The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has amended the corruption and certificate forgery charges it filed against an ex-presidential aide, Okoi Obono-Obla.
The amendment, coming less than two months after Mr Obono-Obla and his co-defendants were arraigned by the commission, reduced the number of counts from 10 to five.
The amended charges filed at the High Court of the FCT, in Apo, Abuja, on March 4 and seen by PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday, also revealed that the anti-corruption agency has backtracked on its allegations of certificate forgery sensationally levelled against Mr Obono-Obla in 2019.
Obono-Obla’s suspension, sacking
Mr Obono-Obla, a former special adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Prosecutions, was suspended by the President as the chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) for the Recovery of Public Property in August 2019 over “alleged falsification of records and financial impropriety against your person.”
The President suspended Mr Obono-Obla in an August 14, 2019 letter signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.
About a month later, on September 17, 2019, the President disbanded the SPIP, ordered the ICPC to probe the allegations against Mr Obono-Obla, and prosecute him.
The commission subsequently declared Mr Obono-Obla wanted and arrested him in March 2020.
On July 1, 2020, the ICPC filed 10 counts against him and his co-defendants at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
But the commission subsequently withdrew the charges and refiled the 10 counts at the FT High Court on July 8, 2020 with Mr Obono-Obla, his Senior Assistant, Special Duties (Protocol), Aliyu Ibrahim, and the Managing Director of ABR Global Petroleum Resources Ltd, Daniel Omughele Efe, charged as co-defendants.
ICPC accused Mr Obono-Obla in two of the 10 counts with forgery and falsifying his O’Level examination result with which he was admitted to University of Jos (UNIJOS) to study Law.
He was specifically accused “of dishonestly using as genuine”, “a Mary Knoll College, Ogoja General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level, May/June 1982 (GCE) Statement of Result for Ofem Okoi Ofem with candidate No: 09403/247 showing an O’Level credit (6) score for Literature in English as part of the five O’Level credit requirement” for him to study Law for the 1985/86 academic session in UNJOS.
The commission used the result when he “had reason to believe that the document (GCE), the basis upon which you were admitted to study Law in UNIJOS, was forged as you never sat for the English Literature examination for May/June 1982 GCE.”
In another count, the commission alleged that Mr Obono-Obla, while being “a prospective undergraduate of University of Jos (UNIJOS) made a false made a false document,” –which was the same GCE O’Level result he was alleged to have presented as genuine for admission into UNIJOS.
The prosecution alleged that the offences are contrary and punishable under the Penal Code.
It also alleged among others that Messrs Obono-Obla, Ibrahim, and Efe of conspiring in 2018 and also using their offices to confer an unfair advantage on Mr Ibrahim by allegedly diverting N19,994,185 received from the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) to furnish SPIP offices.
It alleged that the money was diverted into ‘the personal account of Aliyu Ibrahim, using proxy companies, without furnishing the said SPIP offices as proposed to the NDIC”.
ICPC said in count six that Obono-Obla, around July 2018 in Abuja, as SPIPC Chairman “failed to attend/honour an invitation” by ICPC for an investigation, contrary to Section 28(1)(a) and (6) and punishable under section 28(10) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.
But in the amended charges filed by ICPC on March 4, 2021, the commission dropped the two charges of result forgery and falsification contained in the original 10 counts.
Aside from reducing the total number of counts to five, the commission also removed Mr Efe’s name from the charges leaving Mr Obono-Obla and Mr Ibrahim as the remaining defendants.
The amendment also saw the removal of “diversion” of funds from the charges.
It also the N19,994,185 allegedly diverted by the defendants in July 2019.
ALSO READ: Obono-Obla, Buhari’s ex-aide, arraigned for fraud, certificate forgery
The prosecution substituted the N10, 174,000 with N10, 174,000 which it now claims, in the amended charges, to have been paid to some contractors from the N15, 187, 917 00 the NDIC paid to some contractors for the furnishing of the SPIP offices.
In the previous charges it claimed the N19,994,185 was paid into Mr Ibrahim’s personal account, but in the amended charges, it claims the N10, 174,000 was paid into the account of ABR Global Petroleum Resources LTD, a company where Mr Ibrahim was said to be a director and signatory to its account.
The trial judge, Olukayode Adeniyi, had on January 23, 2021 after the defendants were re-arraigned, fixed March 17 for commencement for trial.
But with the amendment of the charges, Mr Obono-Obla and Mr Ibrahim will likely be re-arraigned on the date for the resume hearing.
Part of the amended charges read, “That you OKOI OFEM OBONO-OBLA(M) (aka Ofern Oko Ofem) and ALIYU IBRAHIM (M) m the month of April 2019 or thereabout, at Abuja within the jurisdiction of this court while being the Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP) and Senor Assistant Special Duties (Protocol) to the Chairman SPIP, respectively conspired among yourselves to use your positions to confer unfair advantage an Aliyu Ibrahim by diverting the sum of N10,174, 000 (Ten Million, One Hundred and Seventy Four Thousand. Naira) being part of the total sum of N15, 187, 917.00 (Fifteen Million, One Hundred and Eighty Seven Thousand Nine Hundred Seventeen Naira) paid to some contractors by the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) for the furnishing of the SPIP offices into the account of ABR Global Petroleum Resources LTD, a company where Aliyu Ibrahim ss a director and signatory to its bank account and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 26(1)() and punishable under section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.
“That vou OKOI OFEM OBONO-OBLA(M) (aka Ofern Oko Ofem) and ALIYU IBRAHIM (M) m the month of April 2019 or thereabout, at Abuja within the jurisdiction of this court while being a public officer, to wit: Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP) did use your position to confer unfair advantage on your associate (ALIYU IBRAHIM) when the sum of N10, 174, 000 (Ten Million, One Hundred and Seventy Four Thousand Naira) being part of the total sum of N15,187, 917.00 (Fifteen Mullion, One Hundred and Eighty Seven Thousand, Nine Hundred Seventeen Naira) paid to some contractors by the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) for the furnishing of the SPIP offices was diverted into the account of ABR Global Petroleum Resources Ltd), a company where Aliyu Ibrahim is a director, and signatory to its hank account without furnishing the said SPIP offices as proposed to the NDIC by you and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.”