By Ufot Elvis Abasi
It is an age-old religious cum judicial dictum that “he who comes to equity must come with clean hands”. By this, it means, like the Biblical allusion, he who wants to cast the first stone must be sure of his purity else the stone ricochets to the source. This principle and its import are playing out currently in the case of Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, the recently appointed chairman of the Presidential Panel on Recovery of Public Assets and the way he is going about the important assignment vis-à-vis his personal conduct.
The commitment of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in the fight against corruption is not in doubt. In addition to giving free hand to now very active anticorruption agencies, the government also evolved other measures of strengthening the efforts at curbing corruption. One of such well-meaning measures taken recently was the empaneling of the Obla-led assets recovery committee.
But the good intention of the administration is obviously being tempered with by the personal records of Obla, and the way he go about the assignment. His is akin to the figurative case of a madman with a knife. He has grabbed this noble assignment given to him with both hands, in a bad way. He first went all out to paint the simple assignment given to him as some new anticorruption body on the bloc. He granted a media interview where he redefined all his terms of reference and granted himself powers of all the security and anticorruption agencies in the land.
Obla then went about making real those exaggerated scope of the panel. Obla’s operations leaves a whole lot to be desired. He threw cautioned to the wind and went about like a bull in China shop, making it necessary for those who appointed him to call him to order.
But fundamental to the issue at hand is the man’s credibility to spearhead such a job in the first instance. Obla’s hands are far from being clean. Obla and a few policemen he handpicked for the assignment have turned this assignment into a subtle but very vicious blackmail and extortion machinery to feather his nest in preparation of a much vaunted gubernatorial ambition to challenge Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River state.
It is pertinent to recall that the purpose-driven leadership of EFCC under Ibrahim Magu threw out a group of shady policemen who were bent on embarrassing the EFCC and the government by the constant harassment of suspects and other unethical conducts. Those policemen had turned themselves into an underground exploitative gang chasing the relations of suspects and their lawyers asking for plea bargains that ended up in their pockets. These group were shown the way out of the commission by Magu. They became administratively orphaned and dejected and found a new home when the Obla presidential committee was inaugurated.
Supported by this army of police outcasts, Obla goes about overreaching himself by cornering the operational functions of core agencies – investigations, summoning people and even raids. This warranted the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to direct the Attorney General of the Federation to put a pause to Obla’s reckless handling of that assignment.
He later lobbied to have that decision rescinded but not without issuing him with guidelines to guide against the obvious overstepping of the boundaries by the committee. There was also a gag order against rushing to the press, which is characteristic of Obla.
However, it is clear that Obla is not willing to comply with any of that, going by recent events. In all of this, there is the overreaching administrative insubordination of flouting the gag order placed on him by the Attorney General of the Federation.
Obla also has a lot of moral issues that had proper background checks were conducted he may not be saddled with such a national assignment.
There is the sordid case of Evbu Igbinedium. Even though the Bible says in Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…” Obla has been accused by Mr Julius Atanawhemera of coveting his wife, including abducting the said woman. He also accused Obla of being responsible for assault, threat to life, abduction, illegal use of phones and theft of cash. In the police invitation with Ref No. 3000/X/FHQ/ABJ/Vol.218/245 dated June 28, 2017 and signed by Umar Mamman Sanda, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (Admin) for Deputy Inspector General of police in-charge of Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department, the invitation reads: “Police Invitation: Okoi Obono-Obla Esq.
“This office is investigating a case of alleged assault, battery, threat to life, abduction, illegal use of phones and theft of cash valued $2000 (Two Thousand Dollars) in which the name of Okoi Obono-Obla Esq featured prominently…”
Another mind-boggling case reported by Nigerian Pilot in its edition of November 8 is the alleged petitions written against Obla whereby it was alleged that from August to date he had collected the sum of N1.2 Billion from five governors promising to shield them from investigation.
Sources close to the Obla committee have it that even the recent case of David Mark and Ibrahim Tumsah, the civil servant allegedly found with 86 cars, there is more than meet the eyes. There are odious allegations that will be revealed in the fullness of time.
A wannabe anti-corruption crusader jumping from one controversy to the other does not have the required integrity to superintend such work. These go to show that Obono-Obla is unfit to hold the office he is currently holding at the moment. He is morally bankrupt and does not bring equity to equity. The sooner he is shown the way out, the better for the government. If the FG is serious about fighting corruption then Chief Okoi Obono-Obla is not the man for the job.
Mr Abasi is the head of the Coalition for Justice Advocacy C.J.A he writes from Calabar, Cross River State.