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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

(Opinion) Obono-Obla: The Hunter Now the Hunted

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By Mawibe Sogan
The problem of corruption and how it has almost ruined our national life should be a thing of concern to all good people. I am one among millions of Nigerians that have been at the receiving end of corruption.
But for corruption, we would not be grappling with the problem of looking for schools to accommodate 13 million out-of-school children; we would not be talking of lifting 90 million people out of poverty, and neither would the government be looking for humongous funds from abroad to close the deficit infrastructure gap. These are but a few of the negative indices the country has become known for in recent time.
I am a believer in this country who wants our women to come through child delivery unscathed and not be listed as statistics in the ever swelling maternal mortality index, as a result of decaying healthcare delivery system. So, I find it curious when efforts of government agencies set up to tackle corruption issues begin to trend in the media for wrong reasons.
The recent media utterances coming from the former Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property (SPIP), Mr. Ekoi Obono-Obla concerning his altercations with ICPC is one that has caught my attention.
From what I have garnered from the media since last year when the case of corruption and abuse of office was first levelled against Obono-Obla by ICPC, I find it rather repulsive, the recent media onslaught launched on the Commission by the SPIP boss,.
ICPC had claimed to have carried out detailed investigations into the activities of Obono-Obla as SPIP head and believed to have incriminating evidence against him.
The Commission had alleged that Obla could not lay claim to his law degree because it was procured with a fake West African Examination Counsel (WAEC) result. ICPC also alleged that the ex-SPIP boss went outside his brief to prosecute corruption cases as well as allegedly blackmailed government agencies to fund his private interests.
As result, the Commission was said to have extended invitations to him to clear his name. While it was gathered that some of his colleagues facing investigations had responded to ICPC, Obono-Obla had allegedly remained elusive.
Consequently, he had been declared wanted by ICPC for his failure to appear before it to answer questions bordering on allegations of abuse of office and falsification of admission records.
One would think that the suspended SPIP chairman, a law advocate and head of a panel to tackle corruption would come out clean by clearing the allegations leveled against him. Instead, he has resorted to media propaganda to cast aspersions on the Commission for performing its statutory duties.
In fact, Mr. Obono-Obla, has gone so far as to insinuate that the ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, sees him as a rival because according to him, he was investigating cases that both ICPC and EFCC could not investigate, hence, the reason for his persecution.
It is very pedestrian and laughable for him to insinuate such because there is no meeting point for the two. While Obono-Obla formerly heads a panel, ICPC and EFCC are creations of extant laws with wide powers to prosecute corruption cases in Nigeria.
Why would the ICPC boss consider him a rival? The fight against corruption is not only for ICPC alone, little wonder, the Commission had always welcomed collaborations from both private and government agencies.
The Commission is also known to always operate within the ambit of its enabling law and would not venture into any case outside the scope of its jurisdiction. It has been reported that it usually transfers cases outside its purview to appropriate agencies.
If as he claims, he is being persecuted for performing his responsibility dutifully, why will he (Obono-Obla) who, only a few months ago was the hunter, hunting down people who had helped themselves to the common wealth of the masses, suddenly become the hunted?
It does not even make any sense to me why a person who claims he has no case to answer and who only a moment ago was confident and militant in carrying out his tasks, would appear subdued and sombre like some rain-drenched-chicken to the extent of going into hiding?
It is therefore pointless, unfounded, and even laughable that a lawyer of his standing, which he claims to be, would whip up such baseless sentiments to put up as a defense. In fact, it is the height of naivety and even gullibility on the part of the defunct SPIP Chairman to think anyone can just accept this “cock and bull” story from him.
In many of the interviews he had granted in both the print and electronic media, Mr. Obono-Obla, had alluded to the fact that no allegations have been proven against him. If that is the case, why doesn’t he come out of hiding to clear his name instead of resorting to this meaningless accusation and vuvuzela journalism?
On the claim that no invitation letters were served on him, again, with due respect, it appeared the learned counsel, Mr. Obono-Obla, blatantly lied. My findings indicate that he was duly served through the Office of the Solicitor-General of the Federation and his law firm. These offices were said to have acknowledged the receipt of the notice of service.
It is therefore in the interest of justice and Mr. Obono-Obla’s integrity if he ever had any, to come forward and clear himself of these allegations.
At least ICPC has remained consistent in its message to Obono-Obla. The Commission’s Spokesperson, Rasheedat Okoduwa, had at various times said that ICPC only wants the ex-SPIP boss to appear before it to answer questions. Nothing more, nothing less.
Moreover, Mr. Obono-Obla does not need to hide in the dark and scream out his innocence but should take full advantage of the laws of the land to appear before ICPC to clear his name being that the Commission does not have powers to convict him. He can always have his time in court.
Sogan, a social commentator writes in from Abuja

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