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Confusion trails surreptitious removal of Chief Okoi Obla-Obono from office

 
Confusion, yesterday, trailed Sunday’s surreptitious removal from office of Chairman, Presidential Special Panel on Recovery of Property, Chief Okoi Obla-Obono, a long standing political ally of President Muhammdu Buhari.

Obla-Obono, who is also Senior Special Assistant to Buhari on Prosecution, was unceremoniously booted out of office, Sunday night, on the orders of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who shares the same office with the former.

Apart from removing Obla-Obono from the strategic office, Malami, also warned him not to speak to the media on any issue involving the government without seeking and obtaining express permission and clearance from him. But, yesterday evening, the embattled presidential aide rushed to the office of the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, and asked to know whether indeed he asked the AGF to sack him from his post.

A source said the meeting between the two politicians was for Obla-Obono to hear directly from the Vice President whether he had actually been removed from the post or not. “As we speak, the presidential aide is still meeting with the Vice President and we are unable to say what would become of the case until a formal statement is made by the Presidency. “It is possible that the matter may be resolved amicably because if the Presidency had wanted to remove Obla-Obono from the post, such a statement would have emanated directly from the Villa and a replacement announced at once instead of what Malami did on Sunday through one of his aides,” an official of the Federal Government volunteered yesterday.

Confusion is said to have set into the suspicious suspension of Obla-Obono when the AGF, who purportedly authorised his media aide to issue the order to the media, reportedly recanted ever directing the said aide to make the pronouncement.

Malami is said to have sent a text message to Obla-Obono that he never authorised his staff to issue such statement to the media on Sunday. But effort to speak with Malami to clarify his position on the matter proved abortive, as he was said to have travelled out of the country on official assignment. But it was learned last night that the Presidency was considering stepping into the sack of Obla-Obono given the fact that the matter was ‘more political than meets the eye’ and considering the long-standing relationship between him and Buhari since the days of the defunct CPC.

Malami in a statement relieving Obla-Obono of his post on Sunday said, “Consequently, the AGF directed Obono-Obla to “henceforth desist from carrying out any operation in his capacity as head of the panel”. “Obla is also instructed to henceforth seek clearance from the AGF before granting any media interview or making press releases on official matters, while he is directed to promptly provide a detailed up-to-date report on the activities of the panel to the Minister for onward transmission to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

Malami’s letter titled, ‘RE: Directive In Respect of Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, Chiarman of the Special Investigation Panel on the recovery of public property’, was said to be a follow-up to a previous letter from the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

According to the statement, Malami’s letter to Obono-Obla read: “I have received a letter Ref. SH/OVP/DCOS/FMJ/0424 dated 20thOctober, 2017 in respect of the above subject from the Office of the Vice President. 
“In the said letter, the Vice President expressed his concerns on the activities of the Special Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property which runs contrary to the enabling Act establishing it. He also noted that the activities of the Panel run foul or contrary to established administrative procedures and protocols in the Federal Civil Service structure. 
“In view of the foregoing coupled with the directives contained in the letter under reference, you are hereby directed to refrain from any further action or taking any step in your capacity as the Chairman of the Special Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property with immediate effect until directed otherwise by His Excellency, the Vice President. 
“While you are to await further instructions in respect of the Panel’s mandate, you are hereby directed to promptly provide a detailed up-to-date report on the activities of the Panel to the undersigned for onward transmission to the Vice President. 
“Furthermore, you are required to henceforth seek clearance from the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice before granting any media interview or making press releases on official matters. 
“While appealing for immediate and strict compliance with the contents of this letter, please, accept the assurances of my warm regards and best wishes”.

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