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Obono-Obla fights back, says he remains  chairman of  Presidential  panel


Okoi Obono-Obla, yesterday, fought back, claiming that he had not been removed from his post and asked the public to disregard his purported sack.

In a statement by his Assistant Director of Press, Lucieann Laha, Obla dismissed as untrue, the claim that he had been removed as the chairman of the Presidential Special Panel on Recovery of Public Property.

Elombah.com had reported yesterday that the Presidency has directed Chairman of the Presidential Special Panel on the Recovery of Public Property, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, to hands off activities of the panel.

Malami, Maina and Obono-Obla The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, in a statement, yesterday, said recent actions of Obono-Obla who is equally an aide to President Muhammadu Buhari on Prosecution, ran contrary to the enabling act that established the panel.

Consequently, the AGF directed Obono-Obla to “henceforth desist from carrying out any operation in his capacity as head of the panel.”

Obono-Obla was notified of the order to hands off the panel via a letter dated November 1, 2017, with file number HAGF/SH/2017/VOL/1/60, which was signed by the AGF.

In the letter, Malami maintained that activities of the panel contravened established administrative procedures and protocols in the nation’s civil service structure. He warned Obono-Obla to strictly comply with FG’s directive that he should hands-off from further presiding over any activity in the name of the panel.

Obono-Obla was barred from further granting press interviews without first securing permission to speak on any official matter.

“Obla is also instructed to henceforth seek clearance from the AGF before granting any media interview or making press releases on official matters, while he is directed to promptly provide a detailed up-to-date report on the activities of the panel to the Minister for onward transmission to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo,’’ the AGF said.

Malami’s letter,  follow-up to V-P’s Malami’s letter, titled ‘’RE: Directive In Respect of Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, Chairman of the Special Investigation Panel on the recovery of public property’, was said to be a follow-up to a previous letter from the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

However, the statement by Okoi Obono-Obla, said: 

“The attention of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property has been drawn to a purported news in the media that the Chairman of the Panel, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla has been removed.

“While there is a letter from the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, based on a purported letter from the Office of the Vice President to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice drawing attention to certain procedural issues, and which an appropriate response is being prepared, there is no iota of truth in the purported removal of the Chairman of the Panel.

“For the avoidance of doubt, there is no such directive from the Presidency to the Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property relieving him of his office and the information purportedly removing the Chairman should be disregarded.”

  • What Obono- Obla said  about Maina’s  recall, sack

It will be recalled that after the sacking of Maina two weeks ago, Obono-Obla had repeatedly asked whether there was any criminal court pronouncement against Maina to prevent him from being brought back to his former post.

In a recent interview, Obono-Obla was asked whether it was right for Maina to be reinstated before the President fired him two weeks ago.

His response: “I asked them, has he (Maina) been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction?

‘’I am talking as a lawyer and I don’t want to be emotional and sentimental because Nigerians are very emotional and sentimental. As a lawyer, I was trained not to be emotional and not to be sentimental when I am discussing law or involved in a legal argument. If Maina had been convicted, I want to see the certified true copy of the judgment of the court that sentenced him.”

Reminded that there was moral burden on Maina not to return to work as he did, Obla had said: 

“Law and morality are two different things that don’t mix. There is a school of jurisprudence that says you cannot mix law with economics, you cannot mix law with morals, or sociology, history, culture or politics.

‘’So, we are looking at a legal point of view. What does the law say about somebody who has not been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction? Looking at the moral aspect of it, then it is condemnable. But an allegation has been made against somebody, but that allegation has not been ventilated in a court of law.”

On the weighty allegations of fraud against Maina, he said:

“Yes, to a lay person, the allegations are immoral, but the man had not been convicted. I was saying (in the Channel’s interview) that nobody should blame Mr. President or bring him into this issue.

‘’The discipline of civil servants is not the prerogative of Mr. President. There is a body established by law, known as the Federal Civil Service Commission; it is one of the executive bodies established by the law.

‘’Members of that commission are appointed by the  President, subject to the confirmation by the Senate. The FCSC is supposed to be a body detached from political interference.

‘’If a civil servant has been charged to court, the normal procedure is that the Permanent Secretary in the ministry he is working with would be notified and then a certified true copy of the charge against him would be brought to the Permanent Secretary in the ministry.

‘’The civil servant would now be placed on suspension and sometimes, such a worker is placed on half pay. If the court now finds him guilty, it is not enough. Then the ministry has to report to the FCSC.

‘’This is because the FCSC is responsible for the recruitment, promotion and discipline of senior civil servants from Level 8 to Level 17. Then they would now initiate disciplinary measures to be meted out on the civil servant. When they find the civil servant guilty or liable, then they inform the President.”

Reminded that Maina had been declared wanted by the EFCC, Obla declared: 

“The EFCC is not a court of law, the Supreme Court has said that in several cases. The case against Rotimi Amaechi (Minister of Transportation) and the Independent National Electoral Commission is an example.

‘’Amaechi won the primary election in Rivers State. But the Peoples Democratic Party then said he was under investigation by the EFCC and based on that, he should not stand for election. And they gave the governorship ticket to (Celestine) Omehia.

‘’Then Amaechi went to court and the matter ended at the Supreme Court. Amaechi won and was declared governor. The Supreme Court said an indictment must be only by a court of law and not by somebody or an investigative body like the EFCC, the police or Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC.

‘’So, if somebody is being declared wanted by the EFCC, it does not amount to the person being adjudged a criminal. After investigation, the matter must go before the court.

‘’I understand he (Maina) went to court and the court said his dismissal was wrong. That means he was not given fair hearing. Maybe it was based on that that the FCSC asked for his reinstatement.

‘’I am still maintaining my stand, despite what has happened (Maina’s sacking). That is why the President has ordered an investigation. I think we should not pre-empt the findings of the investigation the President has ordered.’’

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