Five months after he was declared wanted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the suspended chairman of the Special Investigation Panel on Recovery of Public Property (SPIP), Okoi Obono-Obla, was on Friday arrested in Abuja by the anti-graft agency.
Mr Obono-Obla, who was declared wanted by ICPC for allegedly refusing to honour its investigation, was picked up in an undisclosed location in the Federal Capital Territory.
PREMIUM TIMES reports that the former special assistant to the president on prosecution was undergoing medicals at the anti-graft agency’s headquarters in the capital city.
Confirming the development, ICPC spokesperson, Rasheedah Okodowa, said Mr Obono-Obla was arrested Friday afternoon.
She said; “Yes, he is in our custody. Mr Obono-Obla was arrested a few hours ago in Abuja. Details will be communicated to the public.”
The spokeswoman, however, declined comment on whether Mr Obono-Obla was undergoing medicals, saying the agency has its own procedures for taking suspects into its custody.”
Removed by Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari in August 2019, suspended Mr Obono-Obla from office with an instruction that the suspension order took immediate effect.
In a letter dated, August 14, 2019, and signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Mr Obono-Obla was accused of “falsification of records and financial impropriety.”
The letter read in part; “I write to convey the directive of His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for your suspension from office as Chairman, Special Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property with immediate effect.
“This suspension shall subsist until the conclusion of the ICPC investigations into cases of alleged falsification of records and financial impropriety against your person.
“You are required by this instruction to strictly observe and comply with the provisions of PSR 030405 (a-c) of the Public Service Rules. For the avoidance of doubt, the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, shall be the authority to whom you shall report.”
How ICPC’s hunting for Obono-Obla started
The agency had, through its twitter handle, in October 2019, declared Mr Obono-Obla wanted, urging the public to notify it whenever and wherever he was sighted.
ICPC had launched investigations into the allegations against the former presidential aide over falsification of his senior school certificate examination results allegedly obtained from the West Africa Examinations Council (WAEC).
The allegation stated that the results used by Mr Obono-Obla to secure admission to study Law at the University of Jos in the ‘80s was falsified.
He was also indicted by a committee of the House of Representatives in 2018 that investigated his panel for the certificate forgery. The representatives then asked Mr Buhari to remove him from office.
I’m facing persecution –Obono-Obla
However, Mr Obono-Obla has consistently refuted the allegations, accusing some highly-placed Nigerians of orchestrating his removal from office.
“I have suffered so much persecution and witch-hunting because of the fact that I have carried out my assignment with patriotism, dedication, commitment, and conviction. I don’t deserve this persecution and witch-hunt because of my refusal to be disloyal to Mr. President and allow the office of the Vice President to use the Panel to serve the vested interest,” he said.
“The ICPC which is now being used against me is under the protege of the Vice President, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye. Professor Bolaji Owasanoye was part and parcel of the conspirators against me!
“I was also persecuted by the National Assembly! The whole issue of my purported certificate forgery was masterminded by the House of Representatives to get back at me because I had the guts to initiate an investigation against some powerful Senators.
Mr. Obono-Obla, also in a letter addressed to the presidency and recently published, said he was never given an opportunity of being heard concerning the allegation levelled against him.
“If I have done anything wrong, I should be removed from office but I should not be humiliated and reduced to nothing.”