Okoi Obono-Obla, Former Chairman of the Special Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, has made startling allegations that recovered assets under the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari were returned to the looters.

Speaking on the Mic On Podcast, Obono-Obla, once a presidential aide, criticized the Buhari administration for allegedly failing to combat corruption, a cornerstone of its mandate effectively.

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Obono-Obla recounted instances where his efforts to prosecute alleged looters were thwarted within the administration, citing former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, as obstructive.

He highlighted a case involving a significant haul of assets, including 80 brand new armoured Mercedes Benz cars, which were recovered but allegedly returned due to bureaucratic hurdles and lack of support.

In another case involving a senator implicated in the Panama Papers for offshore property, Obono-Obla claimed his attempts to investigate were stymied despite presenting evidence to relevant authorities.

He expressed frustration over the lack of action from the President and the Attorney General’s office on such matters.

When questioned about the administration’s record on corruption, Obono-Obla criticized its performance post his and former EFCC chairman Magu’s departure, suggesting a decline in anti-corruption efforts.

He alleged personal animosity from Malami, attributing his suspension from office to political maneuvering.

Obono-Obla’s revelations underscore challenges in Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts, highlighting systemic hurdles and internal resistance within governmental bodies tasked with combating graft.

He said, “Some of the things I recovered were returned to the looters. For instance, there was this case of someone from whom I recovered over 80 brand new X-class Mercedes Benz cars (armoured plated) from in Jabi, Abuja.

“I wrote to the DG, Customs to ask if the person paid customs duties of the vehicles, he said ‘No’, they didn’t pay. I wrote to the Federal Inland Revenue Services to know if the person paid tax on the vehicles; he also said ‘No’ and that they don’t have the records. We went to court to get an order of interim forfeiture, and it was granted pending the hearing of the case. So, I sent a memo to Malami to brief him on what we were doing, only for him to tell me that he never mandated me to do things I investigated,” he said.

Obono-Obla also referred to a case involving a former Director of Power, Works, and Housing, Mr. Ibrahim Tumsah, a resident of Jabi, Abuja, from whom SPIP recovered 86 vehicles valued at about N500 million, land, houses, and farms.

He continued, “Another one is the case of a senator who was then in his sitting status and later became the President of the Senate. I found his story in the Panama Papers, which stated that he had property in offshore islands; I didn’t have the power to investigate him because it was overseas, so I went to the DG, NIA, and sought his help to work together.

“They conducted an investigation and sent the report to me. The report confirmed that this senator has over £200 million worth of property in the offshore islands; I sent a copy to the president and one to the Attorney General. Till today, nothing happened.”