Yusuf Alli, Abuja

FORMER Chairman of the Special Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SIPRPP) Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla was suspended because he was found to have gone beyond his mandate, it was learnt at the weekend.

Besides, other members of the panel accused him of misconduct.

Obono-Obla was nailed, following a recommendation by Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN), who was mandated to investigate his activities

It was learnt that Malami investigated 10 petitions against Okono-Obla, including one from the House of Representatives.

Also, four out of the five members of the SIPRPP wrote separate petitions to President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo against Okono-Obla’s conduct

The outcome of the investigation by the AGF revealed that Okono-Obla acted beyond the mandate of the panel.

The report found him guilty of alleged abuse of power, intimidation and harassment of innocent citizens.

Malami’s report, sighted by our reporter at the weekend, said although two cases were officially referred to the SIPRPP, Okono-Obla went ahead to investigate 50 cases.

He also appointed Mr. Victor Osita Uwajeh as a private investigator, despite the fact that the person was facing prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The report said Obla had a team of 100 policemen working with him, including one ASP Suleiman, who was carrying out investigation without the knowledge or approval of the Panel.

Besides, Obono-Obla was accused of unauthorised investigation of judges.

It said although the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act does not confer any prosecutorial powers on the SPIP, Okono-Obla acted otherwise.

Also, petitions bordering on allegation of certificate forgery were lodged against  Obla, which questioned his integrity

Malami’s report is part of a November 15, letter his office sent to Osinbajo.

Obono-Obla, who has been declared wanted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), has been pleading his innocence, claiming that his travails is because of corruption fighting back.

He also accused the Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) of abandoning him, despite the fact that they gave him a difficult assignment, which he dutifully carried out.

But, the Malami’s report contradicted his claims.

It says contrary to the mandate of the panel,the petitioners noted with dismay, the unabated unlawful conducts of the Chairman of SIPRPP as follows:

  • The investigation of over fifty (50) cases outside the two cases referred to the Panel;
  • Contrary to the fact that the Panel is an investigative panel by its enabling law, which lacks prosecutorial powers, Mr. Obla has unlawfully engaged lawyers to file charges against suspects without any recourse to the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation;
  • Reckless appointment of one Mr. Victor Osita Uwajeh as a private investigator despite the fact that the same character is facing prosecution by the EFCC for fraud related offences;
  • The engagement, mostly on secondment, of over one hundred (100) policemen conducting investigations into numerous/diverse cases without adherence to the rule of law and best practices and without any form of administrative structure or operational guidelines;
  • The case of attempted arrest of the Executive Secretary of TETFUND with a truck of mobile policemen, which led to the petition written to my office over the incessant harassment by the Panel Chairman;
  • The recent arrest of the Deputy Director (Maintenance) in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation over non-payment of a contractor that carried out some questionable renovations and supplies at the operational office of the Panel at the Federal Secretariat;
  • The investigation of over 60 cases by ASP Suleiman without the knowledge or approval of the Panel;
  • Flagrant acts of disrespect, indiscipline and insubordination against members of the Panel, and disregard to valid resolutions, as well as the Rules and Regulations of the Panel;
  • Writing of several Reports and requests for mandate to carry out investigations to Your Excellency without the knowledge and approval of the Panel;
  • Request to the SGF that the Panel funds be moved from the Office of the SGF to newly opened Panel Account at the Accountant-General Office contrary to the unanimous decisions of the Panel.

The AGF also  cited instances he had made representations to the Vice President on various degrees of complaints against Obla.

He provided a list of what he termed as 10 embarrassing petitions against Obla bordering on abuse of office and other infractions.

The AGF also alleged that Obla went beyond his brief by engaging in unauthorised investigation of several judges

“Your Excellency may recall the unauthorized investigation of several Judges, initiated by Mr. Obla through the issuance of notices to them to declare their assets, an obligation which these Honourable Judges had hitherto complied with through the authorised agency – the Code of Conduct Bureau.

“This impudent and embarrassing action incurred the disapproval of Your Excellency, the Vice President and the subsequent suspension of the Chairman, Mr. Obla in 2017 via the State House letter Ref No. SH/OVP/DCOS/FMJ/0424 dated 20 October 2017   “Annexure L” and further necessitated my office writing to the Honourable Judges to recall the said notices.

“This singular act by the Chairman of the Panel could easily have been misconstrued as a form of intimidation and interference by the Executive on the Judiciary, contrary to the principles of separation of power.

The AGF report also accused Okono-Obla of violating the enabling law of the panel.

He said: “It is evident from the present petitions and several other petitions that the Chairman of the Panel has not in any form complied with the enabling law of the Panel as communicated to him, reneged with the directives of the Presidency with grave and audacious impunity. Indeed, none of the investigations appear to have been authorised by the Presidency, a clear contravention of the Panel’s enabling law.”

Culled from Thenation

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