By SUNDAY ISUWA
The determination of the present administration to recover assets belonging to the Federal Government which were either stolen or diverted by politicians and civil servants may not be realised soon following internal squabbles among officials appointed to carry out the task, LEADERSHIP Weekend can report. Findings showed that some of the members of the investigative panel who were drawn from the Nigeria Police, Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and others from ministries and agencies are now returning to their parent agencies because of redundancy. LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that the presidency had last year set up a Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property headed by Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, with Akingbolahan Adeniran as secretary. But it was gathered that the duo, who are also presidential aides, had not been having the best of cooperation for the task at hand. A source told LEADERSHIP Weekend when our correspondent visited the panel’s office located at the Ministry of Justice, Abuja, that the chairman and the secretary were not treating the very important assignment given to them by the federal government with the seriousness it deserves “Because both of them are politicians.” “You hardly see them in their offices,” the sourced noted, advising that “In making such appointments, if the head is a politician, the secretary should be either a technocrat or a bureaucrat.” According to the source, the panel was active only within the first three months of its life. “If not for the work we commenced within three months of inauguration last year, we won’t have done anything as a panel. There are a lot of things this panel needs to do but we don’t sit. As you can see, we don’t know the last time both of them came to this office.” Another source hinted that the chairman and the secretary might be having a conflict of interest, which was stalling the committee’s work, forcing some members to return to their parent MDAs. “The mandate of the committee, which is achievable, has not been achieved because the heads seem to be having some squabbles. They hardly collaborate, and as a result of redundancy, some of the members of the committee are now returning to where they were drawn from.” It was gathered that since their inauguration by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was then acting president, both Obono-Obla and Adeniran had not been carrying other members of the panel along. “From the formation of this investigative panel, we only worked in the first three months and there were results coming out. But now, some of the members are now going back to their parent ministries because nothing is happening concerning the asset recovery, the source who does not want his name mentioned revealed. LEADERSHIP Weekend reports that the panel was set up in line with the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act Cap R4, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. Within three months of its inauguration, the Obono-Obla-led panel, it was gathered, recorded remarkable milestones by recovering a quarry, four houses and 86 luxury vehicles in Abuja from the director, Finance and Accounts, Ministry of Works, Housing and Power, Ibrahim Tumsah, with 23 of the vehicles believed be bullet proof. The panel is still investigating evidence of due certification from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) which is required for the acquisition of bullet proof vehicles, it was learnt. The panel, within that period, was said to have recovered hundreds of millions of Naira from some government agencies. One of the panel’s discoveries within the period, according to LEADERSHIP’s findings, was the non-execution of the Calabar Channel despite payment of about 70 per cent of the contract sum. It was also gathered that despite reaching out to some international agencies for collaboration in the areas of asset recovery, capacity building and technical assistance with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of the panel and adding credence to the anti-corruption war of the Buhari-led APC government, within the first three months of their inauguration, both the chairman and the secretary rendered the other members, mostly civil servants, redundant, with some of them now returning to their various offices. Obono-Obla did not respond to calls or text messages sent to his phone, while the committee’s head of media and communication, Lucie-Ann Laha, said she was not authorised to speak on the matter.