GUWN PRESS RELEASE ON OBLA/SPIP-RELATED ALLEGATIONS AGAINST VP OSINBAJO

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GUWN PRESS RELEASE ON OBLA/SPIP-RELATED ALLEGATIONS AGAINST VP OSINBAJO

George Uboh Whistleblowers Netwok (GUWN) exonerates Vice-President Osinbajo on allegations of interference and N10 Billion Naira TSA withdrawal borne out of the investigation of Auditor-General Ayine by Obla-led SPIP.

Dr. George Uboh, GUWN’s chairman, wrote Vice-President Osinbajo a letter dated August 10, 2020, with the below caption:

“Re: AUD-GEN’s LETTER TO THE VP REQUESTING “CLARIFICATION AND GUIDANCE” ON SPIP’s LETTER INVESTIGATING AUDITOR-GENERAL; VP’s LETTER TO SPIP; AND SPIP’s RESPONSE TO THE VP.

INTERFERENCE IN CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION, OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE, ABUSE OF POWER, CORRUPTION, INTER ALIA, WHEN THE VP QUERIED SPIP’s INVESTIGATION OF THE AUDITOR-GENERAL

SEVEN (7)-DAY ULTIMATUM AND PRE-ACTION NOTICE TO EXPLAIN TO NIGERIANS WHY YOU TOOK SUCH ACTION, ELSE WE DECLARE YOU UNFIT IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION AND SIMULTANEOUSLY ASK THE COURT TO DECLARE YOUR ACTION UNETHICAL AT BEST OR ILLEGAL AT WORST, OR PETITION THE HOUSE/SENATE COMMITTEES TO PROBE YOUR ACTIONS

DISSOCIATION OF OUR ORGANIZATION FROM ALLEGATION THAT THE VP IS INVOLVED IN THE ALLEGED WITHDRAWAL OF THE TEN BILLION NAIRA; EVIDENCE DOES NOT ESTABLISH THAT”

George Uboh outright stated that the evidence in GUWN’s possession, which was in the public domain, did not establish that the VP was involved in the alleged withdrawal. Therefore, Uboh dissociated GUWN from other activists and CSOs peddling such news. Uboh however stood by the allegation of VP’s interference in Obla-led SPIP’s investigation of Auditor-General Ayine, summarizing the facts and evidence as thus:

“The Auditor-General received a letter from the then-Chairman of SPIP who is investigation an alleged Ten Billion (10,000,000,000) Naira withdrawal by the office of the Auditor-General in two tranches of Five Billion (5,000,000,000:00) Naira, among other investigations, attaching two documents evidencing the alleged withdrawals. Rather than respond to said letter from a legally constituted investigative panel, Auditor-General Ayine rushed to His Excellency Vice-President Osinbajo requesting ‘clarification and guidance’ on the mandate given to the Obla-led SPIP to investigate him, and the Vice-President acquiesced to such request when he wrote Obla asking Obla to answer ‘whether SPIP has received a mandate to investigate the alleged illegal withdrawal” and, if there is such mandate, to explain the efforts made by SPIP to ‘clarify the role members of the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation may have on the matter, including the nexus between the Office and the alleged NHIS withdrawal’. Obla responded to the Vice-President, and answered all the questions propounded to him in a manner tantamount to answering a query.

Based on the above facts and evidence, GUWN issued a 7-day ultimatum to the VP to explain such action to Nigerians who GUWN represents, and whose trust the VP is enjoying.

The VP swiftly responded same day, August 10, 2020, though received on August 13, 2020, arguing that SPIP/Obla was set up with clear understanding that SPIP/Obla can only investigate cases assigned to it by the President/Presidency, that Obla wrote an undertaking to this effect, that an appeals court case ruled on same premise, attached numerous petitions the presidency received on Obla acting beyond the mandate, and requested GUWN to disseminate its findings to the public.

On August 17, 2020, GUWN replied the VP via a 5-page letter in which GUWN surprisingly attached evidence showing he was a victim of Obla’s rudeness, but for sake of national interest, his disdain for Obla as a person did not affect his sense of national duty. This is wisdom is rare in Nigeria. Uboh/GUWN, after analysing all angles of the matter, found that VP did not interfere, and reached that GUWN must disseminate such favourable opinion to the public for sake of equity and fairness. Although attached herewith, below is the entire letter:

“Monday, August 17, 2020

Our Reference: GUWN/DCOS/VP/17/8/2020

His Excellency
The Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Professor Yemi Osibanjo, SAN, GCON
State House
Abuja
Through
Mr. Ade Ipaye
Deputy Chief of Staff to the President
Office of the Vice-President

Dear Mr. Vice-President,

Re: AUD-GEN’s LETTER TO THE VP REQUESTING “CLARIFICATION AND GUIDANCE” ON SPIP’s LETTER INVESTIGATING AUDITOR-GENERAL; VP’s LETTER TO SPIP; AND SPIP’s RESPONSE TO THE VP.

