“There is no justice in Nigeria,” Buhari’s former aide says

Suspended Okoi Obono-Obla, Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari
Suspended Okoi Obono-Obla, Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari

Okoi Obono-Obla, a former aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, has expressed disappointment with Nigeria’s justice system.

Mr Obono-Obla headed a special panel on the recovery of government property before he was removed by Mr Buhari in September last year over corruption allegations.

He was subsequently declared wanted by the Independent Corrupt Practices And Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

“My faith in Nigeria is seriously shaken, shaken that there is no justice in Nigeria,” Mr Obono-Obla said in an interview with Calitown.com, an online newspaper with focus on Cross River state where the former presidential aide is from.

The interview was published in December.

“I have spent a considerable part of my life fighting as an activist for justice in this country and I have always hoped that positive forces will prevail, but right now, what I have recently seen, I will say again, left my faith in this country seriously shaken,” Mr Obono-Obla said.

Mr Obono-Obla, in the interview, insisted that his removal by President Buhari was due to a gang-up by some powerful people in the government. The president, he said, “has some big people around him who are bad”.

“Right now, I won’t lie, if I am ever offered any anti-corruption work in Nigeria, I will be very skeptical about taking it, even if there’s protection.

“I worked and was bent on doing the right thing, in consonance with the real demands of that assignment but there are people in this country who will never let good things happen to this country.”

The former presidential aide attributed his travails partly to the chairman of the ICPC whom he claimed saw him as a rival because he was once considered by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as a “good man” to head the ICPC.

When PREMIUM TIMES sought for ICPC’s reaction, its spokesperson, Rashidat Okoduwa, said, “The invitation to come to ICPC is to give Mr. Obono-Obla the opportunity to respond to allegations against him. Where is the issue of rivalry in that?

“We are still expecting him and the honourable thing will be for him to avail himself of that opportunity to exonerate himself,” Mrs Okoduwa said.

Mr Obono-Obla said there were infightings in his panel because, according to him, he insisted on reporting directly to Mr Buhari, and not Mr Osinbajo as wanted by some of the panel members.

Mr Obono-Obla said “no other anti-corruption agency in this country had sincerely gone to the extent we went”.

“We investigated the Petroleum Equalization Fund, PEF, and the 7bn dollars bailout fund that the Obasanjo administration granted commercial banks in the country.

“You remember that in 2006, when Charles Soludo was governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, a bailout fund of 7 billion dollars was given out to commercial banks for recapitalization. This was not money dashed to the banks, the banks were loaned these funds and they were supposed to return this money to the Federal Government, but as I speak, going into 2020, this particular money has not been returned.

“In the course of our investigations into why this money was not returned, I wrote to the Central Bank about this money and in their reply, the CBN said the Board of CBN met sometime in 2006 and wrote off the money. It was absurd to hear this and we went into asking in our investigations, how come money belonging to you and I, the ordinary Nigerians, was taken and handed over to a few well-placed persons, who traded with the money, through their privately owned commercial banks and then got their cronies to sit in whatever board and wrote off this bailout. Isn’t this amazing?” he said.

“I was also leading an investigation into the oil block that was sold to Mobil Nigeria and Mobil paid only 650 million dollars instead of 2.5 billion dollars. In this particular transaction, the eminent human rights activist, Femi Falana, wrote a petition against it and we began asking questions.”

“I cannot forget too that I also investigated a man who was twice a senate president in this country as well as a military governor. He had extensive and expensive property outside Nigeria, offshore, in places like the Virgin Islands etc. Working with the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, we dug in deep and truly confirmed in the course of our collaborative investigations that he indeed had property worth millions of pounds, not naira or dollars, outside Nigeria.

“How did he acquire this property? I was also collaborating with the National Crime Authority of the United Kingdom, to investigate Nigerian public officials, past and present, who owned property in the UK. You remember that the UK passed a legislation, the Unexplained Wealth Regulation Act of 2018, where she simply said through the law that if you have property in the UK valued above 50,000 pounds, you had to explain to UK authorities, how you got the money.

“We exploited legislations like this in our anti-corruption fight and came up with an amazing list of more than 20 eminent Nigerians who had choice property in the UK and other places.

“We were also investigating 1,500 Nigerians who have property in Dubai and these people are all public officials who did not sincerely come by the money used in purchasing property abroad. What of the multi-national oil firms in this country owing the FG colossal sums of unremitted cash?”

Mr Obono-Obla also spoke on the allegation that he forged his secondary school certificate. He said forgery was a criminal offence and that the police are in a better position to investigate him.

“I need to state here that I left the University of Jos in 1989, the university screened me and gave me a degree. That university has not withdrawn my certificate,” he said.

Mr Obono-Obla said he did not commit any offence that should cause ICPC to declare him wanted.

“I am of course from the minority part of this country and we often do not have powerful people in Abuja to speak for us when we are tossed around at will, this is the unfortunate structure of this country,” he said.


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