The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) on Wednesday re-arraigned a former presidential aide, Okoi Obono-Obla, on amended corruption charges at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Apo, Abuja.
The arraignment came after ICPC dropped charges of forging and falsifying school results contained in the old charges.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that ICPC earlier arraigned Mr Obono-Obla along with his co-defendants in January, but filed amended charges reducing the number of counts from 10 to five on March 4.
Two charges of forgery and falsification of school results were part of the five counts that were dropped in the amended charges.
Other counts of corruption retained in the new charges also saw radical changes in the amount involved and scope.
ICPC’s lawyer, Olusola Bayeshea, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, requested that the judge allow the amended charges be read to the defendants at Wednesday’s proceedings.
The judge, Olukayode Adeniyi, granted the request.
Mr Obono-Obla and his co-defendant, who is said to be his former Senior Assistant, Special Duties (Protocol), Aliyu Ibrahim, pleaded not guilty to the amended charges on Wednesday.
The judge then adjourned till May 27 for trial.
President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Mr Obono-Obla as the chairperson of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) for the Recovery of Public Property, based on ICPC report accusing him of “falsification of records and financial impropriety” in August 2019.
About a month later, on September 17, 2019, the President disbanded the SPIP, ordered the ICPC to conclude its investigations, send its final report to him, and prosecute Mr Obono-Obla, who was also the President’s special adviser on prosecutions.
On July 1, 2020, ICPC filed 10 counts against him and his co-defendants at the Federal High Court in Abuja, but subsequently withdrew the charges.
It then re-filed the 10 counts at the FCT High Court on July 8, 2020 with Mr Obono-Obla, his former Senior Assistant, Special Duties (Protocol), Aliyu Ibrahim, and the Managing Director of ABR Global Petroleum Resources Ltd, Daniel Omughele Efe, charged as co-defendants.
ICPC accused Mr Obono-Obla in two of the 10 counts of forgery and falsification of “a Mary Knoll College, Ogoja General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level, May/June 1982 (GCE) Statement of Result with candidate No: 09403/247 showing an O’Level credit (6) score for Literature in English.
The commission accused Mr Obono-Obla “of dishonestly” using the O’Level result “as genuine”, to study Law for the 1985/86 academic session in University of Jos (UNIJOS).
It also alleged, among others, that Messrs Obono-Obla, Ibrahim, and the Managing Director of ABR Global Petroleum Resources Ltd, Daniel Omughele Efe, conspired in 2018 to use their offices to confer an unfair advantage on Mr Ibrahim by allegedly diverting N19,994,185 received from the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) to furnish SPIP offices.
It alleged that the money was diverted into “the personal account of Aliyu Ibrahim, using proxy companies, without furnishing the said SPIP offices as proposed to the NDIC.”
ICPC said in another count that Mr Obono-Obla, around July 2018 in Abuja, as SPIP Chair “failed to attend/honour an invitation” by ICPC for an investigation, contrary to Section 28(1)(a) and (6) and punishable under section 28(10) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.
This count was retained in the amended charges without modification.
But in the amended charges filed by ICPC on March 4, 2021, the commission dropped the two charges of result forgery and falsification contained in the original 10 counts.
Aside from reducing the total number of counts to five, the commission also removed Mr Efe’s name from the charges leaving Mr Obono-Obla and Mr Ibrahim as the remaining defendants.
The amendment also saw the removal of allegations of “diversion” of funds.
It also removed the N19,994,185 allegedly diverted by the defendants in July 2019, and substituted it with N10, 174,000 which it now claims, in the amended charges.
ICPC said the N10, 174,000 was transferred to some contractors from the N15, 187, 917 paid to the SPIP by the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) for the furnishing of the SPIP offices.
In the previous charges, ICPC claimed the N19,994,185 was paid into Mr Ibrahim’s personal account, but in the amended charges, it claims the N10, 174,000 was paid into the account of ABR Global Petroleum Resources LTD, a company where Mr Ibrahim was said to be a director and signatory to its account.
The prosecution alleged that by the transaction, the two defendants conspired to confer undue advantage on the second defendant, Mr Ibrahim.