……Says it is astonishing that a law firm of a silk can drag the legal profession into the mud
The Deputy General Manager, Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc, (NBET) Sambo Abdullahi has debunked the story published by the Cable.ng that NBET has appeals against the court order on removed internal auditor.
In a right of reply sent to Swift Reporters, Sambo Abdullahi said that the letter dated 17th March, 2020, which was said to have come from Babalakin & Co attached to the Cable.ng story bears no name of the author which is against the tradition of lawyers.
He further said, “An x-ray of Babalakin & Co’s letter shows a clear misrepresentation of fact on what transpired between my good self and NBET and the judgement of the National Industrial Court. It is astonishing that a law firm of a silk can drag the legal profession into the mud. Abdullahi said
Excerpt is the full text of the Right of reply:
Right of Reply
RE: NBET appeals against court order on removed internal auditor
You reported a story on the appeal of the judgement delivered by Hon Justice Oyejoju O. Oyewumi of the National Industrial Court on March 11, 2020, in suit No-NICN/ABJ/349/2018 between Sambo Abdullahi (myself) vs Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET), Dr Marilyn Amobi, Hon. Minister, Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. After evaluating and analysing of the evidence before her, the judge declared and ordered as follows:
- That the suspension of the claimant’s salary and emoluments is wrongful
- That the refusal of his annual leave for 2017 and 2018 is wrongful, and unfair labour practice and against international best practice.
- That his claims for denial on access to National Health Insurance Scheme benefits fails.
- That the second defendant (Dr. Marilyn Amobi) lacks the vires to unilaterally suspend punish and/or withhold the salary, emoluments and all other benefits accrued to the Claimant.
- That the Claimant is entitled to all his salaries and emoluments and all other benefits accruable to him as staff of the first defendant from 22nd December 2017 till today 11th of March, 2020.
- The Claimant claim d fails.
- All sums awarded in this judgement is to be paid within 30 days of this judgement, failure upon which it attracts 21% interest thereon per annum.
I wish to note from the outset of this Right of Reply that the letter dated 17th March, 2020, which was said to have come from Babalakin & Co attached to your story bears no name of the author. This is against the tradition of lawyers. I know very well that all documents so generated in respect of my case by Babalakin & Co have names and seal of lawyers who authored them, and they were properly signed and sealed. This particular letter is suspect!
What I see on this particular letter is an inscription, “Babalakin & Co” as signature. I want to believe that there is no human being bearing Babalakin & Co.
NBET acted on the advice of the law firm of Babalakin & Co in appealing the judgment of the National Industrial Court delivered on the 11th of March 2020, as contained in their letter attached to your story (https://www.thecable.ng/nbet-appeals-against-court-order-on-removed-internal-auditor/amp) dated 17th March, 2020, addressed to the Managing Director, Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc with attention: Dr Marilyn Amobi. An x-ray of Babalakin & Co’s letter shows a clear misrepresentation of fact on what transpired between my good self and NBET and the judgement of the National Industrial Court. It is astonishing that a law firm of a silk can drag the legal profession into the mud. For clarity and integrity, I will respond as follows to the misrepresentation of facts as contained in the letter of Babalakin & Co:
Background: This grossly misrepresented facts and also concealed vital information on what happened in the court. This paragraph failed to give the actual chronicle of the fact of the case. As an appointed NBET head of internal audit, I flagged serious irregularities in the dealings and transactions involving Dr Amobi which she started barely 2 months of her resumption as MD/CEO. These allegations have been confirmed by the EFCC, ICPC, BPP and Auditor General of the Federation in their various reports widely published in both electronic and print media indicting Dr Marilyn Amobi and exonerating me. (https://www.thecable.ng/exposed-how-nbet-md-raked-in-millions-through-fraudulent-contracts)
In an attempt to get me traumatised through the office of the Accountant General of the Federation who was Dr Amobi’s colleague at the defunct Continental Merchant Bank, she redeployed me to Learning and Development unit which I petitioned to then Hon Minister of Power, Works and Housing (the Supervising Ministry). My salary and other emoluments were then stopped via a memo dated 27th December, 2017, pending the outcome of my petition to the Hon Minister. This was contained in the document tendered before the Court and not challenged by either by Dr. Marilyn Amobi or her Counsel Babalakin & Co.
The Ministry on 3 (three) separate occasions directed Dr Marilyn Amobi to rescind her decision on stoppage of my salaries since the Ministerial Committee did not find any wrongdoing on my part. Dr Marilyn Amobi defied the lawful directives of the ministry and this necessitated the then Permanent Secretary (Power), Mr Louis Edozien, to escalate the matter to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on 26th November, 2018, which till date has not said anything on the matter. Because the OSGF kept mute on the matter and the injurious act continued to the extent that my employment was threatened, I approached the National Industrial Court as my last hope on the 7th day of December, 2018.
