Buhari’s appointee blames ‘highly-placed Nigerians’ for sealing his office

Okoi Obono-Obla
Okoi Obono-Obla , Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution

The Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP), Okoi Obono-Obla, has accused some powerful individuals of orchestrating the sealing up of his office on Friday.

PREMIUM TIMES exclusively reported on Sunday how armed police officers sealed Mr Obono-Obla’s office over his alleged corruption and overzealousness.

Mr Obono-Obla later confirmed his office had been sealed by the police in a telephone interview with this paper.

He said he was in his office on Friday but later left for the holidays in his hometown in Cross River State before he received information about the sealing of the office.

“People at the office told me somebody came there, said he is the area commander, he has instructions that nobody should enter and nobody should leave. But that is rubbish. Is that how things are done?”

The action reportedly followed a directive from the presidency that Mr Obono-Obla should be relieved of his appointment “immediately”

PREMIUM TIMES has, however, not been able to independently confirm if Mr Obono-Obla has been sacked from office.

In a statement he personally signed on Monday, Mr Obono-Obla said he was yet to receive an official briefing on the issue since of him being relieved of his appointments.

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”I am yet to receive an official briefing on the issue since SPIP’s staff are observing the Eid-el Kabir holiday and away from our desks,” he said.

The panel chairman blamed some ‘highly placed Nigerians’ for the development. He said the unnamed persons acted in a bid to protect some individuals under investigation with the panel.

He said the panel deserves to be recognised for its positive efforts in the fight against corruption instead of being attacked for what he described as a smear campaign from people with their protectionist agenda in favour of persons being investigated.

”The pictures being painted of SPIP bears no resemblance to the reality on the ground,” he said.

Mr Obono-Obla’s anti-corruption job has often been steeped in controversies which overshadowed some of the successes recorded by his office.

At some point, he had to spend time to fight off allegations that he forged his secondary school certificate.

An ad hoc panel set up by the House of Representatives, December last year, had asked President Muhammadu Buhari to sack Mr Obono-Obla over the forgery allegation.

The panel had also accused Mr Obono-Obla of corruption.

But Mr Obono-Obla had said at the time that the forgery and corruption allegations against him were merely a witch-hunt by people who were uncomfortable with his anti-corruption fight.

PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday published an exclusive report on how correspondence between Mr Obono-Obla’s office and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) led to the exit of the president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, from CAF leadership.

Mr Obono-Obla is known in the past to have disobeyed the directive of Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, regarding his anti-corruption job.

Read his full statement below

”My attention was drawn to the unfortunate news item making the rounds and thereafter inundated with calls from members of the public who are seeking to know the true position of events concerning the purported sealing of the SPIP offices in Abuja by armed Policemen. I am yet to receive an official briefing on the issue since SPIP’s staff are observing the Eid-el Kabir holiday and away from our desks.

”It is a time we call the myths out for what they are, as the news making the rounds appears to us as a smear campaign from people with their protectionist agenda in favour of persons being investigated. The pictures you are being painted of SPIP bears no resemblance to the reality on the ground. SPIP from inception has worked within the dictates of its mandate and takes tremendous pride in the work it does towards recovering misappropriated government funds.

”SPIP officials have made and continue to contribute vitally to the fight against corruption, and daily, we are recovering monies owed the government in billions and calling upon high profile persons and seemingly ‘untouchable’ persons who have illegally enriched themselves from government coffers at the expense of members of the public, to come forward and answer to their crimes and make refunds of misappropriated government monies.

”The efforts of the SPIP in the fight against corruption in Nigeria deserve to be recognised instead we are being dismissed with misleading scare stories and arm-twisting of the Panel officials by ‘highly-placed Nigerians’ wishing to protect some persons under our investigation and thereby distracting the panel from carrying out its lawful mandate.

”We have examples of many high-profile cases where misappropriated public funds were traced to the personal bank accounts of public servants and rather than explain the source of the funds, they resort to false petitions and unfairly attacking the officials of the Panel.

”We, therefore, reiterate SPIP’s commitment to the essential work we do towards fighting corruption in our nation.”

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