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Obono-Obla accuses ‘Osinbajo’ of witch-hunt over alleged certificate forgery

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Okoi Obono-Obla, who was sacked as chairman of the Special Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP) has accused an aide to Vice President Yemi Osibanjo of persecution.

He also explained that Osinbajo’s aide was persecuting him for his refusal to be disloyal to President Muhammadu Buhari.

It would be recalled that Obono-Obla headed the special panel on the recovery of government property before the panel was dissolved by Buhari in August over an allegation of corruption.

In a letter to President Buhari, Obono-Obla alleged he was victimised by the Deputy Chief of Staff in the vice-president’s office, Ade Ipaye, who, he said, asked him to compromise the investigation of a case of contract scam, the Cable reported on Sunday.

The lawyer, who is wanted for alleged certificate forgery, said the case involved some members of the National Assembly who were reported by the Nigerian Ports Authority in April 2018.

The Obono-Obla panel was established in August 2017 by the then Acting President, Mr Osinbajo, to investigate specifically mandated cases of corruption, abuse of office and similar offences by public officers.

“My travails started with my appointment as Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property in July 2017!” the letter reads as published by The Cable.

“The Panel was constituted when the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, was Acting President. He accordingly appointed one of his Special Assistants, Adeniran Gbolahan, as Secretary. Later I had a bitter disagreement concerning whether or not the panel should wait for mandates from the Vice President before it can commence an investigation.

“The Secretary enjoyed the support of the Vice President through the Deputy Chief of Staff, Ade Ipaye. Mr Ipaye sided Mr Gbolahan against me.”

“Mr Ipaye then wrote a letter stopping an investigation of a case of contract scam reported by Nigerian Ports Authority….. In April 2018, Mr. Ipaye invited me to his office and instructed me not to proceed with the investigation of some members of the National Assembly,” he wrote.

“In February 2019, Ipaye wrote to me instructing me to suspend the activities of the Panel on the purported ground that the Government was reviewing its operations.

“When the Secretary of the Panel, Gbolahan left in 2018, he was replaced by Mr Obinna Ogwuegbu, a nominee of the Vice President who started another bout of antagonism and malice against me on the prompting of Mr Ipaye.”

President Muhammadu Buhari dissolved the panel on September 17, pending the the outcome of an investigation into allegations of forgery and financial impropriety against him by the Anti-corruption agency, ICPC,

Obono-Obla’s troubles began when an investigation by the anti-graft agency, ICPC, found he falsified his WAEC result to enrol at the University of Jos, Plateau State, where he studied law in the 1980s.

He was, therefore, declared wanted by the Commission, on October 22, for failing to appear before it to answer questions on the allegations against him.

He was also indicted by a committee of the House of Representatives in 2018 that investigated his panel. The panel found his guilty of certificate forgery and asked Buhari to remove him from office.

But Obono-Obla said his prosecution by the ICPC was used to get back at him for his courageous move to investigate some ”powerful senators.”

It was also reported how Okio-Obla in August accused 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.

Obono-Obla, also in his letter, 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.

He said he had called the attention of the president to the matter without success.

“I am open to any probe but also the matters I investigate are facts against the Nigerian people and I’m not deterred. Someday Nigerians will know who their true enemies are,” he said.

“I had briefed Mr. President on the 13th June 2018 on all these interference and challenges but no action was ever taken to address all the concerns raised by me.

“In all of it all, I strove to do my job in a dedicated and committed manner. However, the most painful aspect is the hostilities I have faced ridicule and embarrassment to my person when I was being hounded and harassed without due process of being heard concerning any allegation against me.

“If I have done anything wrong, I should be removed from office but I should not be humiliated and reduced to nothing. It sends a wrong signal to me that I was given a job that merely exposed me to hatred and attack. And why should that be?”

Obono-Obla did not indicate if he will return from hiding to face the forgery certificate allegation by the ICPC.

