I almost took my own life because of the ACC – says professor unjustly criminalised

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 September 2020:

A university professor from Nigeria, who has lived and worked in Sierra Leone for several years, last year became the subject of gross abuse of human rights and injustice in the hands of the Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), after he  was arrested and locked up behind bars for allegedly falsifying his qualifications. (Photo above – ACC chief, left – with president Bio).

It is a case that could have ended in human tragedy, despite all appeals by the arrested professor Emmanuel Femi Gbenga Ajayi, pleading to the ACC that they got their facts wrong.

After  months of investigation – wasting public resources on a fraud case that never was – and at a cost of thousands of dollars to the tax payer, not to speak of professor Emmanuel Femi Gbenga Ajayi’s lost earnings, he has been found innocent by the ACC, and vindicated. His qualifications are all in order.

Professor Emmanuel Femi Gbenga Ajayi, has been exonerated by the ACC after he was victimized, arrested, detained, and humiliated by the Anti-Corruption Commission.

But sadly, the professor has been left mentally broken, with his university career and reputation in tatters, while corrupt officials in high places in the government and parliament are protected from investigation and arrest by the ACC.

Speaking at a press conference two days ago, Professor Emmanuel Femi Gbenga Ajayi said: “No expression could possibly encapsulate what I went through, I nearly went mad! I lost appetite, could not sleep nor answer the call of nature properly. Imagine waking up in the morning with nothing to do, for 231 days while I was under investigation by ACC? My ordeal is rather imagined, than experienced.

“The way ACC handled my case, to say the least, is very unfair. If I were a Sierra Leonean, would they have done that? And upon all the reputational damages done to me, there is no remorse and no apology.”

This is the statement released by Professor Emmanuel Femi Gbenga Ajayi last Wednesday 9th September 2020, telling his tragic story in his own words:

“I was invited for an interview scheduled for 18th July 2019 at 10 am by ACC, over anonymous allegations of forged results and impersonation, amongst other unprintable fabrications of lies, to “pull me down” (PhD).

“On arrival the interview started. All sorts of questions were posed to me by six officials, all my results were thoroughly examined, ditto my previous appointments, my publications, and copies of all my results were deposited.

“The interview turned to stressful interrogation and at about 4:30 pm, I was thoroughly fagged out and I pleaded that, I should be allowed to go home, and that if my attention is needed, I shall return. I was rudely told that I cannot until I meet with the ACC Commissioner. I was taken to his office and tersely, he told me that I was under arrest! ACC threw me into police cell, like a common criminal. I nearly fainted when the gates of CID HQs, closed behind me.

“What started like a drama, became an event that lasted for 231 days of humiliation, arrest and detention.

“On 18th July Sept 2019, the two certificates which were originally queried, arrived from Nigeria that I indeed earned them genuinely; but ACC did not believe the authenticity of the results, a development which prompted ACC to dispatch officials to Nigeria; thereat, six institutions spread across the vast country were visited and seven of my results that I obtained from Nigeria, were personally confirmed by ACC officials, as genuine.

“ACC officials came back from Nigeria in October 2019, and another round of investigations aimed at nailing me commenced, but I thank God for seeing me through the ordeal.

“I suffered so much that, despite my overflowing armory of grammatical expressions, I have not been able to find the right words, to express my feelings. You can imagine a bubbling person with such a very high academic profile, reduced to nothing by ACC.

“No expression could possibly encapsulate what I went through, I nearly went mad! I lost appetite, could not sleep nor answer the call of nature properly. Imagine waking up in the morning with nothing to do, for 231 days while I was under investigation by ACC? My ordeal is rather imagined, than experienced.

“The way ACC handled my case, to say the least, is very unfair. If I were a Sierra Leonean, would they have done that? And upon all the reputational damages done to me, there is no remorse and no apology.

“How do you make such hullabaloo over anonymous allegations? ACC should not have investigated those spurious allegations, better still, they could do so underground and if found guilty, then the press can be invited. My case went viral, all known medium of communications, to wit, Radio, TV, Newspapers and the Internet carried my news as a criminal, and that accounts for why I have not been able to get another appointment whether in SL or elsewhere in the world.

“Can you imagine that I was living in an incomplete house?; in my culture as a Yoruba man, only the lunatics live in incomplete houses; my gratitude in that respect, goes to those who housed me, they are Sierra Leonean UK based Mr. Lawal and USA based Ms Zainab Kebbie.

