UPDATED: Buhari suspends panel on recovery of public property; places gag order on Obono-Obla

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

President Muhammadu Buhari has suspended further activities by the Special Investigation Panel on Recovery of Public Property.

In a November 1 memo, Attorney-General Abubakar Malami said the presidency had placed a gag order on Okoi Obono-Obla, the president’s special assistant on prosecution who also serves as the chairman of the recovery panel.

In the memo, reference number: HAGF/SH/2017/VOL/1/60, Mr. Malami said Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had observed that the activities of the panel run counter to its term of reference.

Mr. Obono-Obla said the memo was “leaked” and he was surprised that such an internal communication could become a matter of media reports.

“I’m quite amazed that a letter that was written to me was leaked to the press,” he told PREMIUM TIMES Sunday evening. He declined requests for his reaction to the key issues raised in the memo

The directive came on the heels of controversial statements credited to him.

Mr. Obono-Obla, a native of Cross River State who was appointed in April 2016, drew criticism when he said last month that Abdulrasheed Maina had not been found culpable in any wrongdoing, in what seemed like a tacit defence of the fugitive who had been on the wanted list of EFCC for years.

In the memo, the presidency said Mr. Obono-Obla is now “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.

It also said Mr. Osinbajo expressed concerns that the activities of the panel contravened established administrative procedures and protocols in the civil service structure. The vice president called for immediate and strict compliance with the directives.

Mr. Obono-Obla was asked 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.”

He was asked to cease further activities and await instruction from the presidency on the future of the panel.

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