In prrevious interviews he did not outrightly deny that he forged his WAEC certificate but stated that he duly studied law at the university.

As at the time of filing this report, the spokesman to the vice president, Laolu Akande could not be reached for a response to Obono-Obla’s allegations.

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Bayelsa/Kogi guber: No card reader, No voting — INEC

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that no voter will be allowed to vote without his card being recognised by the Smart Card Reader in the November 16, elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states.

Prof. James Apam, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), disclosed this to NAN on the sidelines of a one-day Training on Election Duties, organised by Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) for its Staff at Kogi Sector Command Headquarters in Lokoja.

Speaking on behalf of Apam, Olugbenga Ajayi, a staff officer of the commission, warned that no person would be allowed to vote without being accredited using the card reader.

“We keep learning everyday, and we want to obey what we have said as electoral umpire; if card reader cannot identify you, you cannot vote.

“It is either card reader or no voting in Kogi and Bayelsa elections; anything apart from the use of card reader for accreditation and voting will be disqualified.

“No manual accreditation would be allowed; it is either card reader or no voting,” he added.

He enjoined all the personnel participating in the elections to conduct themselves well without compromise but respect their dignity and protect the sanctity of the elections.

He further urged other security personnel to adequately secure electoral staff and election materials, stressing that all eyes are now on Kogi and Bayelsa elections.

“We urged the security personnel to live by the oath they swore to and not chasing after politicians for money,” he said

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EFCC docks man, son for alleged $108,000 USD fraud

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Lagos office, Wednesday arraigned John Isang and his son, Martins over alleged obtaining of $108,000 under false pretence.

The duo were made to appear before Justice Sherifat Solebo of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja.

EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren disclosed this in a statement to TIMELY POST.

Uwujaren affirmed that the duo allegedly obtained the said sum from Ikechukwu Eze on the pretext of providing him a vessel to transport Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) outside the country.

But the defendants, however, pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.

One of the counts reads: “That you John Isang, Martins John Isang, David Ola (now at large), Ferdinand Lolo (now at large), Frank Aku (still at large), Agare Celebrate (still at large), Sani Abdulllahi (still at large),Mark Aku (still at large) and Ibor Ferdinand Agbor (still at large) sometimes in August 2018 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired to obtain money from Mr. Ikechukwu Eze by falsely representing to Ikechukwu Eze that you had a vessel to transport 5000 Metric Tons of Automative Gas Oil (AGO) for him from Nigeria to Ghana which pretence you knew was false.”

The other charge reads: “That you John Isang, Martins John Isang, David Ola (now at large), Ferdinand Lolo (now at large), Frank Aku (still at large), Agare Celebrate (still at large), Sani Abdulllahi (still at large),Mark Aku (still at large) and Ibor Ferdinand Agbor (still at large) sometimes in September 2018 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court obtained the sum of $108, 000 (One Hundred and Eight Thousand United States Dollars) from Mr. Ikechukwu Eze by falsely representing to Ikechukwu Eze that the money was the cost of hiring a vessel to transport 5000 Metric Tons of Automative Gas Oil (AGO) from Nigeria to Ghana which pretence you knew was false.”

On this premise, the prosecution counsel, C.R. Edozie asked the court for a trial date and an order to remand the defendants in prison pending the outcome of the case.

Also, the defence counsel, H.E. Igbenemo informed the court that he was yet to file and serve bail applications on behalf of his clients because he was briefed about the arraignment the previous day.

He, therefore, prayed the court for a short date to allow the defence file and serve the court and the prosecution with the bail application.

In his ruling, Justice Solebo adjourned the case to December 12, for hearing of bail application and ordered that the defendants be remanded in a Nigerian Correctional Centre.

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Sowore: Soyinka flays FG over attack on protesters, says Buhari govt insecure, paranoid

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The Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, has called on civil society organisations to strategize and coordinate their responses to attacks on human rights by state agents under President Muhammadu Buhari.

