“I Stepped On Toes To Do My Job As An Ombudsman, Now My Life Is Constantly Threatened’- Interview With Ex PCC Boss
- November 7, 2022
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1. Kindly Introduce yourself Sir,
A. My name is Marshall Israel. I am from Etche Local Government of Rivers State. I am a competent Ombudsman with public and private sector experience. I am an anti corruption crusader, Human Right/political activist and advocate. I am an expert in peace building and reconciliation, alternative dispute resolution, crisis management and mediation.
2.Q. welcome to frank talk with EastwestReporters.
A. appreciate the opportunity to speak with you through this interview. I have been scarce since I left office as Federal Commissioner.
3. Q. How have you been.? Let us start by asking, if you are still in politics? since you left the Public Complainants Office, what have you been doing, and what are you doing now
A. Of course I am still in Politics but the political terrain is very risky for me judging from my background as an Ombudsman. I cannot run away from the evil, corrupt and wicked leaders. No matter the threats, I will continue to speak out and play my part until Nigeria is liberated.
4. Q. While you were in office as The PCC BOSS kindly share some Notable Challenges you faced in the office? I have left office as Commissioner but I’m still doing my job as an activist. I still support and agitate for good governance and leadership. I am still campaigning against corruption, bribery and other vices affecting Nigeria.
The challenges were enormous but I was not appointed to give excuses. I was appointed to receive and resolve citizen’s complaints free of charge.
One of the greatest challenges I faced was lack of Publicity. A lot of people in Rivers State were not aware that they can actually get Justice from the PCC free of charge. I mean practical justice. So, it was very challenging to cascade the messages of the PCC to the public. We had to embark on serious media engagements and Publicity. I visited almost every media house in Porthacourt telling people to bring their grievances and complaints to the Public Complaints Commission. We held town hall meetings and community engagements and collaborated with traditional rulers and stakeholders..
Another challenge was poor funding. The Public Complaints Commission is the oldest Anti Corruption agency in Nigeria. The PCC midwifed EFCC, ICPC and other Anti corruption agencies in Nigeria. Our core mandate is to Investigate and redress administrative injustice in Nigeria. Administrative injustice is the mother of corruption in Nigeria.
But over the years, the PCC has suffered from inadequate funding. PCC staff are not well paid compared to their counterparts in EFCC and ICPC. Poor motivation, lack of training for investigation officers, lack of operational vehicles to reach the rural areas.
We managed to run the office because of our passion and commitment to succeed in helping the oppressed.
5.Q. A Leader is expected to record progress no matter the obstacle, Lets us also share in your achievements as PCC Commissioner?
As an Ombudsman, I stepped on toes. I investigated high profile cases and they actually came after my life. I escaped many assassination and kidnap. I was constantly followed and monitored by unknown men with unmarked vehicles. Strange faces will visit me in the office to get an update of some cases. They will pretend to be lawyers and after discussing with me, I will receive a call the next day to stop investigating a particular case if I value my life. Yes, because I exposed some of them and removed the corrupt food from their mouth.
They are still threatening me till today and if they see me or any of my family members in some places, they’ll attack the person. There was a night mask men with gun broke into my house and held us hostage for two hours. They asked for a particular case file but I didn’t come to the house with it. They took my laptop and phones and left after searching my house. I was receiving calls to stop investigating some cases or face severe consequences. I reported to the police too and I am still following the case up. My family and relatives are still afraid of moving freely.
Those threats are still there. I do not disclose my location to people. If you want to stand for justice and fight injustice and corruption in Nigeria, you must be ready to pay with your life because the corrupt system will fight you back. Sometimes, they’ll wait until you leave office and become vulnerable, then they will strike. But I am not afraid of death.
Some lawyers picked a lacuna in the PCC Act that says we should not investigate any case or complaint that is in court. Immediately, a complainant establishes his grievances in our office, normally we will write or invite the respondent to hear from him or her but instead of responding to our invitation, they will go to court and rubbish the whole case. This was a big a challenge to us. I was handicapped by some lawyers.
We were not also allowed by the Act of the PCC to investigate the Military and Police. I am a Human Right Activist. I fight against Police and Military brutality. I am against it and I will continue to speak against it because I have experienced it.
I wanted to use my position to help civilians who encounters Police and military brutality but I was also powerless. However, I didn’t keep quiet. I encouraged people to report Police brutality to my office and a lot reported. I packaged the cases and send to the Commissioner of Police or General Officer Commanding the Army as the case may be and told them to investigate and resolve. With this method, I reported many reckless Police officers to the CP and they were Punished. One of the Police officers I reported to the CP called me later and threatened to deal with me.
