Ambrose Alli

By Eric Teniola

The second part of this piece published last week highlighted the drama and aftermath of the trials of former public officers by military tribunals constituted by the Major-General Muhammadu Buhari regime in 1984 

Some of the former ministers and former governors protested the government’s actions at that time

IT was during that period that the Ogbe Stadium in Benin was renamed Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium following a motion passed by the Edo House of Assembly.

To his credit, the University has produced notable Nigerians like Tony Elumelu, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, Don Jazzy, Peter Godsday Orubebe, Alibaba Akpobome, Omawunmi, Benedict Ayade, Samuel Oboh, Francis Odega, Buchi, Dickson Tarkighir, Aisha Buhari, Festus Keyamo, Ovire Peggy, Alex Usifo, Victor Ehikhamenor, Aliyu Doma, Ausbeth Ajagu, Beatrice Jedy-Agba,etc.

On February 3, 1976, that is 10 days before he was assassinated, General Murtala Mohammed (1938-1976) made a broadcast to the nation in which he declared on thus: “The Assets Investigation Panel – this panel has examined the assets of all the former military governors, the former administrator, East-Central State and some former federal commissioners.

The details of the decisions on each of the former public officers so investigated will be announced immediately. Suffice it to say that all the ex-military governors and the former administrator of East-Central State with the exception of two were found to have grossly abused their office and guilty of several irregular practices.

“Clearly this investigation has revealed that they had betrayed the trust and confidence reposed in them by the nation. Those of them who wore uniforms betrayed the ethics of their profession and they are a disgrace to those professions.

They should be ashamed of themselves. They are, therefore, all dismissed with ignominy and with immediate effect. This order does not affect the two ex-military governors whose investigation did not reveal malpractices and abuse of office. Where the public officers have not been able to explain satisfactorily their earnings and assets, these have been confiscated.

The total value of assets confiscated is over 10 million naira. In addition, the Ministry of Justice and the Police will look into the criminal aspects of their activities with a view to taking necessary legal action, if need be. In disposing of the findings of the Assets Investigation Panel, our main concern has been to lay down guidelines and new standards for the conduct of public officers in this country.

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We have not tried to victimise anybody and each officer was given the opportunity to explain to the panel of professionals and experts, the way and manner he acquired his assets. We have also taken note that being Nigerians they were entitled to all facilities that were available to Nigerians in the ordinary course of business, subject, of course, to the ethics of the offices they held. I believe justice has been done.”

It was in the same broadcast that General Mohammed created seven additional states, thereby increasing the states in Nigeria from 12 to 19. The panel he was referring to was headed by Justice Samuel Olu Okunribido from Isonyin near Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State.

Justice Okunribido started his education at the Emmabyek School, Isonyin, 1932; Ijebu-Odu Grammar School, 1934-1937; Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife, 1937; Igbobi College, Lagos, 1938-1942; King’s College, University of London, England, 1952-1955; London School of Economics, University of London, 1958-1959;

University of Cambridge, England, 1959-1960; in private legal practice, 1956; pupil crown counsel, Legal Department, Lagos, 1956; senior legal officer, Office of the Legal Counsel, United Nations Office Legal of Legal Affairs, 1966-1970; also legal adviser, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 1969-1970; Director of Public Persecutions of the Federation, 1970-1974; appointed Judge, Federal Revenue Court, 1974.

Justice Okunribido’s panel submitted its 298-page report to General Mohammed five days before the broadcast. The government white paper on the report was not released until after the death of General Mohammed.

In the report, two ministers, Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Shettima Ali Monguno, were cleared of corrupt practices. Also cleared were two governors – Brigadier General Christopher Oluwole Rotimi (85) of Western State and Brigadier Mobolaji Olufunsho Johnson (1936-2019) of Lagos State. All the 10 other governors and the ministers were found guilty of corruption and some of their properties were confiscated.

In addition, another committee was set up by the Federal Government under the headship of Chief A.G.K. Onikoyi to probe the farms of two former governors – Brigadier Samuel Ogbemudia (Bendel State) and Alhaji Audu Bako (Kano State). Some of the former ministers and former governors protested the government’s actions at that time.

They claimed that the panel was unfair to them since they were not given the right to give evidence. They alleged that the panel based its judgements on innuendos and rumours peddled by their enemies bent on destroying them. A few weeks before stepping aside, General Ibrahim Babangida in 1993 promulgated the Forfeiture of Assets Decree No. 54 of 1993.

To be concluded next week…

VANGUARD

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