The Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to sack Mr. Okoi Obono Obla who is allegedly masquerading around as head of an illegal presidential panel.
This, it said, must be done if Buhari’s government will achieve any meaningful results in the anti graft war and stop getting poor reports every year from such global reputable bodies like Transparency International.
But in a response to enquiries, a source within the panel faulted HURIWA, saying the establishment of its panel was covered by the Recovery of Public Property (Special:Provisions) Act.
The source added that Professor Yemi Osinbajo, as Acting President last year, would not have inaugurated the panel if it was illegal and unconstitutional as claimed by HURIWA.
Furthermore, the panel queried another claim by HURIWA that Obla was relieved of his duties. “Nothing can be farther from the truth, he is still on seat, it is a figment of their imagination based on a misunderstanding of a letter from the Attorney-General to the panel to follow administrative protocols and avoid press interviews,” the source added.
However, HURIWA reminded President Buhari that for three years his administration has failed to achieve significant milestones in the anti-graft crusade primarily because of politicians like Mr. Obono Obla.
The group said it was the interferences of such state actors that the fight against corruption is perceived as politically motivated fight against members of the People’s Democratic Party given that Obono Obla is partisan.
In a media briefing, HURIWA through its National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko said the so-called special presidential investigation panel on the recovery of public property is illegal, unconstitutional, null and void and has come under series of allegations of being used for extortions.
“We will take steps in the coming days to get the legislature or court of law to formally disband the illegal contraption should President Muhammadu Buhari not listen to the voice of reason and only allow EFCC and ICPC fight corruption and Economic and Financial Crimes in compliance with extant laws.
HURIWA wondered why President Buhari failed to flush out Mr. Obono Obla and other executive interlopers frustrating the institutional and law-based crusade against graft even after Mr. Obla was seen on television defending the fugitive who is an alleged pension thief Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina whose illegal reinstatement into public service despite declaration as a wanted person by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission brought monumental global opprobrium to Nigeria and painted the current government as that which shields allegedly corrupt Nigerians.
HURIWA affirmed that it is on record that just before public outcry forced President Buhari to order the sack of Maina from his illegal reinstatement, Mr. Obla as head of the presidential panel on recovery of public property, had appeared on Channels TV to defend Alhaji Maina even as the media quoted him as speaking for the presidency.
“Why is Mr President still keeping this Obono Obla who backed an illegal reinstatement of a wanted man who allegedly cornered peoples’ pension money and housing assets to himself? What kind of a fake platform is he still leading when he was caught pant’s down associating with Maina?”
HURIWA recalled that Mr Okoi Obono-Obla, speaking on Channels TV Sunday Politics, said the fact that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) declared Maina wanted did not mean he was guilty.
According to him, people were just speculating, adding that “I do not know if any court of competent jurisdiction has found Maina guilty of corruption.”
This came as the anti-graft commission launched a manhunt for Maina.
While Obla defended him, HURIWA recalled vividly that Maina was still on the wanted list on the anti-corruption commission’s official website.
“The public is hereby notified that Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina, former Chairman of Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), whose photograph appears above, is wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for offences bordering on Procurement Fraud and Obtaining by False Pretence. “Dark complexioned Maina is allegedly complicit in the over N2 billion Pensions Biometric Scam in the office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation. He remains at large, after charges were filed against his accomplices,” the wanted notice on the website reads.
It added that anybody with useful information as to his whereabouts should contact the commission in its Enugu, Kano, Lagos, Gombe, Port Harcourt and Abuja offices or through listed telephone numbers and its email address as well as the nearest police station and other security agencies.
After this disgraceful outing, Nigerians were told by the Attorney General of the federation that Obono Obla has been relieved of this duty which in any event is not backed up by any legal status and is in conflict with extant laws setting up EFCC and ICPC.
A source in the Recovery of Property panel faulted HURIWA’s facts insisting that Obla was never relieved of his duties.
He was merely told to follow administrative procedures and refrain from comments in the press.
Recall that everyday.ng published a letter from Malami to Obla to that effect last year. The letter by Malami titled, RE: DIRECTIVE IN RESPECT OF CHIEF OKOI OBONO-OBLA, CHAIRMAN OF THE SPECIAL INVESTIGATION PANEL ON THE RECOVERY OF PUBLIC PROPERTY emanated from an earlier one sent to him by the Vice President.
It read thus that, “I have received a letter Ref. SH/OVP/DCOS/FMJ/0424 dated 20th October, 2017 in respect of the above subject from the Office of the Vice President.
“In the said letter, the Vice President expressed his concerns on the activities of the Special Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property which runs contrary to the enabling Act establishing it. He also noted that the activities of the Panel run foul or contrary to established administrative procedures and protocols in the Federal Civil Service structure.
“In view of the foregoing coupled with the directives contained in the letter under reference, you are hereby directed to refrain from any further action or taking any step in your capacity as the Chairman of the Special Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property with immediate effect until directed otherwise by His Excellency, the Vice President.
“While you are to await further instructions in respect of the Panel’s mandate, you are hereby directed to promptly provide a detailed up-to-date report on the activities of the Panel to the undersigned for onward transmission to the Vice President.
“Furthermore, you are required to henceforth seek clearance from the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice before granting any media interview or making press releases on official matters.
“While appealing for immediate and strict compliance with the contents of this letter, please, accept the assurances of my warm regards and best wishes”, the letter concluded.
HURIWA, however, alleged that Obla has variously been seen terrorizing Nigerians who own property in Abuja and many have accused his kangaroo panel of being used to harass, intimidate and extort Nigerians who believed that they got their property lawfully since the constitution allows for right to property.
“The contraption called special presidential investigation panel for the recovery of public property has also frequently violated section 37 of the constitution which states that: “the privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone, conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.”
“Section 44(1) of the constitution states as follows: “No moveable property or any interest in an immovable property shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right over or interest in any such property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria except in the manner and for the purposes prescribed by a law that, among other things – (a) requires the prompt payment of compensation therefore; and (b) gives to any person claiming such compensation a right of access for the determination of his interest in the property and the amount of compensation to a court of law or tribunal or body having jurisdiction in that part of Nigeria.” Already both the EFCC and ICPC are authorised by law to seek legally for forfeiture of illegally acquired assets,” it said.
HURIWA asked President Buhari to sack Obla within 48 hours or it will approach the National Assembly to seek for legislative intervention to save the anti-graft war from being unduly distracted and hijacked by any illegal platform such as the one Mr. Obla currently claims to head; after which it may seek legal pronouncement on the legality of the so called Presidential panel on recovery of property.
The association said it viewed “with resentment” the smear campaign being engineered by the Chairman of the so-called Special Panel on the Recovery of Public Property, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, against the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, over alleged ownership of overseas property.
The reports were purportedly predicated on a supposed letter to the Special Fraud Office, SFO, United Kingdom, by the President and other letters to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and United States of America (USA) by the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr. Tunde Fowler, over properties allegedly owned by Senator Ekweremadu.
Said HURIWA: “However, our investigation has since established that no such letters emanated from Mr. Fowler, but from the spin desk of Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla for Senator Ekweremadu’s refusal to play ball.
“We have also established as a hoax the report of the FG’s intention to arraign Senator Ekweremadu before the Code of Conduct Tribunal this week.
“We recall that Mr. Obono-Obla had earlier issued an illegal quit notice, asking the Senator and Senator David Mark to vacate their Apo Legislative Quarters residences within 21 days for allegedly buying them at little less than the market cost from the Federal Government.”