With the support and commitment of my staff, we recorded a lot of achievements. I can’t count them. Of course I stepped on toes and boundaries. I ensured the arrest and prosecution of recalcitrant respondents. Cheque, cash and properties including lands were recovered for people.
Land grabbers, criminals, drugs dealers, kidnappers and oil bunkering thieves will never forgive me for reporting them to the authorities. We did some undercover investigation and whistle blowing that led to the arrest and prosecution of some of them.
To Investigate and resolve Complaints against Banks, we visited the Branch Controller of CBN and sealed a partnership with the CBN.
We were subsequently made a member of the Bankers Committee and we meet every three months to address issues relating to failed bank transactions, loans, ATM and questionable deductions etc.
To investigate and ensure that Multinationals fulfill their obligations to the host communities in Relation to corporate social responsibility, we organized a Public hearing in various communities to educate them on their rights and privileges. We visited the DEPARTMENT OF PETROLEUM RESOURCES in Rivers State and sealed a partnership with them.
Many Companies and agencies committing administrative injustice in Rivers State were impenetrable and recalcitrant to PCC letters and summons before we came on board.
To effectively Investigate telecom Companies, we visited the Director of NCC and sealed a partnership with him. We once recommended for a shut down of MTN Mast at Iwofe Community in Porthacourt because the radiation was hazardous to the inhabitants of and community it was shut down.
To report and investigate Police, Military and paramilitary brutality against civilians, we visited the Commissioner Of Police, Heads of Military and paramilitary agencies in Rivers State and sealed a partnership with them.
To Investigate Advance Fee Fraud and internet related Complaints, we visited the EFCC, ICPC and Code Of Conduct Bureau and sealed a partnership with them. We have over time referred cases to the EFCC and the suspects were arrested and protected. We investigated Many Ponzi schemes and fraudulent investment companies and they were closed down by the Police and EFCC. Many of them will never forgive me for exposing them.6.
We hosted The ASSOCIATION OF HEADS OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES in Rivers State and cascaded the functions and activities of the Public Complaints Commission and how it can be of benefit to them. We organized a WORKSHOP on ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION as panacea for sustainable Peace and development in Rivers State.
Every relevant regulatory agency in Rivers State is in partnership with the Commission and we always refer recalcitrant respondents to them.
We conducted an investigation into the avalanche of Complaints on Police Brutality, Prison and Court Congestion and sent our recommendation to appropriate authorities for implementation.
At the peak of COVID19 in 2020, we were receiving and resolving Complaints online. Our phone Lines were open.
Despite paucity of funds and other challenges faced by the Commission, PCC has become a voice for the downtrodden and an alternative to the regular Court in Rivers State. If you go through my Facebook page, you will see pictures of myself handing over Cheque to people who complaints were resolved and loss recovered.
These and many more were(are) our efforts and exploits for the Commission in Rivers State. We will continue to do our best for Rivers State and Nigeria.
6. Q. There is this Rumour that you have resigned from APC? have you also defected? To which party
A. Yes I have resigned my membership of the All Progressives Congress(APC) due to obvious reasons which I stated in my resignation letter. I do not wish to go into that again but I think it’s important for my former party to move on and let me be. I am not the first person to resign from a political party and I won’t be the last.
When I resigned from APC, it was as if I committed a crime. I received avalanche of abuses, insults and even threats. The social media was agog with post and comments calling for my head. Some APC members were too emotional and ready to lynch me if they see me. I was hiding and running for my life.
It means I was useful to the APC. I wasn’t merely existing in the APC, I was living. Some of them brought up my previous articles and posts in support of Amaechi and APC and I was happy. It means I wasn’t just an ordinary member of the APC. Those articles are my legacies and trails in the APC and I am happy I gave my best for the party
Though I have resigned from the APC, I will never speak bad about Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and his family. Others may do it but I don’t have the conscience to do it.
Despite all the insults and abuses by APC members, I vowed never to respond to anybody and I won’t respond. I am a man of decorum and respect.
People have also defected to the APC from the PDP. A serving House of representatives member and a former Commissioner for Agriculture left PDP to the APC and they were treated like celebrities. They were not called names by the PDP.
Why is my own different? Unless APC has become a secret cult and defection is forbidden. If Political association is voluntary, they should leave me alone and move on.