Senator representing Delta North Senatorial District, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi has described the recent order for interim forfeiture of properties and bank accounts alleged to be linked to him by the Abuja Federal High Court as a deliberate attempt by the court and the Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP) to malign his image.This is even as an Abuja High Court had served the Chief Okoi Obono-Obla led SPIP, the Inspector-General of Police and other associates with an injunction, not only barring them from harassing senator Nwaoboshi, but to also maintain status quo ante, pending the substantive determination of a suit before the court. But the SPIB, being a party to the suit, went ahead to secure a forfeiture order while the injunction is yet to be lifted.
It is therefore glaring that both Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court who ordered the forfeiture and the Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property which applied for an ex parte have no regard for the law and are bent on doing everything within their means to discredit Senator Nwaoboshi in the eyes of the public, all in a bid to please their ally, Ned Nwoko who was defeated by Senator Nwaoboshi recently at the court of appeal.
It is also pertinent to note that the powers to prosecute crimes bordering on assets acquired by people to corruptly enrich themselves as alleged against Senator Nwaoboshi lies with the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). Recall that the CCT recently declined arraignment of Senator Nwaoboshi before the court over substantial evidence of non-compliance of the Tribunal’s Practice Direction 2017 in an application to commence trail against the Senator by the Federal Ministry of Justice. According to them, at a time the registry of the CCT was yet to conclude its study of the application by the justice ministry before taking a decision on the matter, the media was awash with news that all was set to arraign the Senator before the tribunal.
Having failed from this attempt, the Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property through its lawyer, Celsus Ukpong, quickly wrote an ex parte application to the Federal High Court, Abuja, accusing the Senator of acquiring properties and enriching himself with different bank accounts which he has since denied. Nwaoboshi was accused of linkages to eleven (11) houses and twenty two bank accounts. But the Senator says he does not have twenty two bank accounts, he is not a signatory to any, not a director, does not have shares in any of the said companies, and neither does he have interest in them as perceived.
The question is; what level of investigation was done by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property, particularly with regards to the companies allegedly linked to Senator Nwaoboshi? The Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), we all know is saddled with the responsibility of registering all legitimate companies operating in the country. Was the CAC approached to find out the authenticity of ownership of these companies before rushing to get a forfeiture order over them? if this search was done, not only will it reveal the directors and stakeholders of these companies but also their banking institutions as well as true signatories of bank accounts.
Nwaoboshi had said out of the 22 bank accounts he is accused of, five of the accounts have been dormant for the past ten years; one is a salary account where his salaries and emoluments are domiciled; another is an estacode account which every serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is entitled to while twelve out of the accounts belong to companies he has no interest in.
If this is not a deliberate manhunt on the personality of Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, why can’t the Okoi Obono led SPIP make public, the names of shareholders, directors, and signatories to the said accounts? Or was the court furnished with such evidence before it considered SPIP’s application for an ex parte and gave the order for temporal forfeiture of eleven houses and twenty two bank accounts allegedly linked to the Senator?
Moreover, where did the SPIP derive the powers to initiate court proceedings pursuant to its investigative powers for the purpose of obtaining an interim order for forfeiture of property? Recall that the Supreme Court in an appeal, filed in 2018 by one Tijani Tumsah, ruled that the Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property does not have the power to prosecute crimes bordering on non-declaration of assets as the Act establishing it as the Recovery of Public Property Act Cap R 4, LFN 2004 empowers the panel to only investigate. The Court of Appeal judgement explicitly said the powers of the panel are to conduct investigation on any officer who has corruptly enriched himself or breached code of conduct and no power or authority is conferred on the panel to prosecute offenders.