Sometimes it feels like living in Nigeria is being trapped in an eternal shop of horrors, where nothing is ever as it seems and the most surprising thing is that nothing is surprising. Otherwise, how do you explain Okoi Obono-Obla, the chairman of the Special Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property, being suspended from his post after investigations by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) found him guilty of diverting public funds recovered from looting of government funds and other forms of fraud towards his own personal interests.
There are many reasons why this is surprising.
A recent article in the Harper’s Magazine references the bravery of Okoi Obono-Obla in 2015, when he was still a newly minted presidential aide. Okono-Obla went against the notorious Black Axe confraternity, infamous for their violence and their role as enforcers for government to save the life of one of his nephews. He received death threats for his refusal to back down and his insistence that the organization was involved in fraud, and was masterminding fraud rings across the country.
Okono-Obla has been removed with immediate effect for also falsifying his WAEC results, a common trope now in Buhari’s administration (remember Kemi Adeosun)? Okono-Obla says the case about his results is currently being arbitrated in court and the presidency’s decision to ‘scapegoat’ him is unfair. He has also denied the allegations labelled against him, and has accused unnamed enemies of targeting him for disposing them of millions of dollars they have stashed in Nigeria and abroad. Okono-Obla’s personal track record suggests he does have some integrity and as at now, the ICPC and presidency have not conclusively proven anything.
Already the ICPC has made some dangerous oversights that might damage their case if it does go to court. President Buhari initally removed Okon0-Obla from his position without fairing and was advised to reduce the sentence to a suspension, pending a concluded investigation. These kind of rash reactions have dogged the EFCC and damaged many of their cases, and might happen again here.
The solicitator General of the Federation Mr. Dayo Apata will oversee the panel for the duration of the chairman’s suspension but other members will remain.