The attention of the Management of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has been drawn to a news report containing a statement that its former staff, Mr. Celsus Ukpong, released to the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property (SPIP) on an ad-hoc basis, was dismissed without due process.
The report titled: SPIP DENIES ABUSE OF OFFICE ALLEGATION AGAINST SUSPENDED CHAIRMAN and published in The Nation newspaper of 18th August, 2019 was based on an official statement by a “prosecutor with the SPIP, Oluwatosin Ojaomo” in which the author tried to blame the reported suspension of the Panel’s erstwhile Chairman, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, by the Federal Government on “…’some powerful forces at the corridors of power’ who are uncomfortable with his activities”.
What is most distasteful to the Commission is the reckless attempt by this individual to link ICPC with these so-called “powerful forces”. In his bid to besmirch the Commission in order to “prove” his allegations, he is reported to have asked in the statement inter-alia:
“Is it also a coincidence that the same time Chief Okoi Obono-Obla was alleged to have been suspended on the orders of President Buhari, the head of the legal Unit of the Panel, Celsus Ukpong, was also dismissed by ICPC without any warning or disciplinary committee hearing from him?”.
For the avoidance of doubt, Mr. Celsus Ukpong, a former staff of the Commission who had been released with five other ICPC staff to serve with the SPIP on an ad-hoc basis in 2017, was dismissed from the Commission after due disciplinary procedure had been adhered to.
Mr. Ukpong, had had a history of disciplinary matters involving a series of official misdemeanours – one of which was that he was recalled along with other officers from the SPIP but only he did not comply.
Chief Obono-Obla wrote to complain to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) on Ukpong’s recall but the SGF responded to him (and copied ICPC) that the Commission had the right to recall its staff from any assignment at any time.
Ukpong was later posted to one ICPC state office in an administrative exercise that involved many other officers in December 2018, and was paid his due relocation allowance which he collected but still did not report to the headquarters nor to the new location of posting.
With this catalogue of offences he was given a formal query on 8th February, 2019. Ukpong was thereafter invited to appear before the Commission’s Board Sub-Committee on Staff Welfare and Disciplinary Matters to give him an opportunity of fair hearing on why he refused to comply with lawful directives and why the relocation allowance was not returned to the Commission.
He met with the Sub-Committee on 9th July, 2019 where he was given the opportunity to defend himself against the allegations.
Thereafter, the Sub-Committee made its recommendations to the Board which finally resulted in his dismissal from the service of the Commission on 9th August, 2019, which clearly predates the reported day on which the SPIP Chairman was suspended. This is obviously against the insinuation of Ojaomo that Ukpong’s dismissal “coincides” with Chief Obono-Obla’s suspension.
ICPC therefore wishes to restate that it is an independent corporate organisation with a clear statutory mandate that it seeks to achieve without fear or favour; it is non-partisan, and cannot be manipulated by any individual or group to achieve narrow interests.