“I was able to survive the trauma by the special grace of God and people who stood by me. First, is the Nigerian Ambassador to SL, Dr. Ibrahim Habiss Ugbada, the HOC Sona Charles, President of Nigeria in Diaspora Engr. Abiodun Oyebola, Sec Gen Bala Tijani, Dr. Mrs Fela Adeyemi, Chief Mrs. Kemi Lawal, Engr Ola Ogunfehintimi, and Sierra Leonean Mr. Horace Kpakra, Mrs. Regina Kamara, Godfrey Sandi and above all, the Human Right Group Native Consortium headed by Edmond Abu that have been there right through till date.

“My profound gratitude also goes to Prof Mallam O. Sankoh the current Ag Vice Chancellor Njala University, for his intervention and support, and all my colleague lecturers and students, who in diverse ways empathize with me through those dark days of my life!!!

“As human beings, we are cannot do without hurting one another. All through my ordeal, I took solace in Late Nelson Mandela’s exemplary life and words on the marble, which neither rain nor shine, could obliterate.

“Regarding his words while stepping into freedom after 27 years of solitary confinement at Roben Island… He said, if I do not forgive the injustices done to me, I would for as long as I live, still be in prison.

“On above note, I sincerely aver that I have forgiven all the injustices meted to me. Am no longer bitter. If God were not with me…see Psalm 124

“Please quote me “Life is an experience…full of ups and downs… if everything is rosy and smooth, the propensity of self-celebration would be hyper; when you pass through storm, you cannot be same again. I think I am a better person now, having gone through storms, in the last fifteen months.

“Am profusely thankful to God and the people He used, to see me through. I fervently pray that what happened to me, shall not be your portion in Jesus name Ammmmeeeeennnnnn!!!”

Signed: Prof. EFG Ajayi, BSc (Hons), MBA, MA, M. Intl Law, LL B, LL M, PhD, BL, FIIU.

You can watch the press conference below:

 

12 Comments

  1. Ok let me get something clear. Professor Gbenga arrived on the shores of Sierra Leone with all his accumulated degrees. He applied for a job in one of our Universities. No due diligence was done to verify his certificates. Is this the way our country is run? Best still, the professor was made Head of Department. How did they accept him as a professor if he had no academic publications in his name?

    All of what the professor went through and what the ACC did could have been avoided if only someone did their job to verify the professor’s certificates before he was employed. Sierra Leone is in a real mess if this is how recruitments are done.

  2. This situation is unfortunate just like what most Nigerians are facing around the world. Unfortunately, most countries perception about Nigerians is that they are the most corrupt people in the world which explains why they have been sometimes treated harshly. Even neighboring country like Ghana has always treated them with suspicion.

    But the unfortunate reality is the few bad Nigerians all over the world have helped validate that perception based on their bad and criminal behaviors in trying to beat every system in order to survive. They recently faced challenges in South Africa and were even banned from entering the USA. The reality is, they are one of the most educated and industrious people around the world.

    The good news is Professor Ajayi has been exonerated, and the current President of Nigeria is serious about transforming that stereotype image of corruption just like the same as Commissioner Ben Kaifala who is trying his best to transform Sierra Leone once again to the “Athens of West Africa” through the “War against corruption” especially in education. In any war, there is “ collateral damage” which unfortunately happened to the professor.

  3. Senesie Junior Boima, a significant number of people would agree with you. The fundamental problem people have with ACC is their lack of even-handedness in executing their tasks. They make fish or foul of the same circumstances depending on who or what is involved, it implies a lack of total professionalism. The example of the Indian doctor is frightening , but it’s even more frightening for a poor and corruption infested country like Sierra Leone. It’s quite conceivable that had the doctor ended up in Sierra Leone and greased a few hands he would have killed more people with impunity.

    Our corrupt politicians are indirectly killing people everyday anyway by doing nothing to improve living conditions. How many people in our dear country can take a medical leave of absence like President Bio? Much of the nation is screaming at ACC to get them to do a better job even accounting for human frailty which allowed the Indian “doctor of death “ to slip into Australia unnoticed. And Australia is a developed nation.

    At this moment in our history we are very vulnerable because our institutions are going from worse to worst. Those that we depend on to make laws to protect us (parliament) are currently fighting for their credibility. Where do we turn as orphans? I have no doubt that the Australian authorities are going to institute the most rigid conditions for admitting foreign trained doctors into their country henceforth. Could we expect something similar in Sierra Leone where the chief minister is on video tape encouraging corruption together with his PhD and professorship?