Soyinka, in his statement sent to TIMELY POST, reacted to the attack on protesters on Tuesday in Abuja for demanding the release of Omoyele Sowore by the State Security Service.

“The sporadic, uncoordinated responses as in the case of Omoyele Sowore, the absence of a solid strategy, ready to be activated against any threat — these continue to enable these agencies in their mission to enthrone a pattern of conduct that openly scoffs at the role of the judiciary in national life,” the don said.

He condemned “the level of arrogance” by agents of the state under President Buhari, saying it “has crossed even the most permissive thresholds.”

“As I remarked from the onset, this is an act of government insecurity and paranoia that merely defeats its real purpose,” he said.

TIMELY POST reported how protesters demanding the release of Mr Sowore were violently dispersed with gunshots in Abuja with some of them including journalists covering the protest sustaining injuries.

Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters, is being detained by the SSS despite meeting his bail conditions set by the court.

The activist and former presidential candidate is being prosecuted for calling for a revolution against bad governance. He is charged with treasonable felony and money laundering.

Below is Soyinka’s full statement:

SOWORE, HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE RULE OF LAW

It should become abundantly clear by now that Civil Society organisations, committed to the entrenchment of the Rule of Law and the defence of fundamental human rights must come together. This is not a new cry. They must meet, debate, and embark on a binding pact of tactical responses whenever these two pillars of civilized society are besieged by the demolition engines of state security agencies. The sporadic, uncoordinated responses as in the case of Omoyele Sowore, the absence of a solid strategy, ready to be activated against any threat — these continue to enable these agencies in their mission to enthrone a pattern of conduct that openly scoffs at the role of the judiciary in national life. Result? A steady entrenchment of the cult of impunity in the dealings of state with the citizenry – both individuals and organizations. The level of arrogance has crossed even the most permissive thresholds.

It is heart-warming to witness the determined efforts of “Concerned Nigerians” in defence of these rights. Predictably, the ham-fisted response of the Directorate of State Security (DSS) continues to defy the rulings of the court. The weaponry of lies having been exploded in their faces, they resort to what else? Violence! Violence, including, as now reported, the firing of live bullets. Why the desperation? The answer is straightforward: the government never imagined that the bail conditions for Sowore would ever be met. Even Sowore’s supporters despaired. The bail test was clearly set to fail! It took a while for the projection to be reversed, and it left the DSS floundering. That agency then resorted to childish, cynical lies. It claimed that the ordered release was no longer in their hands, but in Sowore’s end of the transfer. The lie being exploded, what next? Bullets of course!

Such a development is not only callous and inhuman, it is criminal. It escalates an already untenable defiance by the state. As I remarked from the onset, this is an act of government insecurity and paranoia that merely defeats its real purpose. And now – bullets? This is no longer comical. Perhaps it is necessary to remind this government of precedents in other lands where, even years after the event, those who trampled on established human rights that generate homicidal impunity are called to account for abuse of power and crimes against humanity. The protests for Sowore’s release go beyond only acts of solidarity, they are manifestations of the judgment and authority of courts of law, under which this nation is supposedly governed. Either it is, or it isn’t. The answer stares us all in the face. The principles that now fall under threat implicate more than one individual under travail. They involve the very entitlement of a nation to lay claim to membership of any democratic, humanized union.

Enough of this charade, nothing more than a display of crude, naked power. Release Omoyele Sowore and save us further embarrassment in the regard of the world. An apology to the nation by the DSS and the judiciary would also not be out of place. It would go some distance in redeeming the image of an increasingly fascistic agency and reduce the swelling tide of public disillusionment.

Let the rule of law reign. Failing that, have the honesty to proclaim the death of ordered society. Then we’ll all know just where we stand.

Wole SOYINKA
WS Foundation for the Humanities
Abeokuta, Ogun State
November 12, 2019

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