Review of Judgement– I was perturbed by paragraph 2.1.1 of Babalakin & Co’s letter wherein it alleged that NBET Preliminary Objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court on competency of the suit was not ruled upon in the 11th March, 2020, Judgement of Hon. Justice Oyewumi. This is not true as the decision of the Court is contained in page 13 of the copy of the judgement attached to the story published by TheCable. Also, Paragraph 2.1.2 of the same letter misconstrued and misinterpreted the Federal Government Circular on dissolution of Board dated 14th August, 2015. The said circular clearly directed all the Chief Executive Officers of parastatals, NBET inclusive, to refer all matters requiring the attention of the Board to the President through the Permanent Secretary (PS) of their supervising ministry. For avoidance of doubt, Dr Amobi since her assumption of office in August 2016 has been complying strictly to this circular to the extent that she receives directives from the PS (Power). It may interest you to note that as at 30th December, 2016, a clear 19 months after the pioneer Board of NBET was dissolved, Dr Amobi’s annual leave was sought and approved by PS (Power).
By an email between Dr Amobi and PS (Power) in which I was copied, she acknowledged and confirmed the supervisory role of the ministry of power over NBET where she wrote “Thank you very much for granting me the opportunity to have this 5 days working annual leave, ………. Sambo Abdullahi will be available to attend any engagement. He will also steer forward strategies to implement any directives that you set out for NBET. Of course, if there are things that statutorily I should not do during this 5 days, and whilst I am on annual vacation, I am very confident that Sambo will make appropriate decision that would promote the public interest whilst being in the best interest of the organization. He comes highly recommended”. (Emphasis are mine).
From this paragraph and the findings of the court, it is a clear fact that Ministry of Power has supervisory role over NBET. Dr Marilyn Amobi’s refusal to pay my salaries despite the ministry’s directives is unconscionable act which was supposed to have ended with the judgment of 11th March, 2020.
Lawyers are supposed to be ministers in the temple of justice. As such, a lawyer is supposed to advise his/her client without fear or favour truthfully. Paragraph 2.1.3 of Babalakin & Co’s letter is another clear misrepresentation of what happened in the court. The letter dated 20th March 2018 was admitted in court as Exhibit SA18 and a clear preview of Babalakin & Co’s final written address signed by one Olayinka I. Arasi Esq on behalf of NBET and Dr. Marilyn Amobi, did not challenge or object to the admissibility of the document. Other documents they challenged were succinctly dealt with by Hon. Justice Oyewumi in her judgement. It beats my imagination for a lawyer who had in his address confirmed that Exhibit SA18 was admissible to turn round and inform his client that he objected to same, but the court did not rule on it. Court proceedings are public documents. Dr. Marilyn Amobi should do herself a favour by obtaining the Certified True Copy of the proceedings and confirm the concocted stories bandied in the advice of BABALAKIN & CO.
I want to believe that the law firm of Babalakin & Co was ill briefed on the issue of the alleged Disciplinary Hearing Committee (DHC) proceeding which was orchestrated 12 months after the stoppage of my salary and other emoluments. Babalakin & Co alleged in their letter that the DHC was diversionary as same was constituted for an entirely different infraction(s).
It is important to appreciate the chronology of events in NBET after the stoppage of my salaries to the setting up of the DHC. The allegation being tried by the DHC were already in public domain months before I was alleged to have divulged same.
The DHC committee were members of the NBET Parastatal Tenders Board who are part of the approval of the fraudulent activities I raised audit queries on which necessitated the stoppage of my salaries and which was being investigated by anti-graft agencies then. The complainant (Ms. Itohan Ehiede) was also part of the judges. There is nowhere in the whole world you can be a judge in your own case.
In fact, it was documented to the management that considering the composition of the DHC membership, I cannot get fair hearing. Expectedly, two of the DHC members were lawyers who ought to rightly recuse themselves having registered my fear of denial of fair hearing via memos to the DHC. The DHC was also one characterised by violation of the NBET Human Resources Policy Manual and other extant circulars.
On the issue of denial of annual leave, it is common sense and the practice in the civil service that all leave should adhere to the policy of the organization. For NBET, it is compulsory that I obtain the approval of my line manager before proceeding on annual leave which I sought and secured from Mr Abba Aliyu, GM, Project, Research, Learning and Development, contrary to when I was head of internal audit where I was expected to obtain approval from Dr. Amobi who was my line manager in that department.
The leave for 2017 was approved by my line manager, but returned by Ms. Itohan Ehiede (Head, Corporate Services) which prevented me from proceeding on the leave till date. NOTE: Ms Itohan Ehiede is not Abba Aliyu’s line manager. I was perturbed by the authority exercised by Ms Itohan Ehiede over my leave till date. The court held that this was wrongful.
Recommendations/ further steps: Paragraph 3.1.1 recommended to Dr. Amobi to proceed on appeal based on the grounds debunked above. The suggested recommendation for stay of execution was to further dehumanise me and my family for exposing fraudulent activities running into billions of naira perpetrated by Dr Marilyn Amobi.
