President Muhammadu Buhari has been challenged to personally oversee an investigation into allegations of undue interferences and active undermining of the mandate of the presidential committee on recovery of public property made against the vice president Professor Yemi Osinbanjo and erstwhile justice minister Abubakar Malami (SAN) by the suspended head of the panel- Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla.
Making the demand in a statement to the media is the leading pro-democracy and civil Rights advocacy body- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) in a jointly endorsed presentation by the national coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National media affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf even as the Rights group said sweeping the extensively damaging allegations under the carpet could mean the end of the anti-graft battles by the current administration. HURIWA said the accusations made by Obono Obla constituted serious issues that must be probed forensically if the current administration is to convince the international community that it does not condone impunity and corruption by those in the corridors of powers nearest to the President and his deputy Professor Yemi Osinbanjo.
“The fundamental ethos of justice, equity, equality before the law and respect for the principles of Rule of law is that nobody is above the laws of the land. In effect this means that no matter the political status of any citizen, everyone is subjected to the rule of law and no class of people must be graded as ‘untouchables’, and/or sacred cows in the fight against corruption”. HURIWA said the accusations against the principal officers working under Mr. President who makes the heavy weather of the claim that his administration is waging a war against corruption and graft is also an abuse of office and power which section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution frowns against.
HURIWA which was the group that petitioned the National Assembly against the now suspended chairman of the presidential panel on recovery of public property over alleged certificate forgery, however, stated that it would be absolutely unconstitutional for president Muhammadu Buhari to gloss over or overlook the serious allegations of unjust interference and attempts to cripple the functioning of the presidential panel made against key government officials including vice president Osinbanjo who is now been accused of using his nominee the chairman of the independent corrupt practices and related offences commission (ICPC) to reportedly wage his wars against the now suspended head of the presidential panel Mr. Obono Obla. The Rights group said the media presentation made by Obono Obla must not be dismissed as claims of a drowning man since he seems to have provided empirical body of evidence to support his claims of internal sabotage made against the Vice President and the erstwhile Federal Attorney General and minister of justice Alhaji Abubakar Malami.
HURIWA stated thus: ” Recall that in a response to the circumstances surrounding his current suspension from office as reported and confirmed by the Secretary to the government of the Federation Mr. Boss Mustapher, Mr. Obono-Obla said that he was not disturbed by his purported sack, adding that what was happening was corruption fighting back because his panel was investigating highly placed individuals connected to those in power.”
HURIWA stated that the now suspended Presidential Panel Chairman, who is a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, also claimed that an official of the Nigeria Football Federation that was facing corruption charges had recently boasted that he (Obono-Obla) will soon be removed after paying a “visit to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN).
“He also stated that there is a letter from the Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Vice President to him in January this year that he should suspend all investigation cases because government wanted to carry out a review of the panel.
HURIWA recalled that the suspended Chairman had stated as follows: “They say I am uncontrollable, I don’t know how they want to control an anti-corruption fighter. If you are not the kind of person I am, you can’t fight corruption because corruption is systematic, it is endemic in Nigeria. So, you need a rugged person. The President said all anti-corruption agencies should be given a free hand, absolutely to work, there should not be any interference. The President has never sacked me but they have sacked me many times. Sometimes, they write letters to me that I should suspend my work. In January I got a letter from the
Deputy Chief of Staff, office of the Vice President that I should suspend all investigations that government wants to carry out a review and I said if the President was doing that, it should come from the Chief of Staff to the President. When I arrested one oil mogul, we investigated the company and discovered that the company had not paid $3 million. They have oil bloc. When I arrested him to get the money from him, I had a lot of phone calls from the same people and they have not been happy with me that was in July, that I touched somebody who is close to them”.
The Rights group said the Chairman is credited with making the claims thus: “These are all the forces and the ICPC has joined them. Why should they go and seal a government office on a non-working day? It is absurd. If they want to sack me, they should sack me and not to close down government office and ordered everybody inside not to come out and that nobody should go in. This is a government office; we have sensitive security documents there. If they want to remove me, they should tell me and I will hand over all the government documents in my custody, sensitive documents and case files to whoever is taking over from me. When I am investigating corrupt people, I cannot be selective, that is my offence because I have been very uncompromising. I don’t know why they want to control me. They gave me the job in the first place because I have the gut, I have the heart and the passion to do it, so they should allow me. I have gone into a lot of areas other anti-corruption agencies have not gone into.”
HURIWA however reminded President Muhammadu Buhari that his administration need not throw the baby with the bathwater and must not compromise the anti-graft war.