– The Special Presidential Panel on the Recovery of Public Property is facing heat from the Hous of Representatives
– The lower house has accused the panel of over-reaching its presidential mandate
– The lawmakers are currently investigating the operations of the panel
The House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 8, accused the Special Presidential Panel on the Recovery of Public Property of over-reaching its mandate.
The ad hoc committee of the House investigating the presidential panel made the allegation at its sitting in Abuja.
Chairman of the committee, Honourable Aliyu Ahman-Pategi, said that the decision of the lawmakers to investigate operations of the panel was to reposition it and help the government in its fight against corruption.
In his submission, secretary to the panel, Mr Akinbola Adeniran, told the committee that the panel was set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to attend specially to mandated cases.
But, the committee members demanded to know the number of cases referred to the panel by the President since it was constituted.
Adeniran, who is the panel’s head of operations and investigation, admitted that the panel had received only two cases from the president but refused to name the cases.
Pressured by committee members for details of the panel’s activities, the secretary said “you are being very specific. I can’t give details.
“I have been mandated to investigate cases and I cannot give information about them. When you start an investigation, it becomes hydra-headed. It can flow from an individual to an entity or multinational.”
He told the committee that the panel had held 15 meetings, but refused to tender minutes of the meetings, saying they were confidential.
Consequently, chairman of the committee, Ahman-Pategi, expressed displeasure at the absence of chairman of the presidential panel, Mr Okoi Obono-Obla, at the session in spite of several invitations.
A member of the committee, Honourable Bode Ayorinde, declared that “nothing can be confidential to parliament; that word is an aberration. You are summoned, so you cannot withhold information.
“The press can be excused, but to say that Representatives of Nigerians cannot know what you are doing is wrong.
“There are complaints that you are working out of your mandate; we want to check your excesses.
“All the cases you have handled, state them and attach specific mandates to each.
“Anyone that does not have a mandate means you are acting out of your mandate. You must submit the minutes of all 15 meetings held, otherwise, you are operating a republic within a republic.
“If you are given a mandate to do one, do you do 10?”
Also, Honourable Kingsley Chinda wondered where the panel drew its powers of confidentiality from.
His words: “You tell us it is confidential, that you will not disclose those you are investigating when the government is even publishing names.
“You have a specific mandate to investigate only the cases referred to you.”
Honourable Tobi Okechukwu towed the same line of thought, saying “if you must come to equity, you must come with clean hands.
“I expected that when we asked you how many cases were referred to you, you will give us the number straight away. I don’t see anything about right to fair hearing that you are referring to.
“Secretary, you are the engine room and you cannot tell us the cases you have? As a panel, have you been asked to investigate the Auditor-General of the Federation?
“You asked the auditor-general to declare his assets before you. Did he not do so before the Code of Conduct Tribunal?
“This is a confirmation that there are some infractions. If you can’t tell us how you operate, then something is fishy.”
The committee later presented a newspaper clip where the panel chairman, Obono-Obla, was said to have engaged the services of a consultant with a mandate to trace Nigeria’s looted funds abroad.
After a plea by the panel’s secretary to be given time to submit a memorandum which would answer all the questions, the committee resolved to give the panel chairman another chance to appear. (NAN)
Meanwhile, the recent appointment of Evangelist Victor Uwajeh, a United Kingdom-based private investigator, to recover all looted funds and undeclared assets from corrupt public office holders, has been described as a right step taken by the Federal Government.
An advocacy group under the auspices of Global Integrity Crusade Network (GICN) led by its president, Barrister Edward Omaga made the declaration in a statement sent to NAIJ.com on Saturday, April 21.