  4. I keep maintaining that Ben Kaifala and his team have lost track. They are extremely poor investigators. Their mistakes and amateurism are beyond words – not even a novice can be associated with them. The public should take a closer look at the ACC to see whether they too should be subjected to investigation,vis-a-vis their academic qualifications. Ben Kaifala knows, or should know, that the Rule of Law dictates that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The treatment of the professor not only turned the concept on its head but got it in reverse. It is almost unavoidable to assert that ACC must have had some preconceived notions about the professor.

    A sensible Ben Kaifala could have easily and thoroughly investigated the professor without inflicting untold anguish by asking the professor for a copy of his credentials. With that done he should have made relevant phone calls to various institutions with which the professor had had certain interactions, including the university he attended. A meticulous ACC could have even dispatched an emissary to Nigeria to give teeth to investigation without the professor being aware of it. In the end it would just have been a simple case of either the professor being indicted or given back his papers with a smile and a handshake.

    Come on Ben wake up, prove to us that you are more sophisticated than the evidence shows. The chief minister is still free after various heists. Nobody has been punished for “China gate”. What about the missing billions at various government departments?

  5. Let us be fair/honest/frank in our deliberations and convictions about the realities in life, including the clandestine and diabolical nature of others to gain position / employment. The ACC is doing a fantastic job for the progress/development of mama Salone. Let us be honest to ourselves of the realities both in/out of mama Salane of what people can do just to satisfy their selfish ambitions.

    Here in Australia for instance, despite the stringent efforts by our govt agencies to employ the best and brightest for the maximum outcomes/benefits of its citizens, we always experience flaws/defects in the recruitment process that have been detrimental. The most recent case we had here in Australia was a trial of an Indian born SO-CALLED MEDICAL doctor we called doctor death. After intensive investigation it was revealed that he was banned in the USA from medical practice but he failed to notify our authorities about that.

    Let us be honest, the positions these fraudsters are applying for can be lucrative/heavily paid in terms of their salaries and benefits etc. For you to later on realise that that particular person is not qualified is grossly disappointing. The world is not a perfect place and I am appealing to institutions in mama Salone especially in the medical and academic fields to look at the performances of certain organisations / individuals.

    • Mr Senesie junior Boima, no one is suggesting there is no corruption in other countries. The United States, UK, Europe anywhere you go in the world. Our shameless politicians are operating on a different level. Its called winners take all mentality. You, like millions of your fellow Sierra Leoneans are victims of CORRUPTION. WE ARE ALL VICTIMS OF THIS CANCER IN OUR COUNTRY. You will be hard pressed to find citizens of other well run African countries in foreign shores. Nimibia, Rwanda, Botswana, Gabon – just to name few, their leaders have their country at heart.

      Since you are in Australia, just observe the Africans you interact with. I bet my life they are the usual suspects. Hailing from countries where dictatorship and corruption are rife. We are talking about STATE CORRUPTION. To protect citizens’ right to life and property, we are not after APC or SLPP governments, or the ACC, we are after corrupt politicians that have bought us untold suffering.

      We left our hot climate, our families, our school friends, our town and villages to escape poverty, war and despair because there is no future for us in our country, because of handful of corrupt fellow Sierra Leoneans that think it is their God given right to plunder our country’s resources.

  6. “The lady doth protests too much, me thinks.” (William Shakespeare) (lol). I said it countless times before, that Mr Thomas should be considered as a national treasure by the people of Sierra Leone for his candor, unmatched insights and empathetic nature. No doubt, such a man that is even-handed at all times, and considerate of the feelings of others without fear or favor is a powerhouse of Hope and Promise to millions of our demoralized people.

  7. Whatever the outcome of this case, whether it was today, yesterday, or even ten years ago, after prefossor Ajayi was exonerated by the ACC of falsifying his academics qualifications, it is inherent for all to see, the ACC has got the wrong side of the stick, when it comes to investigating the real issues affecting our country. For all intents and purposes, they are just wasting more tax payers money on things the education authorities should have investigated and dealt with. When are these people going to learn?

    Yes, if anyone is caught falsifying their qualifications, they should be investigated. And surely there are procedures for that, starting with the university authorities where he does his lectures. Apart from his students, family members and his circle of friends, to many millions of Sierra Leoneans wallowing in abject poverty and just SURVIVING, there is real possibility they’ve never heard of him. But not so about our thriving and corrupt politicians, that stole from the state mind boggling sums of money, that we are still waiting for the ACC to grant them their wish to have their day in court. So we can recover the eye watering missing billions.