Your August 10, 2020 letter, ref: SH/OVP/DCOS/LGR&C/Misc./GUWN, received on August 13, 2020 refers:

2. We wish to thank and commend the Vice-President for responding to us in a swift manner within 7 days in consonance with the Freedom of Information Act (2011), although not invoked in our letter. I, Dr, George Uboh, the undersigned, hereby state that I drafted this letter personally after listening to lawyers, laymen and activists within and beyond our organizations, whose views were as divergent as day and night. This letter may not sit well with some people, but it is borne out of the underlying facts, law and my immense fear of my Creator.

3. It is very vital to note that our letter to the Vice-President was not made public, but was to elicit information from the Vice-President, if any, for onward dissemination to the public whose interest we protect, because the evidence in our possession seemed like interference in criminal investigation, but for sake of fair hearing, gave the VP the opportunity to explain himself. In other words, head or tail, interference or not, our findings belonged in the public domain. Accordingly, readers of this letter should hold the above premise close to their chests, because this premise will be used infra.

4. In Paragraph 3, the VP posited that Obla’s letter to the Auditor-General and his staff “came across as extremely rude and crudely menacing”. I concur; and I hereby state unequivocally that I have been a victim of such treatment by Obla. In my capacity as the chief executive of Panic Alert Security Systems Limited, I wrote Obla-SPIP a letter dated April 23, 2019 asking Obla to merely “take cognizance” of the fact that we had traced same account/fund he was recovering when we were engaged by AGF Malami in February/March 2016; we asserted that the account was submitted to AGF Malami, former finance minister Adeosun, former DSS DG Daura, AO to the President Maikano and the NNPC who opened the Skye Bank account. Obla responded on April 30, 2019. Putting aside the fact that Obla did not address the issue nor called us fir a meeting, in Paragraph 9 of Obla’s letter, Obla stated: “You are by this letter advised to henceforth desist from making claims of recovery made by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel..as this may constitute cheap blackmail to the Panel and by extension the Federal Government of Nigeria.” Please see attached. Our organization’s legal team and I could not comprehend how asking Obla to take cognizance of tracing we did before SPIP was constituted (attaching irrefutable evidence) would constitute any form of blackmail, cheap or expensive. Currently, in my capacity as the Chairman of George Uboh Whistleblowers Network and George Uboh TV, I have to impartially look into the issue of possible interference in Obla’s investigation by the Vice-President, even if Obla had previously treated me badly, because national interest supersedes personal or financial interest. Also, this should show that I am not Obla’s friend or doing a hatched job for Obla by investigating the VP’s action germane to Obla’s investigation. Nonetheless, I wish to note that Obla’s rudeness, uncouthness and selective amnesia when writing is not the crux of this matter, but to a certain degree played a role in the resolution of one of the issues infra.

5. The Vice-President correctly stated the pertinent portion of the underlying Act setting up SPIP, to wit; Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act Cap. R4, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004 (the Act). In Obla’s March 19, 2018 response to VP’s March 15, 2019 letter, Obla cited same Act cited by the VP, and recited the pertinent portion of the Act to draw conclusion that he is empowered to investigate the Auditor-General. The VP in his August 10, 2020 letter to us did not assert that Obla cannot investigate the Auditor-General. the VP’s assertion is that Obla/SPIP must “investigate specific cases specially assigned to it..it was not set up to replace or replicate the functions of the EFCC, ICPC..”. In support of the VP’s position, the VP cited the Court of Appeal case of Tijjani Musa Tumsah V. FRN & Anor. (Suit No. CA/A/278/2018) in which the Court held that the panel is to act on cases assigned to it by the President/Presidency. The VP also cited a letter written by Obla to the VP dated November 10, 2017 acknowledging the limitations of the power of the Panel and gave an undertaking that the Panel would “only act on a mandate received from the Presidency”.

