The federal government has challenged deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and Senator Hope Uzodimma to travel abroad if they believe they are not in the watch list of Nigerians facing travel restriction.
According to the federal government, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) will help in arresting the 29 prominent Nigerians whose names were submitted to the agency because they have been running away from investigation in the ongoing corruption cases against them.
Both Senators had taken exception to being listed in the media among those placed on travel restriction due to ongoing corruption cases against them.
Ekweremadu had, in a statement signed by his special adviser on media, Uche Anichukwu, denied that he was on any travel ban list.
The deputy Senate president also accused one of the national dailies not premier newspaper for publishing what he described as false and misleading story.
Also, in a statement by the director Media and Special Duties, of his Campaign Organisation, Declan M. Emelumba, Senator Hope Uzodimma accused the chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, of being a paid agent working for political opponents of the Imo APC candidate.
According to the lawmaker, in spite of a persisting court order restraining the committee from any further action against him, he (Obla) went ahead to include his name in the list “just to satisfy his pay masters.”
But speaking to leadership newspaper last night, Chief Obla said that with the Executive Order 6, no court order can stop a law enforcement agency, which the panel is one, from carrying out its activities.
“We have power to investigate. We are a law enforcement agency; you can’t use the court to stop our investigation,” Obla said, insisting that the 29 names had been submitted to the NIS for action.
“We submitted the names as provided by the Executive Order 6. Anyone that is under investigation can be stopped from traveling abroad,” Obla said.
“They have been running away from investigation. If they are at the airport, they would be arrested and taken to the panel”, Obla said of the names as reported by leadersship and explained why the panel had to involve the NIS.
He, therefore, challenged those who feel their names are not on the watch list to travel abroad.
“We are doing our work. Let them come and defend themselves. For Uzodimma, he was arrested at the airport and released on bail but he ran away. Those who want to use the court to stop our investigation should go back and look at the law of the federation 2004. If you violate the law, we investigate and charge you to court. And we have submitted the names to the immigration service as provided by the Executive Order 6,” Obla said.
The leadership had reported yesterday that the asset recovery outfit had placed a travel ban on Senators Ekweremadu, Hope Uzodimma, former Sokoto State governor,Senator Attahiru Bafarawa, and 26 other prominent Nigerians.
While briefing the media, Chief Obla had listed the 29 people banned from traveling abroad until their corruption cases are determined to include former Senate President David Mark, former House of Representatives Speaker Dimeji Bankole, former Deputy Speaker Usman Nafada, former aviation minister Stella Odua, Folake Oke, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, former group managing director of NNPC, Abubakar Yar’Adua, former PDP publicity secretary, Olisah Metuh, and the Tumsa brothers, among others.
But in a prompt reaction yesterday, Uzodimma through his Campaign Organisation faulted the inclusion of his name in the list, describing it as a baseless and lawless action, just as he cited a court order which restrained the panel chairman from investigating the senator as evidence.
The statement issued in Owerri by the director, Media and Special Duties, Hope Uzodimma Campaign Organisation, Declan M. Emelumba said it was clear that Chief Obla was a paid agent working for political opponents of the APC candidate.
The statement noted: “On November 23, 2018 Justice A.T. Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, in suit No FHC/PH/FHR/211/2018, gave an order restraining the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Funds from doing anything pertaining to the contract between NPA and Niger Global, which was the basis of the panel’s claim that it was investigating the senator’s company, Niger Global.”
The statement explained that the court order was served on Chief Obla and was followed up with a letter to him from the senator’s lawyer, Barr Ogaju Dike, drawing his attention to the order. It wondered why Obla went ahead to disobey a valid court order if he did not have ulterior motives.
“We are aware that Chief Obla is on the payroll of the senator’s political opponents who are using him to sabotage his campaign for the governorship of Imo State. We know them. But Obla in not above the law, so even as desperate as he is to please his pay master, he should obey court orders if he is truly an agent of the federal government”, it added.
The statement recalled that Obla first started by accusing the APC flag bearer of not declaring his assets, before shifting to the Calabar Channel contract when the assets issue could not stand.
“Why is Obla so desperate to smear the senator’s image and why does he strike just on the eve of a major political event of the senator? His first action was on the eve of the last day of substitution of candidates by INEC. Now this is coming on the eve of the senator’s campaign flag off,” the campaign organisation said.
On his part, Ekweremadu described yesterday’s report as misleading, saying he was not in court with the panel or any other government agency over any corruption case.
A statement signed by the deputy Senate president’s special adviser on media, Uche Anichukwu, noted: “He was rather sued by the SPIP on the grounds that he, in the panel’s words, allegedly neglected to declare his assets ‘in the manner prescribed by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property’.
“Ekweremadu’s position is that the Constitution demands every public officer to declare his or her assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau every four years, a provision he had since fulfilled, hence his refusal to fill fresh asset declaration forms forwarded to him by the Panel contrary to the Constitution.
“It is also his position that the Public Property Special Provisions Act, CAP R4 LFN, 2004, otherwise known as Decree No 3, 1984, which the Panel relied on to charge public officials to court has become obsolete and power to investigate non-asset declaration is now vested in the Code of Conduct Bureau by the 1999 Constitution (as amended). “Therefore, only the Code of Conduct Bureau can receive asset declaration forms from public officers. The Court of Appeal recently gave a judicial imprimatur to this when it ruled in a similar matter that the SPIP has no prosecutorial powers whatsoever, hence the panel is acting ultravires.
“It is further recalled that the Federal High Court, Abuja, at the November 8, 2018 hearing on the matter, declined the panel’s request to order the senator’s arrest since the senator is already challenging the panel’s legality.”
“So, whereas the excesses and smear tactics of the SPIP is not in doubt, the report is considered false and misleading, especially since our interaction with those concerned indicated that the only medium that listed Ekweremdu and was subsequently copied by some online platforms, confirmed that the reporter was neither given nor saw any list that contains Ekweremadu’s name”.
Obla had said on Monday that every agency worked without the interference of the presidency.
“The president is not interfering in the anti-graft war,”Obla said, adding that, “he (Buhari) told me I should resist any interference from every quarter.”