Had the ex-Chairman of Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, Okoi Obono-Obla, who is currently at large, known that his decision to blackmail Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo could backfire, he might have had a rethink, writes Omololu Ogunmade
Dismissed former Chairman of Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, Okoi Obono-Obla, must be living with loads of regrets now. Reason? The embattled former chairman of the presidential panel, who was declared wanted penultimate week by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) over alleged misconduct, financial impropriety and abuse of office, had last weekend sought to arouse public sympathy.
This he did by releasing to the media a letter he had written to President Muhammadu Buhari, where he accused Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo of masterminding his travails, because of his alleged refusal to pander to his (Osinbajo) whims and caprices.
In the letter dated August 29, 2019, and addressed to Buhari, Obono-Obla made a series of allegations against the vice-president, saying he made several efforts to frustrate the investigation of some corrupt persons by the disbanded panel.
According to him, his decision to resist such pressure allegedly mounted on him by Osinbajo to halt several investigations of corrupt practices and shield their perpetrators through the Deputy Chief of Staff, Ade Ipaye, in the vice-president’s office, landed him in his current travails.
Obono-Obla was suspended in August by Buhari and subsequently sacked, over a range allegations, including abuse of office, intimidation and unauthorised malicious investigations, financial impropriety, administrative misconduct, forgery, falsification of records, to mention a few.
Faced with prosecution, the embattled Obono-Obla came up with allegations, claiming that he was being witch-hunted by the vice-president, because he chose to be loyal to the president and refused to shield Osinbajo’s cronies.
“I started getting worried over the undue interest and unwarranted interference in the affairs of the panel. I vividly remembered how in February 2018, Mr. Ipaye wrote a query to me, when I started investigating a case of misappropriation of N10 billion allegedly belonging to National Health Insurance Scheme by the Auditor-General of the Federation.
“In April 2018, Mr. Ipaye invited me to his office and instructed me not to proceed with the investigation of some members of the National Assembly. He said he was directed to do so by the Vice President. I also remembered sometime in January 2018, when the ADC to the Vice President stopped the investigation of a case reported against some functionaries of Akwa Ibom State.
“In February 2019, Mr. Ipaye wrote to me instructing me to suspend the activities of the panel on the purported grounds that government was reviewing its operations. He said he was acting on the directives of the vice-president.
“So, from the beginning, the office of the Vice-President through Mr. Ipaye saw the panel as an extension of the Office of the Vice President. I incurred their wrath, because I refused to do their dictates and bidding,” some parts of Obono-Obla’s letter read.
He had probably thought that the game would change if he could make public the content of his letter to Buhari, which had intended to portray Osinbajo, known as a pastor, as a hypocrite, who aids and abets corruption, especially at a time the vice-president is believed to be facing persecution within the same presidency.
But little did he know that he would be worse for it as the accusations now forced the presidency to make public the records of his hitherto unknown alleged atrocities, which only generated deep seated hatred for him and exposed his alleged criminal records.
The presidency had on Monday reeled off several records of atrocities allegedly perpetrated by Obono-Obla, saying the embattled ex-chairman, who is currently at large, violated the mandate of the panel and engaged in all manners of rights’ abuses, gross misconduct and actions which exposed the government to ridicule.
The records as released by the presidency revealed several records of petitions written by individuals and groups on how Obono-Obla allegedly manhandled or extorted and engaged in all manners of fraudulent practices.
According to the release, approval for the constitution of the panel under the chairmanship of Obono-Obla was formally given on July 27, 2017, by Osinbajo in his capacity then as the acting president on the recommendation of the then acting Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Dr. (Mrs.) Habiba M. Lawal, pursuant to the provisions of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act Cap. R4, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004.
However, the presidency said whereas the panel was only mandated to act on matters referred to it in writing by the president or his designate, Obono-Obla violated his job description and flagrantly abused the rights of individuals, government agencies, private companies, and simultaneously extended such abuses to foreign missions in Nigeria.
The release claimed such flagrant abuse and maladministration resulted in a series of complaints and petitions that culminated in the intervention of the vice president through the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
It also said following the intervention, Obono-Obla submitted a written undertaking dated November 10, 2017, where he pledged to thenceforth “only act on a written mandate received from the Presidency, and will seek authorisation from the Presidency to undertake fresh mandates in accordance with extant laws of the Federation.”
But despite the undertaking, the release stated that, Obono-Obla’s alleged atrocities continued unabated, recalling how his alleged abuse of office included applying for forfeiture of properties, which it said the panel had no power to do even though “two courts respectively held that the panel has no powers to apply for forfeiture of properties”, because “the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act 2004 did not empower the panel to initiate and prosecute criminal charges against anybody.”