FG Sacks Obono-Obla as Chairman Public Assets Recovery Panel

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• Issues gag order against presidential aide

By Tobi Soniyi in Lagos and Alex Enumah in Abuja    

On the strength of his actions of late, the federal government has directed the Chairman of the Special Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla to desist from carrying out any operation in his capacity as head of the panel.

A statement issued yesterday by Salihu Isah, Media Assistant to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) said Obono-Obla’s recent actions ran contrary to the Act which established the‎ panel.

The statement, however, fell short of stating what these actions were.

Isah said his statement was based on a letter dated November 1, 2017 and addressed to the panel’s chairman by the justice minister. 

The statement added that the activities of the panel also contravened established administrative procedures and protocols in the nation’s civil service structure, adding that the panel must ensure strict compliance with the ministry’s directives. 

Obno-Obla was also instructed to henceforth seek clearance from the AGF before granting any media interview or issuing press releases on official matters.

The letter directed him to promptly provide a detailed up-to-date report on the activities of the panel to the minister for onward transmission to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.

Malami’s letter stated: “I have received a letter Ref. SH/OVP/DCOS/FMJ/0424 dated 20th October, 2017 in respect of the above subject from the Office of the Vice-President.

“In the said letter, the Vice-President expressed his concern over the activities of the Special Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property which runs contrary to the enabling Act establishing it.

“He also noted that the activities of the panel runs foul or contrary to established administrative procedures and protocols in the Federal Civil Service structure.

“In view of the foregoing, coupled with the directives contained in the letter under reference, you are hereby directed to refrain from any further action or taking any step in your capacity as the Chairman of the Special Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property with immediate effect until directed otherwise by His Excellency, the Vice-President.

“While you are to await further instructions in respect of the panel’s mandate, you are hereby directed to promptly provide a detailed up-to-date report on the activities of the panel to the undersigned for onward transmission to the Vice-President.

“Furthermore, you are required to henceforth seek clearance from the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice before granting any media interview or making press releases on official matters.

“While appealing for immediate and strict compliance with the contents of this letter, please accept the assurances of my warm regards and best wishes.”

Obono-Obla who doubles as President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant, Prosecution, has proved to be a controversial figure in the administration’s anti-corruption crusade, often making pronouncements and giving pre-judicial interpretations that have raised eyebrows.

His removal as the chairman of the assets recovery panel and gag order may not be unconnected to several of the controversies, in which he’s been enmeshed.