6. If Obla on November 10, 2017 wrote such undertaking as demonstrated by the VP, then on March 19, 2018, barely four months later when he replied the VP’s letter on issue of same mandate developed selective amnesia in positing that he had the mandate to investigate the Auditor-General and justifying it with the act without reference to the undertaking he gave, then Obla’s reply to the VP oscillates between the incredulous and the preposterous. You cannot write an undertaking not to take a certain action, then when you took the same action four months later and you were asked to explain why you took such action, then you forget your undertaking, and still try to justify taking the action. This angle of the case may be of interest to our organization, given the fact that Obla’s sack is in itself a matter of public interest.

7. Let us assume without conceding, that Obla’s legal reasoning may have been to sign an undertaking to only act on cases referred to by the Presidency, then renege later, because the power to investigate cases cannot be waived via undertaking. Again, such action is trumped by the Tumsah case cited by the VP. Simply put, if Obla does not comply with the undertaking he wrote for any reason no matter how moronic, he must comply with a final court order. But refusal to obey both his undertaking and a valid final court order is egregious and puts him “between the devil and the deep blue sea’ or “between a rock and a hard place”, a very difficult if not impossible position to wriggle out of. The beauty of democracy is that the three legs carrying the stool are co-equal. Whenever anyone feels that the executive, in its quest to enforce the law passed by the congress/national assembly has erred, the judicial branch interprets, and such interpretation is final unless appealed to a higher court. In the instant case, Obla/SPIP never appealed the Tumsah case hence the decision is final. Although some lawyers in our organization found fault in the judgment, however, our organization does not and cannot disturb a final judgment. Accordingly, I agree that the VP did not interfere in said investigation. You cannot interfere when you are the one to initiate the investigation in the first place.

8. lastly, which is the matter that has generated divergent opinions in our organization and beyond, the VP is asking for public dissemination of the outcome of this matter. Some people are of the opinion that doing such would turn our organization into a PR firm for the VP. I disagree. Please recall the premise of our letter rehashed in paragraph 3 above, with advisory to readers to hold the premise “close to their chests”. We wrote the VP a letter giving the VP a 7-day ultimatum to show whether he interfered or not in order to disseminate to the public whose interest he is representing in trust. If the VP had not responded, we would have construed his silence as acquiescence, then find him culpable and disseminated to the public; if as he has responded we find his answer flimsy, nebulous, tenuous, or unconvincing, we would have found him culpable and disseminated to the public; now that he has adduced clear, convincing and irrefutable evidence exonerating him, we are duty-bound to disseminate to the public. I am not unmindful of the fact that there is more demand for negative news than positive ones. News that the VP interfered with investigation and colluded in siphoning 10 Billion Naira would generate interest faster than news that the VP did not interfere in investigation and did not collude in siphoning 10 Billion Naira. Unfortunately, our decisions and findings have never been and will never be gauged by sensationalism or tabloid-like reporting. the long-standing integrity of our organization would be thrown in the mud if we lowered the bar by refusing to disseminate our findings to the public whose interest we serve. Let me remind our organization that the civil society bridges the gap between the government and the masses. in other words, for sake of public interest, the public must be abreast with information on the goings on in any democratic government, hence the Freedom of Information Act, which has been embraced by all democratically-elected governments globally. All information CSOs receive, particularly on contentious issues, must be furnished to the public. If that is not done, then the CSOs would be guilty of the same offense of non-disclosure. Simply put, if we in the civil society space are quick to accuse government agencies/officials for not disclosing or disseminating information under the FoIA, then if we fail to disclose or disseminate any information whether negative or positive to the public, then we will be drinking from the same cup of non-disclosure.

8. Based on the foregoing, I would conclude by positing that our organization will not only disseminate vigorously that the VP did not interfere, and certainly did not partake or collude in the withdrawal of the 10 billion naira, a narrative we never shared ab initio, but we must go further to appeal to other CSOs and activists to desist from accusing the VP on this matter. This letter does not in any way clear the VP on any other matter that may arise in the future.

9. While we look forward to courteously dealing with the VP’s office on any matter that may arise in the future, we remain,

Yours in whistleblowing services,

Dr. George Uboh
Chairman
+234 809 640 0000
+234 909 688 8888

Annexures:
1) GUWN’s August 10, 2020 letter to the VP through DCOS
guwn letter to vp-obla

2) VP’s August 10, 2020 response to GUWN via DCOS
VP DCOS RESPONSE TO GUWN watermarked

3) GUWN’s August 17, 2020 reply to VP via DCOS
guwn reply to vp-obla

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