- By Ikechukwu Iroha
For the records, I will support any judicial probe of any government in Nigeria if done within the ambits of the law. But what politicians must usually avoid is a mixture of bitterness and vindictiveness in pursuing any judicial probe.
Otti already set the tone for persecution when he assumed the position of a judge and a jury at same time. His aides did not spare the former Governor in an attempt to brand him guilty before the probe panel was contemplated.
Several known legal juggernauts already shared their thought on the panel of which I think could’ve propelled any member of the last administration to seek a redress…
Let’s read a publication from Barr. Ukpai Ukairo
“from the utterances of the Governor, the designation of the panel, and their terms of reference, certain persons have already been accused, tried, and convicted.The only job left for the panel is to recover the properties and funds of convicts ”
He went on,
“It is, thus, clear that the entire process is in utter breach of the right to fair hearing as enshrined in Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, Article 7 of the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights, and several other international conventions.
“It is also important to stress that by Section 3(1) of the Commission of Inquiry Law, CAP.69, Laws of Abia State, 2005, the only power of the Governor is to set up a panel of inquiry. He has no power to set up a panel for the “recovery of Government properties and funds” because he would have, by that, as in the instant case, turned the Executive into the accuser, the prosecutor, the judge, and the executor of the decision ”
Juxtapose the above argument with the acceptance speech read by the Chairman of the panel Hon. Justice Florence Ikwuoma wherein she described Abia State as one of the “Regressive States in Nigeria, chiefly among the reason for the stigma, is the dearth of government-driven developmental projects and policies”.
Though married and living in Imo State for decades, she already had a mindset that previous Abia Government failed and therefore saw her probe panel as a “first step of departure from the negative reputation”. Her response was in reaction to a Statement where Gov. Otti stated that Abia State was yet to recover from adverse effects of looting by the past administration. Having described Abia as a regressive State, I doubt any iota of justice will be dispensed.
While the panel is yet to conduct her probe, the commissioner for Health Mrs Ngozi Okoronkwo labeled the first and only Abia State multi-Specialist Hospital as a mere junk. She accused Ikpeazu of installing old equipment in the hospital even when it was clear those machines are not only new but mostly first of its kind in the entire Southeast region. Otti’s deputy is not exempted. Every opportunity he finds in the public space must be used to lampoon Ikpeazu and previous government even when it sounds so incoherent, unfashionable and amateur to do so.
Recall that Otti supported his political mentor and godfather, Rt Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, when he equally accused the panel set up by Wike of being vindictive. He also supported Amaechi to use the courts to truncate the panel set up by Wike all the way to the Supreme Court.
I doubt Mr Otti will be personally willing to face any probe panel regarding his stewardship at Diamond Bank after the son of the owner took over from him. Obviously, no decent bank MD outside Nigeria can flaunt stupendous wealth or allegedly make attempts to buy the same bank while still a staff of the organization.
Some legal luminaries are of the opinion that proper legal advice was not sought or applied in the formulation of the Abia panel’s assignment. That is why it is argued that the panel is purportedly for Recovery of properties its terms of reference included recovery of “stolen assets”. Who determines that an asset has been stolen outside a court? Does it not mean that the government and the panel have already worked from answer to question? If people have already been convicted of stealing what exactly is the panel inquiring about?
It’s on record that Abians are not aware of whatever Otti is doing, whatever income that has accrued to the State or any expenses thereof except where Ikpeazu must be blamed and crucified by his ignorant few. To date, nobody has seen the cost of the ongoing patch patch works embarked upon by the state government whereas the same government is spending millions on propaganda to celebrate patching of roads.
It was also Otti’s government that jumbled figures including debts, contracts, pensions & gratuities incured during old Imo previous regimes dating back OUK’s era and made Abians to believe all was squandered by Ikpeazu. Such show of incompetence and bias is enough to signpost that Otti was only out to embarrass Ikpeazu whose only sin was defeating him severally at the polls and courts.
Hopefully, Otti will find a way to understand how to carry about business of governance. Having come from a background of Debit and Credit along with most of his appointees, it remains difficult for him to see public service different from profit making or buying and selling ventures.