Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court on Wednesday ordered the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to review the conditions it attached to the bail of the suspended chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP), Mr Ekoi Obono-Obla.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed who issued the preservative order warned that failure to comply with the order, the ICPC will be summoned to show cause why the applicant will not be released from its custody.
Obono-Obla who is currently in the custody of the Commission was arrested five months after he was declared wanted in October last year by the ICPC.
Spokesperson of the commission, Mrs Rasheedat Okoduwa, had disclosed that he was arrested in Abuja on Friday March 20, along Aso Drive, opposite the Millennium Park.
His arrest and detention was in connection with ongoing investigation into allegations of abuse of office, certificate forgery, and fraud amongst others.
Justice Mohammed made the order after listening to an ex-patre application moved and argued by counsel to Obono-Obla, F. Baba Isa, who prayed the court for the release of his client from the custody of the anti-graft commission, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
He told the court that although the commission had granted his client an administrative bail, it had attached stringent conditions which could not be met in view of the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic.
Some of the conditions attached to his administrative bail includes two sureties in the rank of a permanent secretary and a director who is on Grade level 17 and above in the employment of the Federal Government, the sureties must have landed property situated at Maitama, Guzape or Asokoro with original Certificate of Occupancy verified from the appropriate land agency.
In addition, the administrative bail which comes with a N10m bond requires the sureties to produce letters of appointment, letters of last promotion, identity cards and a passport photograph.
They are also to produce introduction letters from their superior officers in their offices.
But Isa told the court that his client is unable to fulfill the above conditions which he described as stringent.
In a 23-paragraph affidavit in support of the motion, the depondent, Opatola Victor, averred that Ogbono-Obla has some health challenges that require urgent medical attention.
In his ruling, Justice Mohammed said: “Upon reading the applicant motion ex-parte, the supporting affidavit and exhibits attached, it is clear that he has already been granted bail.
“The grouse of the applicant is that the conditions attached are impossible to fulfill in view of the present lockdown of the country. It is also clear that the international passport of the applicant is with the respondent.
“It is hereby ordered that the conditions attached to the bail of the applicant be reviewed to enable him to meet with the same. But if the respondent fails to review the bail conditions, it will be directed to appear before the court to show cause why the application for the release of the applicant should not be granted.”
Meanwhile, Justice Mohammed has ordered that the order of the court, the hearing notice and other processes be served on the respondent before the next adjourned date fixed for April 1, 2020.
President Muhammadu Buhari in August 2019, suspended Mr Obono-Obla from office with an instruction that the suspension order took immediate effect.
In a letter dated, August 14, 2019, and signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Mr Obono-Obla was accused of “falsification of records and financial impropriety.”
However, Mr Obono-Obla has consistently refuted the allegations, accusing 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.
Obono-Obla who said some big names were after him, added: “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.
Mr. Obono-Obla, also in a letter addressed to the presidency and recently published, said he was never given an opportunity to exonerate over 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.”