit she instituted against Maimuna Aliyu before the FCT High Court presided over by Hon. Justice Mamman Nasir.
Nigeria has so many genuine cases of persons who have looted this country dry while occupying elective offices, yet the ICPC has not gone their way in discharge of their constitutional role. It is therefore very worrisome that for three years running, all the commission elects to do is connive with Aso Savings and Loans Plc to seek for means of exhilarating and decimating a law abiding Nigerian Citizen whose only fault is challenging financial impropriety and governance issues in her place of last paid employment.
I have always wondered if the Nigerian people have sat down to ask why Maimuna Aliyu was earlier nominated to serve in the ICPC Board. Why are some persons uncomfortable with her nomination? If Maimuna is corrupt, is it not expected that the corrupt elite would want her in that board to be their eye? These and more need answers.
Let’s hope that ICPC would rebrand and turn a new leaf while ensuring it does not embarrass itself and the government any further.
CHUKWUDI OBI, Writes from Abuja.