The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons has begun an investigation of two senior officials in the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, over alleged involvement in human trafficking.
They are the Chief Accountant on Grade Level 14, Innocent Bola-Audu, who was sacked a few days ago as President of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, and an Assistant Executive Officer on Grade Level 13, Cecilia Aneke.
It was gathered that the investigation had caused panic in the office of the AGF as there were fears that more officials could be linked to the alleged human trafficking.
It learnt that the fear was rampant among senior staff and the management cadre in the office.
The letter was titled, ‘Update on investigation activities: Bola Audu-Innocent, Aneke Cecilia Nkiruka.’
The agency’s letter copies of which were sent to the Office of Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan and Secretary-General of ASCSN, Alade Lawal, was signed by NAPTIP Director (Administration), Effeh P. Ekrika, for its director-general.
It stated, “I am directed to respectfully inform you that the agency has commenced investigation on above named staff of your organisation concerning a suspected case of human trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable persons involving them, contrary to the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
“While appreciating your supporting in the fight against human trafficking and its associated crimes, please accept as always the assurance of the director-general’s esteemed regard.”
The PUNCH gathered on Sunday that the Office of the AGF had begun its investigations into the allegation against the officials.
Our correspondent sighted a query issued Audu-Innocent, where he was ordered to respond within 48 hours.
The two-paragraphed query by the Office of the AGF with Ref. ADM/DISC/05/110, dated March 11 2021 was issued by the Deputy Director (Appointment, Promotion and Discipline), V. O. Wategire on behalf of the AGF.
“I am directed to inform you that the office received a letter the from the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons concerning a suspected case of human trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable persons in which your name featured (copy attached). In view of the above, you are requested to submit your comments on the matter within 48 hours of the receipt of this letter”, it read.
Recall that on Thursday, the Secretary-General of the ASCSN, Alade Lawal, announced the replacement of Bola-Audu with Dr Tommy Etim Okon, as its acting national president to steer its affairs, barely one year after his election, citing “certain unforeseen development that stares the union in the face.”
Bola-Audu was elected President during the 4th Quadrennial National Delegates Conference of the ASCSN in Abuja in July 2020.
When contacted, Bola-Audu confirmed to The PUNCH that he was arrested by NAPTIP and detained for two weeks over alleged human trafficking but was not told who sent a petition against him.
According to him, he was “not removed” by the ASCSN but told “to step aside”, describing it as illegal.
He said, “If they want to perpetrate their illegality. They should be ready to face the law and defend their illegality. All I know is that I was arrested by NAPTIP, alleging that I was suspected of trafficking in persons. They never showed me anybody who complained. They said they were still investigating me. They detained me for two weeks.
“Rather than the leadership of the union to rally round me, they went and started calling meetings to say that I should step aside. I don’t know when allegation has become an indictment.
“I don’t want you to swallow just what they have told you hook, line and sinker. You see a lot of stories have been going on that are not correct and at the appropriate time, I will issue a statement. We all know when people are trying to hide under half truths to make a point.
“Look at our constitution and ask them relevant questions. It is not removal but they said step aside which is strange to the constitution of the union.
When asked if he would go to court to challenge the decision, he said “all options are on the table.”