Pinnick Has Been Banned from Travelling and will be Prosecuted – Obono-Obla

The crises around the President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mr Amaju Melvin Pinnick, shows no sign of easing up with the Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigatory Panel (SPIP) on recovery of public property, Okoi Obono-Obla, confirming that his panel has established a “prima facie case” against Amaju Pinnick and six other members of the Federation which will see them charged to court today.

Obono-Obla also said that a request to prevent seven members of the NFF – including Mr Amaju Melvin Pinnick, Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi, Mallam Shehu Dikko, Alhaji Ahmed Yusuf, Alizor Chuks, Mohammed Cheku and Dr Sanusi Mohammed – who are all under investigation by the panel from travelling, has been sent to the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).

Their names were included on a list of 32 persons sent to the Immigration Services by the panel on Monday.

Obono-Obla’s assertion throws more confusion on a situation that had forced the Presidency to dismiss as “fake news” reports suggesting that President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered the arrest and prosecution of Pinnick for financial impropriety.

Speaking to journalists in Abuja on Monday, the chairman of the SPIP, however, said that having concluded their investigations against Pinnick and the other persons on their list, the panel will now proceed to prosecute them as soon as possible.

“We have concluded our investigation and established what is called prima facie case against them. We shall charge them to court whether they are here or not,” Obono-Obla told journalists on Monday in Abuja.

Obono-Obla added that the SPIP has “forwarded their names to the NIS on those we are investigating in accordance with Executive Order No. 6 of 2018 that says anybody under investigation or anybody facing trial for corruption or abuse of office shall be placed on travel ban”.

Obono-Obla said that the NIS now has the discretion to implement a ban on the persons concerned after it was pointed out to him the Pinnick who is currently in Senegal for the CAF Awards has been able to travel unhindered outside the country on multiple occasions recently.

“Everybody on the list we sent to the Nigeria Immigration Service is on travel ban,” he said.

“I am not Nigeria Immigration Service. We have sent the list to them. It’s left to them to do their job. I have done my own work. That is what the Executive Order says and I have done that. It is for the Nigeria Immigration Service to effect our request.

“I can assure you that they will be arraigned in court (tomorrow) 8th January or at best on Wednesday,” he told journalists.

While Obono-Obla asserts that his list of 32 persons in effect constitutes a de facto ban on the ability of the persons involved to travel outside the country, it is important to note that his letter to the Immigration Services was in effect a mere request in accordance with a ruling of the Appeal Court in 2018 that stated clearly that the SPIP was limited only to investigating and submitting its report to the President.

That Appeal Court sitting on November 5, 2018, in Abuja unanimously held that the SPIP which was set up under the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act cannot act outside its enabling Act which does not confer it with any “prosecutorial powers” to charge people to court.

The Court held that the SPIP was limited only to carrying out investigations upon conclusion of which it then submits its report to the President.

Obono-Obla’s assertion that his panel will prosecute Pinnick and others appears to fly in the face of the Appeal Court’s ruling which has clearly stated that the SPIP cannot file a charge against any citizen in court.