EXCLUSIVE: ICPC summons Obono-Obla to appear Monday

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

Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, ICPC, has issued an order to the suspended presidential aide Okoi Obono-Obla, to report for questioning on Monday, sources familiar with the development have told PREMIUM TIMES.

Mr Obono-Obla was suspended from office as the chairman of the  Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday.

In his suspension letter, signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Mr Obono-Obla was told that “this suspension shall subsist pending the conclusion of the on-going ICPC investigations into cases of alleged falsification of records and financial impropriety against your person.”

On Friday, the anti-graft agency asked Mr Obono-Obla to report to its office on Monday for questioning, PREMIUM TIMES can report.

He could not be reached to comment for this report on Friday night.

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 an allegation that he forged his high school certificate. The panel also accused the official 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.

Last week, the ICPC submitted a report to the presidency confirming that the official indeed forged his high school certificate.

Multiple sources familiar with the investigation told PREMIUM TIMES the agency’s conclusion was that Mr Obono-Obla fraudulently squeezed himself into the University of Jos decades ago.

“He did not secure requisite academic credentials to enter the University of Jos to study law or the Nigerian Law School,” the report found, according to sources. “He cannot build a career on fraudulently-obtained credentials.”

Consequently, the ICPC advised the president to promptly relieve Mr Obono-Obla of his job after which its detectives would then take him into custody for prosecution, sources said.

Presidency sources said Mr Buhari initially directed the outright removal of Mr Obono-Obla from office. But his removal was downgraded to suspension after he complained to some top administrative officials that he ICPC did not give him a fair hearing.

Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES last Saturday night, Mr Obono-Obla rubbished the ICPC report as “contrived” and unfair to him because the detectives who conducted it did not invite him to defend himself.

“They have never called me to testify and properly defend myself against all the allegations,” he said.

He said the ICPC conclusion was one-sided like the one reached by the House last year.

“They based their so-called investigation on the findings of the House of Reps which was similarly unfair to me,” he said.

“I went to the University of Jos and graduated. I went to the Nigerian Law School and graduated. Nobody can say those certificates were forged. I have used them for 25 years to practice law,” Mr Obono-Obla said.

He declined to categorically say whether or not the WAEC certificate he used to enter the university was forged, but he emphasised strongly that the credentials he got from the University of Jos and the Nigerian Law School were authentic.

“I am not going to deny anything about the WAEC certificate because the issue is in court,” he said. “I will not comment.”

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