Okoi Obono-Obla, who was sacked as chairman of the Special Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP), says he is being persecuted by an aide of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo for his refusal to be disloyal to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Obono-Obla headed the special panel on the recovery of government property before the panel was dissolved by Mr Buhari in August over an allegation of corruption.
In a letter to President Buhari, Mr Obono-Obla alleged he was victimised by the Deputy Chief of Staff in the vice-president’s office, Ade Ipaye, who, he said, asked him to compromise the investigation of a case of contract scam, the Cable reported on Sunday.
The lawyer, who is wanted for alleged certificate forgery, said the case involved some members of the National Assembly who were reported by the Nigerian Ports Authority in April 2018.
The Obono-Obla panel was established in August 2017 by the then Acting President, Mr Osinbajo, to investigate specifically mandated cases of corruption, abuse of office and similar offences by public officers.
“My travails started with my appointment as Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property in July 2017!” the letter reads as published by The Cable.
“The Panel was constituted when the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, was Acting President. He accordingly appointed one of his Special Assistants, Adeniran Gbolahan, as Secretary. Later I had a bitter disagreement concerning whether or not the panel should wait for mandates from the Vice President before it can commence an investigation.
“The Secretary enjoyed the support of the Vice President through the Deputy Chief of Staff, Ade Ipaye. Mr Ipaye sided Mr Gbolahan against me.”
“Mr Ipaye then wrote a letter stopping an investigation of a case of contract scam reported by Nigerian Ports Authority….. In April 2018, Mr. Ipaye invited me to his office and instructed me not to proceed with the investigation of some members of the National Assembly,” he wrote.
“In February 2019, Mr Ipaye wrote to me instructing me to suspend the activities of the Panel on the purported ground that the Government was reviewing its operations.
“When the Secretary of the Panel, Mr Gbolahan left in 2018, he was replaced by Mr Obinna Ogwuegbu, a nominee of the Vice President who started another bout of antagonism and malice against me on the prompting of Mr Ipaye.”
President Muhammadu Buhari dissolved the panel on September 17, pending the the outcome of an investigation into allegations of forgery and financial impropriety against him by the Anti-corruption agency, ICPC,
Mr Obono-Obla’s troubles began when an investigation by the anti-graft agency, ICPC, found he falsified his WAEC result to enrol at the University of Jos, Plateau State, where he studied law in the 1980s.
He was, therefore, declared wanted by the Commission, on October 22, for failing to appear before it to answer questions on the allegations against him.
He was also indicted by a committee of the House of Representatives in 2018 that investigated his panel. The panel found his guilty of certificate forgery and asked Mr Buhari to remove him from office.
But Mr Obono-Obla said his prosecution by the ICPC was used to get back at him for his courageous move to investigate some ”powerful senators.”
PREMIUM TIMES had also reported Mr Okio-Obla in August accusing some highly-placed Nigerians of orchestrating his removal from office.
“I have suffered so much persecution and witch-hunting because of the fact that I have carried out my assignment with patriotism, dedication, commitment, and conviction. I don’t deserve this persecution and witch-hunt because of my refusal to be disloyal to Mr. President and allow the office of the Vice President to use the Panel to serve the vested interest,” he said.
“The ICPC which is now being used against me is under the protege of the Vice President, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye. Professor Bolaji Owasanoye was part and parcel of the conspirators against me!
“I was also persecuted by the National Assembly! The whole issue of my purported certificate forgery was masterminded by the House of Representatives to get back at me because I had the guts to initiate an investigation against some powerful Senators.
Mr Obono-Obla, also in his letter, said he was never given an opportunity of being heard concerning the allegation levelled against him.
“If I have done anything wrong, I should be removed from office but I should not be humiliated and reduced to nothing.
He said he had called the attention of the president to the matter without success.
“I am open to any probe but also the matters I investigate are facts against the Nigerian people and I’m not deterred. Someday Nigerians will know who their true enemies are,” he said.
“I had briefed Mr. President on the 13th June 2018 on all these interference and challenges but no action was ever taken to address all the concerns raised by me.
“In all of it all, I strove to do my job in a dedicated and committed manner. However, the most painful aspect is the hostilities I have faced ridicule and embarrassment to my person when I was being hounded and harassed without due process of being heard concerning any allegation against me.
“If I have done anything wrong, I should be removed from office but I should not be humiliated and reduced to nothing. It sends a wrong signal to me that I was given a job that merely exposed me to hatred and attack. And why should that be?”
Mr Obono-Obla did not indicate if he will return from hiding to face the forgery certificate allegation by the ICPC. In prrevious interviews with PREMIUM TIMES, he did not outrightly deny that he forged his WAEC certificate but stated that he duly studied law at the university.
Efforts by PREMIUM TIMES to reach the spokesperson to the vice president, Laolu Akande, for a response to Mr Obono-Obla’s allegations were not successful.
Mr Akande did not respond to calls and text messages sent to through his known telephone number as at when this report was filed.