The law firm of Babalakin & Co also recommended to Dr. Marilyn Amobi to continue disciplinary hearing proceedings which she started in 2018 to punish me for an act which the anti-graft agencies and the court had vindicated me and indicted Dr. Marilyn Amobi on. The law firm also suggested that Dr Marilyn Amobi should set up a fresh or new disciplinary hearing committee to try me for an offence which is yet to be committed: https://www.thecable.ng/nigeria-how-not-to-fight-corruption/amp; https://www.thecable.ng/icpc-to-prosecute-nbet-md-indicts-her-of-fraud
Babalakin & Co in paragraph 3.1.2 advised further that the new DHC which Dr. Marilyn Amobi will set up should comply strictly with NBET Human Resources Policy Manual in order not to give any room for a successful challenge of NBET’s action in court. Paragraph 3.1.5 further advised that, I “may be suspended with half or no pay” pending the endorsement of the DHC recommendation to none existing NBET Board Committee on HR.
By this suggestion of Babalakin & Co, it literarily means that the law firm admitted that NBET and its management have not been complying with the approved NBET HR policy manual. How does the law firm of Babalakin & Co fit into the operation and policy of NBET by making such suggestions? What is the legal profession turning to if this is coming from a learned silk’s office?
CONCLUSION: SUMMARY OF COURT JUDGEMENT
In as much as every individual is entitled to his personal view and observation, I wish to unequivocally make the following review of the court judgement of Hon Justice Oyewumi delivered on 11th March, 2020, as my own understanding and perspective: A closer look at the 23-page judgement gives an insight to her Lordship’s stand on each order pronounced.
On the wrongful suspension of my salary and emoluments, the judge on pages 19-20 confirmed that my remuneration was stopped long before disciplinary process was taken against me. This in her words was putting the cart before the horse. It is germane to state that my salary was stopped since 27th December 2017 and I was issued a query in 2018 for absence without leave which was never a reason adduced in a memo communicating the stoppage of my salary. More so, the court said that assuming but not conceding that absenteeism was a ground for the stoppage of my salary, the stipulated procedures as contained in the NBET Human Resources Policy Manual which governs the relationship and conditions of service between NBET and myself was never followed by NBET.
On the wrongful refusal of my annual leave for 2017 and 2018, the judge noted that it was unfair labour practice and against international best practice. “It is trite in the world of work that annual leave is a statutory right of an employee and every employee is entitled to same. In fact, the contract of claimant’s employment recognizes his right to leave as expounded in Exhibit SA9”. Her Lordship went further to support her stand with ILO Convention C32 Revision in 1970 for holiday with pay.
Dr Marilyn Amobi (2nd defendant) was said to lack the vires to unilaterally suspend, punish and/or withhold the salary, emoluments, and all other benefits accruable to me. Successfully, this matter broadly shows the power of the Hon Minister of Power on its supervisory role over NBET and its management. The Minister by the Guideline Regulating the Relationship Between Parastatal/State Owned Companies has power to direct the Boards of any parastatal under it on issues which border on policy that affects conditions of service of staff. The Minister in this regard is the Minister of Power as same was confirmed by NBET through its sole witness (Ms. Itohan Ehiede) where she confirmed before the court that NBET and its management since the dissolution of the pioneer board in 2015 has been taking instructions from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and that Dr. Amobi attended and cooperated fully with the ministerial committee on NBET staff matters which she accompanied her. The import of which is that Dr. Amobi agreed to the supervision of Ministry of Power, Works and Housing through the Minister over the management of NBET.
Furthermore, the court confirmed the provision of the above guideline on the issue that the Board of any parastatal under it and/or even the Managing Director i.e. in this case MD NBET must consult the Minister (Minister of Power, Works and Housing) before any change in policy which bothers on public interest and/or can generate public controversy. By this pronouncement of the judge, we can safely conclude that the Accountant General of the Federation erred in his duty by posting its staff to NBET without recourse or request for the approval of the supervising ministry through the NBET MD/CEO, as posting of treasury staff to NBET (Finance and Internal Audit) bothers on policy issues in which Dr. Marilyn Amobi must secure approval from the Minister of Power before implementing same. The court affirmed that the Board is responsible for the conditions of service of staff in any organization. Salary and emoluments bother on conditions of service. Dr Marilyn Amobi was held to lack the vires to unilaterally suspend my salaries.
The crown of the judgement was the order of the judge for the payment of my salary and emoluments and all other benefits accruing to me as staff of NBET since 22nd December 2017 when same were stopped. On this, the judgement reads at page 21: “It is right to re-emphasis that claimant’s employment in this case has not been determined but that his salary and other entitlement were withheld by the 1st and 2nd defendants. I have held Supra that the 1st and 2nd defendants, contrary to its terms and conditions of service withheld the claimant’s salary and other emoluments wrongfully. Although, the 1st and 2nd defendants argued that he did not work as stated by his line manager vide Exhibit SA13, I find from Exhibit SA13 that his line manager did in fact state at paragraph 1 of that memo to the 2nd defendant that he engaged the claimant on different tasks. The import of which is that the claimant did actually work and thus entitled to be paid his salaries and emoluments.”
THE ABOVE QUOTATION CONNOTES JUSTICE FOR THE OPPRESSED!
Deputy General Manager
Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc, (NBET)