By Kingsley Omonobi & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—OFFICE of the Chairman, Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property was, weekend, sealed off by police operatives.
This came on a day report indicated that chairman of the panel, Mr Okoi Obono-Obla, has been sacked by President Muhammadu Buhari.
But the Presidency, yesterday, could not confirm the sack of Obono-Obla as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said he had not been briefed on any such development.
I’m not perturbed over my alleged sack —Obla
Meanwhile, Obla has said he was not disturbed by his purported sack, adding that what was happening was corruption fighting back because his panel was investigating highly placed individuals connected to those in power.
The Presidential Panel chairman, who is a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, also claimed that an official of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, that was facing corruption charges had recently boasted that he (Obla) would soon be removed after paying a visit to the Vice President.
He also stated that a letter emanated from the Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Vice President to him on January this year that he should suspend all investigation cases because government wanted to carry out a review of the Panel.
Reacting to his purported sack, Obla said: “They say I am uncontrollable, I don’t know how they want to control an anti-corruption fighter. If you are not the kind of person I am, you can’t fight corruption because corruption is systematic, it is endemic in Nigeria. So, you need a rugged person.
“The president said all anti-corruption agencies should be given a free hand, absolutely to work, there should not be any interference. The president has never sacked me but they have sacked me many times.
“Sometimes, they write letters to me that I should suspend my work. In January, I got a letter from the Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Vice President that I should suspend all investigations that government wants to carry out a review and I said if the President was doing that, it should come from the Chief of Staff to the President.
“When I arrested an oil magnate, we investigated the company and discovered that the company had not paid three million dollars to the Federal Government, they have oil block.
‘’When I arrested him to get the money from him, I had a lot of phone calls from the same people and they have not been happy with me, that was in July that I touched somebody who is close to them.
“These are all the forces and ICPC has joined them. Why should they go and seal a government office on a non-working day? It is absurd. If they want to sack me, they should sack me and not to close down government office and ordered everybody inside not to come out and that nobody should go in.”
I report to the President
Asked whether he has reported to the President, he said: “You know we are on public holiday and I am in my village in Cross River State, I am not in Abuja. It was yesterday (Saturday) I got a phone call from security personnel guarding the office that an Area Commander of the Nigeria Police from Asokoro came and told them that they have orders from above to seal my office.
“This is a government office, we have sensitive security documents there. If they want to remove me, they should tell me and I will handover all the government documents in my custody, sensitive documents and case files to whoever is taking over from me.
“I only heard of my purported removal from the report in the Premium Times. The law that sets up the panel says I am directly answerable to Mr. President, I report to the President.”
Corruption has no APC or PDP on the face, anybody can be corrupt.
On whether he has offended any member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, as his travail was internal, he said: “I don’t know and I don’t care because my work is not to be selective. Corruption has no APC or PDP on the face, anybody can be corrupt.
“When I am investigating corrupt people, I cannot be selective, that is my offence, because I have been very uncompromising. I don’t know why they want to control me. They gave me the job in the first place because I have the gut, I have the heart and the passion to do it, so they should allow me.
“I have gone into a lot of areas other anti-corruption agencies have not gone into. The National Assembly, a Committee of the House of Representatives purportedly investigated me, they came after me, that is what I am suffering.
“They asked the President to remove me and the President ignored them because I did nothing wrong. But this one is a result of the corruption case I am handling, the Petroleum Equalization Fund, PEF.
I’m not yet briefed on any sack, Presidential spokesman
Contacted, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said he was Daura, the country home of the President in Katsina State and had not been briefed on the matter.
But the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank MBA, confirmed that its operatives have sealed the office of Okon Obono-Obla based on a complaint from a Federal Government department.