One of the Prosecutors with the Special Presidential Investigation Panel, SPIP, for Recovery of Public Property, Oluwatosin Ojaomo, has accused the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, of withholding approval for the prosecution of hundreds of assets forfeiture and other criminal cases, .
The Prosecutor explained that the cases were investigated and handed over to the AGF’s Office by the SPIP, on the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2019.
The President had in September 2019, dissolved the SPIP, while directing the AGF to immediately take over all outstanding investigations and other activities of the SPIP.
In November 2019, over 500 case files were retrieved from the office of the disbanded Panel, and an 8-man Panel was set up by the Department of Public Prosecutions, DPP, in the Ministry of Justice, to review the heaps of files.
Meanwhile, according to the Prosecutor, Malami has failed to file the cases in court, in violation of the Presidential directive, and Section 1 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015.
He cited the case of two brothers, Ibrahim and Tijjani Tumsah, who he said allegedly retrieved without due process, 86 expensive vehicles, and real estate seized by the SPIP, on the orders of a Federal High Court.
The Lawyer demanded the prosecution of the siblings, and other cases, in a letter with reference No. OOC/TOL/12N/07/2020, dated July 14, 2020, titled: ‘Request for the prosecution of Ibrahim Tumsah and Tijjani Tumsah, for contravention of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act, 2004’, addressed to the AGF.
Copies of the letter were also sent to the President, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Mohammed Adamu, Chairman, Presidential Adviser Committee on Anti-Corruption, PACAC, Prof. Itse Sagay, Transparency International, TI, and the United Nations, UN, Office on Drugs and Crime.
The properties retrieved by the Tumsahs, included 4 houses in Wuse 2 and Jabi, and a quarry plant in Kuje, Abuja, as well as 86 exotic vehicles, comprising of a Wrangler SUV, Audi ASL, Toyota Hilux van, Ford Taurus, Mercedes Benz S550, Mercedes Benz GL 550, Toyota Land Cruiser, Toyota Prado SUV, and many other expensive vehicles.
They were said to have been unsealed under suspicious circumstances, and returned to two firms, Integrated Service Insurance Ltd and Integrated Bureau de Change Ltd, belonging to the Defendants, who were previously arraigned on two counts.
Ibrahim is a former Director of Finance and Administration, at the defunct Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, while his brother, Tijjani, is the former Vice Chairman of the dissolved Presidential Committee on North-East Initiative.
Tijjani was recently appointed as the interim National Secretary, of the All Progressives Congress, APC, National Caretaker Committee, headed by the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni.
The siblings were investigated by the SPIP, chaired by Okoi Obono-Obla, over their alleged failure to declare ownership of the properties, while being Public Servants.
Obono-Obla and other members of the Panel were removed in a controversial manner, and were directed to handover the Federal Government’s properties in their care to the government.
The Chairman of the Panel, was also declared wanted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC.
However, Ojaomo said that the cases against the Tumsahs were dismissed, due to the decision by the Court of Appeal, that the SPIP did not possess the statutory powers to institute criminal matters.
He disclosed that several attempts made by the Panel to get authorisation from the AGF, to file charges against many criminal suspects, failed.
The letter read in part: “Until the removal of the members of the Panel, your Office refused to give the approval, which led to the dismissal of the suit against the duo (Ibrahim and Tijjani), and other matters instituted by the Panel.
“One would have expected you to use your good Office as the AGF, to save this matter, by taking over and prosecuting them, but the ones that were taken over by your Office were either withdrawn, or application made for them to be struck out.
“This action has struck big damage (sic) to the anti-corruption war of this government, as most of the criminal suspects indicted after investigations, are back to town enjoying the stolen assets.”
The petition observed that it had been close to one year since the SPIP was dissolved by the President, with a directive that all the matters handled by the Panel should be handed over to the AGF, for review and possible prosecution.
“None of the suspects has been charged to court, as the case files are currently being kept in view at your office, without any action, and in clear violation of Section 1 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015”, the Lawyer admonished Malami.
Ojaomo requested the AGF to either re-enlist the case against Ibrahim and Tijjani Tumsah, or prefer new charges against them, “as the properties which were seized from them worth billions of naira, had been returned to them under suspicious circumstances”.
The Lawyer offered to prosecute the Tumsahs, if the AGF grants consent in accordance with Sections 383 (1) and (2) of ACJA, 2015, noting that “the war on corruption must be fought without any sacred cow, as directed by President Buhari”.
Ojaomo added that he has not been sacked as the SPIP Special Prosecutor, noting regrettably, that the AGF has refused to allow him to continue with his job.
He stated: “I was appointed as a Special Prosecutor, and I wanted to continue the cases. I was not sacked. The President only sacked the Panel Chairman and 2 members; I was not sacked, and up till now, my letter of appointment is with me.
“I was supposed to continue prosecuting the cases, but he (AGF) has not allowed me to function. He was supposed to give the support to prosecute the cases; I have written several letters to him to allow me to prosecute the cases, so I can recover money for the Federal Government. We are talking of over 600 cases.”
The prosecutor further said that he had visited the AGF’s office several times, and also met with him, but that Malami failed to respond favourably to his request.
“Most of us that are ready to support the anti-corruption war, have been hampered by the action of the AGF. I have also visited his office, they said they would get back to me, but they have not done so up till now. I met personally with the AGF, and he promised to reach me, but nothing was done. They just want to hold on to the cases until the tenure of the President elapses.”