President Muhammadu Buhari’s allies are scrambling to justify his inability to act decisively on corruption allegations against his cronies.
The latest attempt is by the Special Assistant to the President on Prosecutions, Okoi Obono-Obla, who said that the Senate or any other panel whatsoever lacked the power to investigate anyone accused of criminal activities.
According to Obla, in an interview with PUNCH, the Senate committee that investigated the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, Director of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke, as well as the Ministry of health panel that investigated the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Usman Yusuf, are merely administrative and no action can be taken by President Buhari on the basis of their submissions.
“The Senate that attempted to investigate it did not have the power (to do so). It cannot investigate crime; the Senate can only carry out its oversight function to expose corruption, inefficiency, maladministration in the process of lawmaking,” he said.
Obono-Obla, who doubles as the Chairman, Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, said only authorities such as the police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission have the powers to investigate the crimes and the President is only following due process.
“So, the President must follow due process before coming to a conclusion. Even if that report comes out, the President does not have powers to investigate the crime. The Nigeria Police Force, EFCC, ICPC, and so on are the only bodies that have powers to investigate the crime. That matter has to be investigated and if a prima facie case is established, then that person can be taken to court. Nigerians must just be patient.”
“It is an administrative process because it was not clear if there was corruption or if there was an infringement on the economic or financial laws in the country,” he said
Obla also defended the Presidency’s silence and inaction on the report submitted by the Osinbajo-led committee to investigate Lawal and Oke, saying that is not the end of the process but “a committee would be set up to review and then come out with a White Paper. It is not automatic. A White Paper would be the government’s position on the issue. The committee can make 10 recommendations and the White Paper may accept two. So, the President is in that process of coming out with a report,” Obla said.