SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL PANEL ON RECOVERY OF PUBLIC PROPERTY (SPIP) – URGENT MATTERS ARISING.
As foremost supporters and promoters of the anti corruption fight of the Buhari-led Administration, we have kept our searchlight on the activities of Agencies and Institutions charged with prosecuting the anti corruption war.
Beside the commendable efforts of the Ibrahim Magu – led Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), another shining light in the fight is the Okoi Obono-Obla led Special Presidential Investigation Panel on Recovery of Public Property (SPIP).
The Panel has continued to record milestones in unravelling corrupt conduct both in the Civil service, among political office holders and ordinary Nigerians within and outside the country.
We are aware of the recent discoveries of Billions of Naira held in various bank accounts by civil servants, Properties and Assets allegedly aquired with illicit wealth also valued at Billions of Naira as well as properties illegally aquired by public servants and Nigerians outside the country.
Some key examples are:
1. The case of two officials of the Petroleum Equalization Fund (PEF) who over N3 Billion was found in their bank accounts alongside other assets.
2. Two other Federal civil servants, one of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and the other a member of the Presidential Committee on North East Initiative and former Interim National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who through the efforts of the Panel forfeited 86 brand new luxury vehicles (24 of which were armoured) together with 4 houses and a Quarry Plant in Abuja.
At the same time we are aware of uncomfortable developments which seem to hamper or at least slow down the activities of the Panel.
These include the take over of certain cases by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation. Notable among them is the case by the Panel against a former Senator and APC Governorship candidate in the 2019 General election – Senator Hope Uzodinma of which nothing has been heard therafter.
On August 4, 2019, Punch Newspapers reported that Police personnel (over 40) drafted to work for the Special Presidential Investigative Panel on Recovery of Public Property were summoned to an urgent meeting with the Inspector-General of Police on Friday, August 2, 2019 vide a letter dated July 31, 2019 and addressed to the Chairman of the SPIP, Chief Okoi Okono-Obla, with reference number CB:4001/IGP.SEC/ABJ/ VOL. 114/518. The summons was reportedly prompted by a petition written by a suspect being investigated by the panel.
We are equally aware that yesterday, 10th August 2019, there was an attempt to shut down the offices of the Presidential Panel situated at Asokoro Abuja on what was referred to as ‘orders from above’ on the premise that the Panel has been disbanded.
Our investigations however reveal that the Chairman of the Panel is not aware of any such dissolution.
These developments and others have prompted the urgency and concern for us to ask some pertinent questions:
1. Who is uncomfortable with the work of the Presidential Panel on the Recovery of Public Properties?
2. Why the relentless push back against the Panel and its Chairman – Chief Okoi Obono-Obla and from who?
3. Is it because he is stepping on big toes or could it be because of his religion or where he comes from?
4. Is the President aware of all that is going on with and around the Panel?
5. Are we really serious about the war against corruption?
It should be noted that the SPIP is established by the Recovery of Public Property Special Provisions Act of 2004 and the responsibilities and powers of the panel are clearly spelt out in Section 2 (1) a, b, c of that law.
The Panel therefore has powers to investigate the assets of any public officer who has corruptly enriched himself/herself, abused his/her office and violated the Code of Conduct provision in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, or who has contributed to the economic adversity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Also, by Section 2 (2) of that law, the Panel has the powers to investigate the assets of a private individual – anybody who has accumulated assets beyond his/her earnings.
These the Panel has dutifully carried out to the knowledge and commendation of the Nigerian public. It is therefore pertinent that all patriotic Nigerians and the anti-corruption community take note of and weigh in on what is happening with the Panel.
Corruption is surely fighting back but we cannot afford to allow corruption to win. As President Muhammadu Buhari said “If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria”.
We therefore strongly call on the President and Commander in Chief, the Inspector General of Police, the Ministry of Justice and all relevant authorities to urgently investigate the issues surrounding the Presidential Panel with a view to protecting the Panel and strengthening it to ensure its work is not hampered.
Nigerians will accept nothing less.
Dr Uche Diala
Comrade Efe Wiliams
(Anti-Corruption Desk) BHO