The former Chairman of the now disbanded Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property, and personal assistant to the president on prosecution, Chief Okoi Ofem Obono-Obla has described his suspension as foolish and illegal!
In a statement issued in his hometown, Ugep near Calabar, obla said like everybody else he heard the announcement over the news media where he was directed to report to the ICPC, adding “Until this moment I am yet to be served a letter to that effect.”
According to him, there were two previous attempts to remove him as a result of his alleged stubbornness and uncompromising stand.
“Prior to my suspension there had been two failed attempts to remove me because I was seen as ‘uncompromising, uncontrollable and a non-team player’ by some people in the upper rung of government. For example on the 25 January, 2019, I received a letter from the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Vice President directing me to suspend the activities of the Panel. But I simply decided to ignore the letter because the Panel was only answerable to the President and Commander in Chief by virtue of the provisions of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act, 2004 (not to the office of the Vice President).”
In the statement, he argued strongly that his suspension was without fair hearing and laid down public service procedure.
“I want to state that my purported suspension was indeed a breach of the dictates of fair hearing and the procedure laid down in the Public Service Rules regarding the suspension of a public officer.
” Under the Public Service Rules, where there is a complaint or petition against a public officer; the public officer must be furnished with a copy of the petition and asked to state his own side of the story.
” Where the explanation proffered or given by the public officer is not satisfactorily; the relevant authority will constitute an administrative committee to investigate the allegation against the public officers.
“Where at the conclusion of its assignment, the administrative committee finds that the allegation against the public officer is true; it will make appropriate recommendation for the discipline of such an officer! Since such an administrative committee will ordinarily not be vested with the power to try crime; where it finds that some aspects of the allegations against the public officer borders on corruption or commission of a crime; it will make recommendation(s) that the aspect of crime should be reported to the Police or law enforcement agency for investigation.
“Where the Police or law enforcement agency investigates the case and establishes a prima facie case of commission of a crime against such a public officer, it will file criminal charges in the appropriate Court of competent jurisdiction against the public officer. It is only after the erring public officer has been charged to Court that he will be placed on suspension or interdiction! “
He said under the Nigerian constitutional/criminal jurisprudence a suspect is presumed innocent till the contrary is proved! “Directing me via the media to report to ICPC to prove my innocence tantamounts to prejudging me even before commencement of the investigation of the allegations made against me.”
He also argued that the allegation against him was baseless and a violation of his human rights! “This allegation is baseless because the Panel never had a detention facility throughout its two years of operation! Suspects under investigation were always granted administrative bail as soon as they met with the Panel’s administrative formalities on grant of bail. Nobody was ever held more than 24 hours.”