‘Action Must Begin On Assets Recovered Panel Within A Week’. The Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, Okoi Obono-Ob has been handed one week ultimatum by the House of Representatives, through its Ad Hoc Committee on Activities of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel, to submit to its secretariat, 12 sets of documents about his panel.
We gathered the ad hoc committee, in its letter dated March 28, 2018, and addressed to Obono-Obla, stated that the details demanded were needed for the House’s investigation into “the modus operandi and legality” of the presidential panel.
The two-page letter, signed by the Chairman of the ad hoc committee, Ahman Pategi, with the reference number, NASS/8HR/DCD/016180/001, was titled, ‘Need to investigate the legality of the operations of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property’.
The letter stated that the House of Representatives had on March 22, 2018, passed a resolution and set up the ad hoc committee to carry out a full investigation of the operations and legality of the Obono-Obla-led presidential panel.
The resolution by the House of Representatives came barely 24 hours after the presidential panel had on March 21, 2018, filed a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja seeking an order of interim forfeiture of some properties belonging to the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, to the Federal Government.
The panel had sought the interim forfeiture of the said properties on the grounds that it was investigating Ekweremadu for an act of breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers by allegedly failing to declare the properties to the Code of Conduct Bureau.
Nine of the targeted properties were said to be in Abuja; two in London, the United Kingdom; eight in Dubai, the United Arab Emirate; and three in Florida, the United States.
The House of Representatives has demanded the books of the panel to commence what it described as “legislative actions” on the legal status of the panel.
The presidential panel’s details demanded by the ad hoc committee included documents showing the membership/composition of the panel and their curriculum vitae with relevant certificates attached; instrument/gazette establishing the panel; operations and activities of the panel since inception; and a nominal roll of staff of the panel since inception.
Other documents demanded are the ones showing the annual budgetary provisions for the panel since inception; list of investigations carried out from inception to date; list of all the seizures effected from inception till date, showing their location and names of persons from whom the seizures where made; details of bank account; and details of income & expenditure since inception.
Ekweremadu has since filed a reply to the suit, asking the court to dismiss it because the panel, established by a military decree in 1983, and which instituted it, was illegal.
He contended that the Obono-Obla-led panel had ceased to exist since its mandates had been allegedly ceded to the CCB by virtue of the later provisions of the 1999 Constitution and the Code of Conduct Bureau/Tribunal Act.
The House of Representatives’ planned probe of the panel’s activities is tailored towards the same line of argument.
But Obono-Obla argued in a piece he wrote in defence of the legality of his panel that, “The point being made here is that if the ICPC Act is valid even where it borders on matters within the constitutional purview of the Bureau, an existing law, like the Act under consideration, which vests power in panel to investigate a public officer who has in any way breached the Code of Conduct for Public Officers contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is equally valid.”