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Monday, July 22, 2024

Anambra Revenue Officers Demand Justice over Unlawful Arrest and Character Defamation by Director


By Izunna Okafor, Awka

The Head, Backduty Audit & Investigations, Anambra Internal Revenue Revenue (AIRS), Mr. Francis T. Ezenwa has called for justice the immediate remediation of damages caused to his image and the violation of his human rights by the Executive Director of Operations, Dr. Christian Madubuko.

This was contained in a copy of petition obtained by this reporter, Izunna Okafor, over his recent arrest facilitated by Dr. Madubuko, as well as some viral publications that recently trended with his name and videos alleging that he was arrested alongside other illegal revenue collectors in the state, for diversion of government’s revenue to his private pocket, among other financial crimes and allegations levelled against him alongside another senior officer, Chika H. Ofomata.

It would be recalled that the viral videos and reports, tagged ”Jubilation in Anambra as AIRS arrests 5 with arms, 2 tax officials”, which were first published on the Opera News ( http://opr.news/5b6d7123230713en_ng?link=1&client=news) and on City Post blog ( https://citypost.com.ng/2023/07/13/video-jubilation-in-anambra-as-airs-arrests-5-with-arms-2-tax-officials/ ), have also been trending on the social media space and other online platforms since Wednesday.

The publications also showed shots of Mr. Ezenwa and another senior personnel of the Service Mr. Ofomata as they were being marshalled into a Black Maria at the AIRS Headquarters in Awka on Wednesday, by the officials of the Department of State Service (DSS), while Dr. Madubuko instructed some junior officers in the Agency to videotape them. They were thereafter, driven to the DSS Headquarters in Anambra, in the process of which they (the accused) sustained various degrees of injuries.

Narrating his ordeal in the petition, Mr. Ezenwa said the whole drama started on Tuesday, July 11, 2023 when he called Dr. Madubuko back on phone after missing his calls earlier; and he (Madubuko) replied him “No problem Francis, we will see tomorrow”.

He said while in his office the following day (Wednesday), Madubuko sent for him and another senior officer, Mr. Chika Herbert Ofomata, who is the H.O.D., Direct Assessments. He explained that when they came, he (Madubuko) gave him a letter that he (Ezenwa) signed on behalf of former Chairman of the Agency, concerning the Unity Bank Plc 2015/16 tax audit/judgment liability, dated September 2 2022 and referenced AIRS/BDWHT/CORR./2291/001; and then asked him what he knew about the document. He said he also asked Mr. Ofomata same about the one he signed for HPZ Ltd, as authorised and later ratified by then-Chairman of AIRS.

According to him, he replied that the documents looked like Backduty Matters, and therefore requested to be allowed to bring the respective Backduty files and the File Movement Register in his office, for a clearer/fuller picture of the details of the documents; and which he immediately sent someone else to bring, without leaving the office or going out to get them by himself, so as not to be suspected or accused of compromising the files in the process of bringing them.

Continuing, Ezenwa said when the files were brought, he diligently showed Dr. Madubuko all the documentations uptill the former Chairman’s authorization for letter to be written to the Unity Bank which was distrained (sealed) back then, and which was seeking to be unsealed after paying off some parts of the debts they were owing the State. He explained that the then Chairman of AIRS authorized that a letter be written to the Bank then to pay-in more money to reduce their remaining debt, before they would be given a listening ear on their request to be unsealed.

He said, “This payment typically has never been a waiver or revision of liability, but an administrative/practicable approach to get the distrained entity to make some payment as soon as possible while the AIRS has the advantage of the entity remaining sealed in the interim. This is also pursuant to the understanding that ‘one naira today is bigger than one naira tomorrow.’”

“My professional qualification & years of private tax practice and at present, public tax administration have proven that it’s an effective revenue administration tool.

“Madubuko took the files and handed them to his fair-skinned assistant (002 AIRS)/Second, as he tags himself 001 AIRS. I told him him immediately ‘Sir, if you’d take/keep the files, please sign my File Movement Register, that’s my SOP at the Backduty Department.’ He visibly became incensed by my audacity. However, he did demonstrate that he has signed, and instead of handing the register to my staff, he asked his ‘’002’’ to seize the File Movement Register as well. To what end? To destroy my possible defence evidence/documents by ensuring that it goes missing in the file?”

Narrating further, he said “In any case, Dr. Madubuko told us ‘I’m sorry, I am placing you under arrest for the letters you signed’; and he therefore signaled his “002’’ to collect our phones, which he did immediately, and escorted us to the awaiting AIRS Blackmaria.

“Meanwhile, with both of us inside the Blackmaria under the live video coverage of his ‘’002’’ and supposed ABS staff, he granted a press interview, with us inside.

“The Black Maria drove us like ‘thieves’ (as Madubuko alleged us to be), as I sustained bruises from the falls I had as a result of the driver’s intentional reckless driving and sudden braking, all the way to the DSS State HQ, where we were marshalled into the interrogation office.

