Since the swearing-in of the Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the 21st day of August, 2023 by the President and Commander in – Chief of the Armed Forces, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, one name has consistently stood out for excellence and performance, and for positively progressive reasons made the news on daily basis. Olubunmi Tunji Ojo, the Honourable Minister of Interior has been a leading light and a good ambassador of the Tinubu administration. This is so because of the achievements and impact the young man has been able to make within a very short time as Minister, which includes, but not limited to the facilitation of the release of over 4,000 inmates and decongestion of the Nigerian Correctional
Services facilities nationwide without a penny spent by the federal government; the clearance of over 200,000 pending applications for international passports within 3 (three) weeks (his promise to Nigerians in this regards was to deliver within two weeks, he however apologized
to Nigerians for the extra one week it took him and his team to fulfill that promise); he promised and also delivered on the full automation of the passport application process; and has ensured the promotion of 32,361 personnel of the agencies under the supervision of the
Ministry of Interior.
All these are the achievements of the Honourable Minister in less than 6 months of his assumption of office.
However, on the 8th of January 2024, the same day the Honourable Minister was scheduled to deliver on the automated passport application, the media was agog with reports of how a company (New Planet Project Limited) in which the young Minister is a shareholder, was said to have been paid, upon an award of a consultancy contract, the sum of 438.1 Million Naira by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation against the Nigerian
Constitution and Code of Conduct for Public Officers.
This scandal has generated a lot of controversies and media attention so much so that desperate
and mischievous politicians (who are envious of the giant strides of the young Tunji Ojo and desperate enough to embarrass him politically by getting him out of office) are calling for his suspension from office mainly on unfounded claim that he is a director and / or shareholder in
the New Planet Project Ltd.
On the same day, the Honorable Minster in his defense (while featuring on Politics Today, a
Channels Tv political programme anchored by the talismanic interviewer, Seun Okinbaloye)
was bold enough to say that he is not into public office to steal money and that he had envisaged a situation like this when he resigned his Directorship of the company when he was
first elected to serve in the House of Representatives in 2019 in compliance with the Law and that ever since, he had not played any role in the day to day management of the company. The
Minister even went further to say that he is not a signatory to any of the company’s account
and so on. In my view, this should have been enough to excuse the Minister from further
verbal persecution, and good reasoning should have prevailed on his detractors to take further steps to conduct an independent investigation into his defence and make their findings public before concluding that the Presidency must suspend him. That reminds me of how those that ‘killed’ and ‘murdered’ Jesus forced Pontius Pilate to hand him over to the ‘hangmen’ even
when no guilt was found in him.
I believe that rather than focus on mundane things there are important questions to be asked and answered, which will ultimately unravel whether the contract awarded to New Planet Project Limited was a scam and / or an abuse of office by the Minister. These questions are, but not limited to; was the New Planet Project Ltd ever incorporated? When was it incorporated? Is it truly a consultancy firm? Does it have track records in providing such
consultancy services? Did the company and the contract award process go through the
appropriate legal procedure? Did the Minister participate in the award process or influenced the award to New Planet Project Ltd? All these questions can be answered through a discreet investigation by the EFCC and even our undercover Police (the DSS), and should the investigation reveals the Minister as culpable, he should be sanctioned with immediacy. But in
Nigeria, once the press makes a report against you as a public officer, you are guilty already
and your opponents/detractors must sentence you even without any valid legal reason.
I have listened to the Minister’s interview with Seun over and over again, though some people felt it was premature for him to grant such interview, but I think not. If he does not respond to questions, he would be taken to have something to hide. For me, what is important to know are; did the interior Minister comply with the extant laws (and particularly the Code of
Conduct for Public Officers) by resigning his Directorship of the company when he got
elected to serve in the House of Representatives in 2019? If the answer is ‘Yes’,then I will pry further to know if by the extant laws he is precluded from being a shareholder of any
A sincere and honest answer to the above questions will reveal that the contract scandal is a cheap attempt to blackmail and distract the performing Minister as he has complied with the Code 2, Rule 3 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers which prohibits a public officer
from taking part in the management and running of any private business, trade or profession except farming.
It is elementary law that shareholders have no role in the business of management of any
company as it is the duty of directors to pilot the affairs of the company. Apart from the legal
aspect, no one has alleged that New Planet Project Limited is not a competent consultancy
firm that is well equipped to handle such contract. It is on record that the company was incorporated as far back as 2009 and has a track record in providing consultancy services.No
one has also alleged that the contract was not awarded following due process. And no one has substantiated the claim that the Minister has a hand in the award process. Why then are they distracting this performing Minister? Your guess is as good as mine.
Obviously, some disgruntled elements who feel threatened by the giant strides of this young man are desperately looking for anything to pull him down. Unfortunately for them and fortunately for Nigerians, the Minister, at least to this level is pious, with no skeleton in his cupboard and I do hope that he shall continue to assist Mr. President and Nigeria in fulfilling the renewed hope mandate.

Oladimeji Oyesusi writes from Ikare Akoko

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