Asked them to ignore panel on recovered property
Tobi Soniyi in Lagos
The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, has asked judges to discountenance letters sent to them by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP)
Some judges of the Federal High Court had come under harassment by the panel and took the timely intervention by the AGF to rescue them.
A judge of the Federal High Court who confided in THISDAY, said the panel wrote to him and his colleagues that there were petitions against them bordering on alleged undisclosed properties.
A copy of the letter shown to THISDAY read: â€œThe Office of the Special Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property is in receipt of a petition against you bordering on abuse of office and thus investigating the allegations contained in the petition therein.
â€œConsequently, in furtherance to our mandate made pursuant to Section 3 of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act, we request that you declare your assets as prescribed in form attached.â€
The letter was dated October 9, 2017, and was signed by an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Sulaiman M. Abdul, on behalf of the Chairman of the panel, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla.
The judge said he was surprised when he received the letter having dully filed his asset declaration form with the Code of Conduct of Bureau.
He also stated that no petition was attached to the letter.
Eventually, some of the affected judges complained to the Malami, who eventually caused the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata, to write to the judges to discountenance the letters.
One of such withdrawal letters the Solicitor-General of the Federation wrote to one of the affected judges dated November 1, 2017, read: â€œI am directed to refer Your Lordship to the above subject matter in relation to notices issued by Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, acting in his capacity as the chairman of the Special Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property to some judges of the Federal High Court, including Your Lordship.
â€œRegrettably, the said notices were issued without due process and requisite clearance, hence, I have the mandate of the Minister of Justice to withdraw same with immediate effect. Your Lordship may therefore wish to discountenance the said notice issued to you in its entirety.â€
For reasons a presidential source described as â€˜excessesâ€™, Obono-Obla was suspended in November last year.
The suspension letter dated November 5, 2017, and referenced HAGF/SH/2017/VOL/1/60 which was issued by the Office of the AGF read: â€œI have received a letter Ref. SH/OVP/DCOS/FMJ/0424 dated October 20, 2017, in respect of the above subject from the Office of the Vice President.
â€œIn the said letter, the vice president expressed his concerns on 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 run foul or contrary to established administrative procedures and protocols in the federal civil service structure.
â€œIn 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 the vice president.
â€œWhile you are to await further instructions in respect of the panelâ€™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.
â€œFurthermore, you are required to henceforth seek clearance from the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice before granting any media interview or making press statement on official matters.â€
After intensive lobbying, Obono-Obla was reinstated as chairman of the panel.