    Sorry professor for your arrest and detention. Might not be because you are Nigerian in Sierra Leone. And I hope you’ve never expressed your opinion both privately or in public about the way Sierra Leone is being misgoverned both past and present. There are Sierra Leoneans that are blacklisted by the Bio government. More than ever the ACC is not shy of using their powers to help go after those president Bio perceives to be his opponents. Real, or imagined. May God bless Sierra Leone.

  8. While I am not in anyway suspecting the Editorial board of this paper (in fact doing so have led to my contributions not published. This might also not see the light), however, sometimes I am left wondering the motive of the the editors. This case was reported to the ACC on 19 July 2019. The ACC because of the sensitivity of the matter sprang into action and did a thoroughly investigation. On 20 March 2020, the ACC publicly announced that the professor was not guilty and that his qualifications are genuine. Six months after this fact, this story is making headlines in this paper. While there is nothing wrong in the timing of reporting, the comments that it is a waste of tax payers money is not true.

    The ACC is not mandated to find fault with every case it investigate. The outcome of every investigation either can be to find prima facie evidence or no evidence. Why everytime the ACC find no evidence in cases they investigate we are quick to point that it is a waste of tax payers money? Investigation involves money, time and energy. However the out come cannot be cooked. It is either not there or it is there. Imagine if the ACC had not investigated this matter that was reported to them and it turns out that indeed, the professor had presented false certificate, what could have been the headline in papers critical of the work of the ACC.

    For those who did not read this news in March 2020 when the ACC announced that the professor has been exonorated, here is a link of just one newspaper that published the story.

    https://medium.com/@stephenvlansana/sierra-leone-news-acc-exonerates-prof-femi-gbenga-10df98958915

    • Jane – you are here as a forumite because we believe in free speech. If you post comment that attempt to impugn the Sierra Leone Telegraph, your post will be deleted. And please note that continuous violation may lead to your IP addres being banned from this platform. So, I would strongly suggest you play by the rules. Regarding this article, we are not interested in when the ACC did a u-turn. We are interested in this sad human story because it involves human rights abuse by the ACC which could have led to an innocent man taking his own life. If that does not interest you, then thats your problem. Professor Ajayi held a press conference last Wednesday to tell his own story. And thats what we are interested in.

    • Jane kargbo, pointing out that this case was settled in 2019, is not only trying to divert the real issues highlighted in this article, but the word Deflection has found a new meaning. To buttress her argument, the truth was buried under the carpet and we are left scratching our heads, wondering what was all that about? The personal account of a foreign national wanting to commit suicide as a result of his experience at the hands of our corrupt ACC, was air brushed as if that was not the main story the article was about. In certain ways, through her ingenuity and haste to defend the workings of this Bio oppressive tool, we call the ACC, She’d managed to make the story to become the story.

      She should also be proud of herself that she’d displayed a nark of what Sierra Leoneans are good at, burying their heads in the sand, and not wanting to know the TRUTH. Just like corruption, this art of throwing up question marks in a bid to deny the truth, or sow seeds of doubts is what every Sierra Leonean that lives in Alice in wonder land is good at. Little wonder our country is not developed. See no evil and hear no evil. Here we are, talking about a professor who was arrested and falsely accused and subsequently released. And in his own candid way, came out last week to tell the world what he’d gone through at the hands of our inept President Bio’s ACC, so no one has to go through that again.

      It is not about his acquittal in 2019, it is about his horrible experience and suicide bid, that was highlighted in this article. I wonder how much in her rebuttal of this article, Ms Jane Kargbo considered the effect of POST TRAUMATIC DISORDER SYNDROME, on people who go through such a horrible experience, and the length of time it takes to overcome it. We know it takes time and money to investigate corruption cases, but it also take time and courage to overcome horrible events you experience in your life especially, if you are accused falsely, and live to tell the tale. Time is a healer. Have you heard of that one? May God bless Sierra Leone.

  9. Let me reiterate – These people are here not only to tarnish the image of our beloved country but to destroy it forever – I am so totally disappointed in our President and his arrogant crew of handpicked public officials there are no words that can adequately describe the sickening feeling i am experiencing just to hear such a shocking,disastrous,heartbreaking news.Goodness gracious!

    What a callous,cold-hearted display of blatant abuse of power by the ACC.The world should know that most of the people of Sierra Leone are a kind,gentle and welcoming people,not anything like the cruel inconsiderate rabid barking wolves of this government now in power;A great evil and injustice has been done to an innocent man by amateurs overzealous in their thirsts and desire for power and recognition;I hope in the end,Professor Ajayi will be adequately compensated and granted a public apology by the government of Sierra Leone for their unforgivable,stupefying displays of mind-boggling incompetence.

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