More than ever before, there is a compelling need for President Buhari to look inwards and reflect on the ability of his team to deliver on the anti corruption campaign.
Many Observers are worried about the poor handling of alleged corruption cases resulting in the cases being struck out and the govt unable to secure a notable conviction since 2015. It would appear that the current government is breeding a culture of Media propaganda trials at the expense of diligent prosecution of corruption cases. When Barr. Okon Obla was appointed the presidential Advicer on Prosecution, many expected that President Buhari will finally have the benefit of sound legal advice and guidance for his anti corruption War but that, regrettably, seems not to be happening.
Today, there is a general concern that Okon Obla has derailed President Buhari’s anti corruption war. Underlying this concern is the feeling that he has failed to advice Mr. President and agencies like the EFCC appropriately on anti corruption prosecutions leading to very shameful outcomes across various courts in the country.
First, Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s case at the Code of conduct tribunal brings to fore Mr. Obla’s ineptitude. As SA to President on Prosecutions, Obla has failed to assist the govt to build a solid case that will survive the rigors of a diligent trial. Saraki’s case has been a mass ofcontradictions. Prosecution witnesses especially Michael Wekas, the star witness, contradicted themselves several times. They were found to have avoided simple things like interrogating Saraki before filing the charges, or the more complex things like admitting that while Saraki did not declare assets of companies in which he had shares, he indeed declared his interests and quantum of shares in those companies. Little wonder the Code of Conduct tribunal dismissed the case. A similar fate awaits the ongoing Re Trial if nothing is done to strengthen prosecution.
Mr. Obla also failed to counsel the govt properly on Elder Orubebe’s case. Orubebe was accused of stealing the sum of N1.97bn meant for the compensation of owners of properties on Eket Urban section of the East-West Road in Eket,Akwa Ibom State.
However, shortly after the defendants were arraigned, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, in a letter to Chairman of the ICPC,with Ref No. DPPA/MNDA/345/16, confirmed that the N1,965,576,153.46, which Orubebe allegedly diverted, “has not been expended, but is awaiting further contract decisions and directives from the Ministry of Niger-Delta Affairs”.
According to the AGF in the letter that was signed by the Director of Public Prosecution and dated December 16, 2016: “In view of the above, the basis for the prosecution of the accused persons for misappropriation does not exist and thus, further prosecution cannot be justified”. The court discharged and acquitted Orubebe.
On the much celebrated Patience Jonathan’s case, there are serious speculations within govt circles that Mr. Obla may have indeed acted as a mole and sabotaged the case against government. A Federal High Court ordered the unfreezing of Patience Jonathan’s account with Skye Bank in April 2017 after it had given an order to freeze the account in 2016. Her lawyers had filed an application stating that the court could not grant the order against her because she was not a party to the original suit based on which the order against her was given therefore the court could not give an order against her. One wonders why Mr. Obla, SA to President on Prosecution, failed to advice the govt on the fatality of an application for order of seizure of assets belonging to somebody who is not party to the original suit. Such willful negligence from a supposed legal luminary like Obla could either be deliberate act of sabotage or sheer incompetence.
The case of Emeka Mba, former NBC Director, raises serious question on the competence of Mr. Obla and other public officlas charged with the responsibility of prosecuting President Buhari’s anti corruption war. Emeka Mba was first arrested on the suspicion of stealing N15bn realised from the sale of the special auction of part of the 700Mhz digital dividend broadcast spectrum to MTN Nigeria in June 2015.
It was later discovered that the amount in question was lodged with Zenith Bank as collateral for the set top boxes manufacture and government approved rebate for Nigerian households, being a key demand by the Set Top Box ManufacturersAssociation of Nigeria, before they could even engage or manufacture. Never mind that due approvals from the NBC Board, Minister, Federal Executive Council as well as President and Commander-in-Chief are all in place. Evidently, the case collapsed and President Buhari’s anti corruption campaign continued to suffer huge credibility crisis.
The list of cases bungled as a result of Mr. Obla’s ineptitude is endless. As a Presidential Aide on Prosecution, Obla is yet to assist the government secure any notable convictions on corruption. He is rather Known for being a regular guest on popular TV talk shows and phone in programmes than a Presidential Advicer on Prosecution. Clearly, he has abdicated his job for propaganda. And this eventually cost him his job in July 2017 when he was suspended for openly defending theMaina Saga on National Television. It was quite shocking, to say the least, that a Presidential Aide on Prosecution went on air to defend a fugitive that should ordinarily be facing criminal prosecution. Till date, Mr. Obla has not been officially recalled but he has been parading himself as SA on Prosecution and Chairman of Presidential Task force on Recovery of Public Property.
Sordid details have also emerged about Obla’s activities at the Presidential Panel. He has literally turned the office into an instrument of blackmail and extortion. There are strong allegations of corruption against him ranging from bribery, extortion, abuse of office and illegal seizure of vehicles and properties.
One of the most essential features of a successful anti corruption campaign is the presence of credible crusaders who can collate evidence, drive prosecutions and secure convictions. President Buhari’s anti corruption campaign suffers a huge set back and credibility deficit with the likes of Okon Obla at the helm of affairs. Mr President is fast losing his fearsome reputation as an Anti corruption fighter. To restore a modicum of credibility, Buhari should do the needful by sacking the likes of Okon Obla and replace them with competent egg heads.
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