House of Representatives in session

Urges body of benchers to withdraw his bar certificate
Tobi Soniyi in Lagos
An adhoc committee of the House of Representatives which investigated the legality of the operations of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property has called on the Inspector General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris, to immediately arrest the Chairman of the panel, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, and prosecute him for alleged forgery and misrepresentation.

While urging the Body of Benchers to withdraw his bar certificate, the committee also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to dissolve the panel in view of the arbitrary use of power and abuse of office by the chairman.

In the report of the panel, which was obtained by THISDAY, the committee also recommended that the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provision) Act, Cap R4, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 be repealed because it has become spent.

The report said: “The chairman and members of the panel were observed to be flying business class air tickets at the expense of public funds despite the restrictions on such class of tickets in public service for appointees in their category.

“This was in defiance to an order by the president vide Establishment Circular with ref. no SGF/OP/I/S/X1856 dated 2/11/2016.”
The report also found that Obono-Obla was reckless in granting advances to the project accountant for the operations of the panel.
“Policy of government such as e-payment which ensures control and transparency in transactions was totally disregarded in virtually all transactions,” the report added.

The committee noted that the duties assigned to the panel were duties constitutionally assigned to the Code of Conduct Bureau.
It therefore, suggested that, “the Code of Conduct Bureau should be strengthened to fill the gap that the panel seek to fill in the current anti-corruption drive.”
In the course of the investigatiin, the panel received the report of the auditor general of the federation, which revealed that the chairman of the panel did not comply with extant laws in spending public funds.

The committee called on the Independent Corrupt Practice Commission (ICPC) to investigate the allegations of corruption contained in the audit report on the financial transactions of the panel by the Auditor-General of the Federation and prosecute the culprits.

“The law degree obtained by Chief Okoi Obono-Obla having been done fraudulently should be withdrawn by the University of Jos,” the report stated.
The panel also called in the Body of Benchers to withdraw the Law School Certificate awarded to Ofem, Okoi Ofem (now known as Chief Okoi Obono-Obla)  as this was based on the degree which he obtained from the University of Jos through fraud.

It further called on President Buhari to discharge Okoi Obono-Obla of his responsibility as Special Adviser and as Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP).

The panel has as its Chairman, Hon. Aliyu Pategi. Other members of the panel are Toby Okechukwu, Aliu Sani Madaki        Hon. Olusegun Odebumi, Chinda Kingsley, Kamale Adamu, Talatu Yohanna, Orker-Jeu Emmanuel Yisa and Adekola Segun Alexander, Orker-Jeu Emmanuel Yisa.

On Thursday 22nd April, 2018, the House considered a matter of urgent public importance brought by Hon. Toby Okechukwu on the ‘’Need to Investigate the Legality of the Operations of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property’’.

The motion was exhaustively debated and the House passed a Resolution (HR 121/03/2018) to set up an ad-hoc Committee with the mandate to investigate the modus operandi and legality of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) to ensure that it is in tandem with the law and that it conforms to best practices.

Based on the operational modalities that was adopted by the Ad-Hoc Committee, advertisements were placed in the National dailies requesting for submission of memoranda on the activities of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel from stakeholders and also inviting them to public hearing.

Among the various agencies that submitted memoranda include: Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, The Attorney General of the Federation/Minister of Justices, Code of Conduct Bureau, Independent Corrupt Practice’s and Other Related Offences Commission,
Office of the Head of Service,
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria,
Auditor-General of the Federation and the
Accountant-General of the Federation.

The committee said it made the above recommendations after analysing all the written submissions and oral testimonies made before during the public hearing.

The report further said: “It was observed that 5 members of the panel as constituted and other persons were paid honorarium during the period under review.

“It was pertinent to note that as a panel, its members are not entitled to honorarium but are only to be paid Sitting Allowances in line with prescribed rates as provided for vide Circular No.SWC/S/04/S.310/105 dated 10th June, 2010 which stipulates sitting allowance for Chairman and members of the panel at N50,000.00 and N40,000.00 respectively, this therefore renders such payment of honorarium as irregular and disallowed.

“A schedule of such honorarium examined reveal that the Chairman of the panel and other members including the Secretary were paid monthly sums of N600,000.00 and N500,000.00 respectively.”