Dismissed Chairman of Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, Okoi Obono-Obla, has accused Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo of being behind his travails because of his alleged refusal to pander to the vice president’s whims and caprices.
In a letter dated August 29, 2019, addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, and made available to our correspondence at the weekend, Obono-Obla made a series of allegations against the vice-president, saying he made several efforts to frustrate the investigation of several corrupt persons by the panel.
According to him, his decision to resist such pressure allegedly mounted on him by Osinbajo to halt several investigations through the Deputy Chief of Staff, Ade Ipaye, in the vice-president’s office, and two secretaries of the panel at different times, appointed by Osinbajo, landed him in his current travails.
Obono-Obla, who was suspended in August and subsequently sacked, was declared wanted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) last week over alleged misconduct, financial impropriety and abuse of office.
The embattled Obono-Obla further claimed that he was being witch-hunted by the vice-president because he chose to be loyal to the president and was focused on his job description.
“I started getting worried over the undue interest and unwarranted interference in the affairs of the panel. I vividly remembered how in February 2018, Mr. Ipaye wrote a query to me when I started investigating a case of misappropriation of N10 billion allegedly belonging to National Health Insurance Scheme by the Auditor-General of the Federation.
“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 said he was directed to do so by the vice president. I also remembered sometimes in January, 2018 when the ADC to the Vice President stopped the investigation of a case reported against some functionaries of Akwa Ibom State.
“In February 2019, Mr. Ipaye wrote to me instructing me to suspend the activities of the panel on the purported grounds that government was reviewing its operations. He said he was acting on the directives of the vice-president. So, from the beginning, the office of the Vice-President through Mr. Ipaye saw the panel as an extension of the Office of the Vice President. I incurred their wrath because I refused to do their dictates and bidding,” the letter read in part.
Obono-Obla, who also alleged that Chairman of ICPC, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, who declared him wanted, was a protege of the vice-president, also alleged that when he invited one Femi Bajomo over alleged failure to remit funds belonging to the federal government, he was called by the vice-president’s ADC, asking him to drop the case.
According to him, the vice-president’s office which described Bajomo as a ‘friend,’ mounted series of pressure on him to free Bajomo, describing his resistance on bringing the latter to book as “the last straw” that led to his sack.
“On or about 2nd of July, 2019, I invited one Mr. Femi Bajomo, the Managing Director of Hydrocarbon Nigeria Limited concerning a case of failure to pay remittances to the federal government for OML (Oil Mining Lease) granted it. I got a call from the ADC to the Vice-President suggesting that I should leave him because he is their ‘friend.’
“Also Mr. Ipaye called me to assert pressure on me to release Mr. Bajomo. He also sent a female staff from his office to come to my office in Aso, pro-extension to exert pressure on me. This was the last straw. Rumour started swirling that I would be sacked soon. 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,” he claimed.
But in a swift reaction yesterday, the Office of the Vice-President dismissed the claims of Obono-Obla, saying it was a resurgence of old allegations which preceded his removal by the president.
A source in the vice-president’s office, who did not want to be named, said Obono-Obla was removed by the president following the recommendations of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), which found him guilty of various allegations of impropriety, adding that other separate petitions by individuals over his misconduct were even sent to the ICPC.
“It is important to pay attention to the date of this letter. It’s an old letter going round again. Obla did it before he was removed by Mr. President. Didn’t you see that? Recommendation for his suspension and considered removal was made by the AGF after looking into the various petitions against him.
“That was even before other petitions went to ICPC which eventually began investigations. I don’t understand why you are trying to rehearse a dead issue,” the source told THISDAY.
The Office of the AGF had in August accused Obono-Obla of various misdemeanours “ranging from abuse of office, intimidation and unauthorised malicious investigations, financial impropriety, administrative misconduct, and allegations of forgery, falsification of records, to mention but a few.”