President Muhammadu Buhari may have begun moves to reposition his administration with the dissolution of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP) on Tuesday.
The dissolution came barely few hours after the president relieved Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of his role as chairman of the Economic Management Team, in a restructuring that has changed its nomenclature to Economic Advisory Council, with Prof. Doyin Salami as new chair.
With the latest development, Okoi Obono-Obla, who was hitherto the chairman of the panel, now stands sacked.
A statement by Buhari’s media aide, Femi Adesina, broke the news to State House reporters with a directive that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, will take over Obono-Obla’s responsibilities.
The statement equally noted that Malami was to take over all outstanding investigations and other activities of the SPIP.
The panel was established in August 2017 by the then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to investigate specifically mandated cases of corruption, abuse of office, and similar offences by public officers.
President Buhari thanked all members of the dissolved panel for their services.
The president said he looked forward to receiving the final Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission’s (ICPC) report on the ongoing investigations of the dissolved panel’s chairman.
Recall that Obono-Obla had earlier been suspended from office by the presidency over the interim investigation report of ICPC.
The president was said to have directed that ICPC conclude its investigations and proceed to prosecute Obono-Obla.
Before Malami stepped in as minister, the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata, had been running the affairs of the SPIP.
President Buhari had, in a letter dated August 14 and signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, conveyed Obono-Obla’s suspension to him.
The letter with Ref: 58788/S.75/S.18/T 1/100, read: “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 ongoing 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. Please accept my best regards.”
Meantime, the ICPC is believed to have kick-started the process of drafting a criminal charge against the suspended SPIP chairman.
Obono-Obla had earlier alleged that some high-profile persons that were being investigated by his panel were behind his ordeal.
In a statement he issued after the Abuja office of the panel was sealed off by armed policemen during the Salah break, Obono-Obla bemoaned what he described as “a smear campaign” against him and other members of the panel.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has waded into the tussle between the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the Police Service Commission (PSC), saying PSC mandates include the task of appointment and promotion in the NPF.
The president stated this when he received the 2018 Annual Report of the PSC, at the State House, Abuja, on Tuesday.
He added that the PSC mandate also included the disciplinary control of officers of the Nigerian Police Force, except the Inspector-General of Police.
“By the mandate of the commission, the task of appointment, promotion and disciplinary control of officers of the Nigerian Police Force, except the Inspector General, fall under it,’’ he said.
He, therefore, charged members of the PSC to redouble their efforts in ensuring that the Nigeria Police Force delivers on its responsibilities.
President Buhari said: “The commission has the most challenging responsibility of carrying out oversight responsibilities of the Police Force.
“The people that comprise this commission are mostly personally known to me and some of them have been through the mill as it were, therefore, I expect them to put the police in order.
“I personally believe that the Inspector General is doing his best …the police are always in the frontline and unless we get the police working effectively, the security of this country will remain in doubt.”
He noted that the commission’s assignment was enormous and called for sacrifice and commitment “especially now that almost every country is faced with severe internal security challenges. Nigeria is no exception.”
The president praised the commission for new ideas introduced into the workings of the force.
“I am aware that you have put policies in place to reposition the Police Force in the areas of merit-driven promotion and prompt disciplinary actions.
“Government will require that you redouble your efforts and ensure that the Police Force receives the required assistance for optimum service delivery.”
He also called on the commission to ensure harmonious working relationship with the Police Force.
“I wish to see close communication and understanding between you and the Nigeria Police. This is necessary for the overall efficiency and effectiveness in securing the country,” he added.
Earlier in his address, Alhaji Musiliu Smith, the chairman of the commission, who led other members to State House, had intimated the president that, in line with his (president’s) specific directives, the management was gradually putting together a productive Nigeria Police Force.
According to him, this will attract the endorsement of all Nigerians and also receive the acclaim of the policemen themselves.
Smith also requested for the intervention of the president in overcoming the funding constraints of the commission as well as securing better office accommodation.