UKPAI O. UKAIRO ESQ reacts to Otti’s Judicial Panel of Inquiry on the Recovery of Government Properties and funds

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What has become clear from the first day His Excellency Governor Alex Chioma Otti was sworn in as Governor of Abia State is his determined resolve to undermine his oath of office and the rule of law. I had held back myself from formally commenting on the several mind-blowing illegalities as I awaited his one-hundredth day in office to issue a comprehensive overview.

Regrettably, the dizzying daily cocktail of disregard for the rule of law questions the rationale for further silence. This is because, if the Governor is unchecked, we shall be faced with a situation where his undemocratic style will become the norm. In such situation, the lynch-mob mentality he is entrenching would have developed into a monster.

The addition to the circus show of illegalities of Governor Otti is the inauguration of a judicial panel of inquiry on the recovery of Government properties and funds. It is evident from the utterances of the Governor, the designation of the panel, and their terms of reference that certain persons have already been accused, tried, and convicted. The only job left for the panel is to recover the properties and funds of the convicts. 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. In addition, the Governor, true to his style failed to “issue a Commission” but merely acted on a Public Statement by the Secretary to the Abia State Government.

It is appropriate to stress that from the very minute the Governor was sworn in he has been screaming about people who stole government property. This approach is the style of every dictator as we witnessed under the infamous military regimes of Buhari, IBB, and Abacha where opponents were hounded on the pages of newspapers without any proof. Meanwhile, as we have seen in Zamfara State, not a word was heard from the Governor of Zamfara State about people who stole Government property when more than 30 vehicles were recovered by the appropriate law enforcement agents from a former Governor. Again, in the United States of America, the FBI went to the house of former President Trump and recovered stolen property of the government without a word from Biden, the head of the Executive Arm. The recent Supreme Court decision in respect of the Commission of Inquiry that investigated the Amaechi administration is instructive. It is, however, germane to stress that the said Commission was for inquiry only; unlike the instant one which is for “recovery of government properties and funds.”

Arising from all the foregoing, I call on Governor Otti to immediately issue the dissolution of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry. Let it, however, be placed on record that unless the Panel is dissolved the necessary legal machinery shall be ignited to ensure that scarce public resources are not wasted on an illegal venture and that the rule of law is upheld.


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