“Our phones, having already been seized by Madubuko (a civilian), were handed over to the interrogating officer who obtained our phone security locks with which they accessed (and screened) our phones.

“The interrogating officer asked us to identify ourselves, told us about the petition from Madubuko against us, to which Madubuko himself affirmed. He thereafter, when Madubuko continued to interject/ could not allow him to ask us questions as he wished, requested him to excuse us, i.e. having petitioned and brought the ‘suspects’ to them. The officer sent for statement forms for us to fill, and directed the investigating officer to ensure that the contents of the petition were read to us clearly before we made our representations. That was how we got to know the subject/heading of the petition.

“Upon sign-off on the Statement Form, my I.D card was taken and photocopied, while my phone was returned to me. The Ag. Chairman AIRS made arrangements for our journey back to the Revenue House at about 3:00pm on same day with an official vehicle, to the waiting arms of visibly-hurt colleagues whose pride of service was raped by Madubuko through his show of shame.”

Corroborating Mr. Ezenwa’s experience, the other senior officer official of the AIRS arrested, Mr. Ofomata, in his own petition decried the treatment he got from Madubuko and asked Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo to call him to order; even as he demanded an unreserved written apology published on national dailies and online media platforms, from Dr. Madubuko.

He said, “Dr. Madubuko was intentional about what he did to me as narrated above, and took laws into his hands just to humiliate me and tarnish my image and as a human being and a very senior Civil Servant. His act of intimidation is totally unacceptable to me.”

Continuing in his own narration in his petition, Mr. Ezenwa said that after they were released by the DSS, he was shocked to see some publications and videos going viral on the internet labelling him be a thief and diverter of government’s revenue, in addition to the allegations of economic sabotage, insubordination, diversion of government revenue to private pockets, which Mr. Madubuko already levelled against him through his petition to the DSS headquarters. He said the reports, videos and photos of his unlawful arrest were also published online alongside some suspected illegal revenue collectors arrested with guns, thereby making it to appear as if he was one of the illegal revenue collectors arrested with guns.

This reporter also obtained some files and publications showing the allegations and accusations levelled against Ezenwa, as well as files to disprove them all and buttress his innocence.

In a move to clean up and remedy the stains already caused on his public image, and the health breakdown and psychological disturbance caused by Dr. Madubuko’s actions and allegations, Mr. Ezenwa, who is a Chartered Accountant with over decade experience in public service, as well as a community leader and the current Vice Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) Awka & District Society, said he was already taking some actions and steps.

It was gathered Ezenwa had petitioned some relevant stakeholders in the State, being himself a public servant who knows the rules. He also called for certain actions from and against Dr. Madubuko who initiated and facilitated the entire drama without any consideration on its implications.

“Mr. Madubuko, by his allegation, action, and online crucifixion, has caused me reputational damage, health breakdown and psychological disturbance,” he decried.

On what should be to remedy the situation, Mr. Ezenwa who listed about eight demands, called for Dr. Madubuko to be relieved of his duty, and also demanded an apology from him, which he said would be published on mainstream online and print media; among other demands he made.

Listing his prayers in the petition, he said, “A relief of duty of Christian Madubuko by the Governor of Anambra State from the Revenue Administration of Anambra State, for serial abuse of office, scandals and of sorts of unwholesome practices traceable to him and his team of non-state actors/ touts amongst whom one is nicked “Ekwensu Anaku”. Anambra has grown past this kind of brutish public service.

“A categorical disclaimer memo from AIRS or ANSG from the activities of Madubuko with respect to his actions against me yesterday.

“An apology on mainstream online and print media to remedy the maliciously-intended reputational damage by Madubuko.

“An apology (in writing) to the Anambra Civil Service Commission and Head of Service for usurping their powers and treating one of its subject disrespectfully, from Madubuko.

“An independent investigation by the Governor, into the activities, funding and modus operandi of Madubuko and his team/squad. Further investigation into all Backduty Audit orders executed by Madubuko and team without recourse to the Legal department and Compliance Unit of AIRS. This is amongst the main reasons he wants me out of AIRS, because I’m the Head of Legal and the former Head of Compliance…

“A monetary compensation of N10,000,000 for costs incurred to defend myself to the appropriate authorities, media and all other related circles, cost of medical and psychotherapy being undergone etc, by Madubuko.

“A medical examination of Christian Madubuko by a competent Medical practitioner to ascertain his mental/ psychological wellbeing.

“Retrieval of Backduty files for Unity Bank and HPZ ltd, together with the Backduty Department’s file movement register which he seized after I insisted that he, Madubuko, would sign on it. Was he afraid of losing his case? Thankfully, I have my own copies of the file.”

Mr. Ezenwa further said that failure to fulfill these demands of his within a specified period of time would make him have no option but to seek further administrative-cum-legal options to get immediate justice.

All efforts by this reporter, Izunna Okafor, to contact Dr. Madubuko for his reaction and his own side of the story, proved abortive, as his phone number was not connecting, while he he did not also respond to the message sent to him to that effect.

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