Loot recovered under Buhari returned to owners-Ex-presidential aide, Obono-Obla

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A former Chairman of the Special Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, Okoi Obono-Obla, has alleged that the loot recovered by his panel under former President Muhammadu Buhari were returned to the looters.

He added that the Buhari administration failed to fight corruption, supposedly the bedrock of people’s trust in him.

Obono-Obla, who was appointed a presidential aide by Buhari, made the allegation on Saturday while speaking on the Mic On Podcast.

SPIP was an independent investigative panel set up by Buhari to recover stolen property and assets belonging to the country.

According to Obono-Obla, his efforts to bring many looters to justice in the country were frustrated by officials in the same administration, including former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, whom he (Obono-Obla) described as an ‘authoritarian’.

“Some of the things I recovered were returned to the looters. For instance, there was this case of someone from whom I recovered over 80 brand new X-class Mercedes Benz cars (armoured plated) from in Jabi, Abuja.

“I wrote to the DG, Customs to ask if the person paid customs duties of the vehicles, he said ‘No’, they didn’t pay. I wrote to the Federal Inland Revenue Services to know if the person paid tax on the vehicles; he also said ‘No’ and that they don’t have the records. We went to court to get an order of interim forfeiture, and it was granted pending the hearing of the case. So, I sent a memo to Malami to brief him on what we were doing, only for him to tell me that he never mandated me to do things I investigated,” he said.

PUNCH Online observed that Obono-Obla was referring to a case involving a former Director of Power, Works, and Housing, Mr. Ibrahim Tumsah, a resident of Jabi, Abuja, from whom SPIP recovered 86 vehicles valued at about N500 million, land, houses, and farms.

“Another one is the case of a senator who was then in his sitting status and later became the President of the Senate. I found his story in the Panama Papers, which stated that he had property in offshore islands; I didn’t have the power to investigate him because it was overseas, so I went to the DG, NIA, and sought his help to work together.

“They conducted an investigation and sent the report to me. The report confirmed that this senator has over £200 million worth of property in the offshore islands; I sent a copy to the president and one to the Attorney General. Till today, nothing happened,” he added.

While fielding questions on whether the Buhari administration failed to fight corruption, Obono-Obla said, “Yes, I would say so. We didn’t do well. When Magu (former EFCC chairman) and I left, we didn’t hear anything again about fighting corruption. Both of us had a similar fate; we were stepping on toes and too stubborn. In fact, Malami’s close associate once told me, ‘you —Obla and Magu— are very stubborn,’” he stressed.

He narrated how, on many occasions, Malami would make jest of him to his wife on his moves to recover funds and question if he had recovered them.

“All the problems I had, Malami was behind them. The president wouldn’t have removed me without his input. He would joke to my wife if I had now recovered the billion dollars I wanted to recover from the firm that mailed me.

“I was not dismissed, I was suspended and till date, the suspension has not been lifted,” he added.

Recall that in 2019, Obono-Obla was served a letter of his immediate suspension from office over an investigation by the anti-graft agency, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, which found that he falsified his WAEC result to enrol at the University of Jos, where he studied law in the 1980s.

He was also alleged of attending the Nigerian Law school on the back of the fake high school records.

However, the former aide denied all the allegations and the case was further dismissed.

Punch