AT LAST, President Muhammadu Buhari has bowed to pressure from the Nigerian Senate to suspend the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal, a statement by the Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina said yesterday. Nigerian Pilot recalls that the Senate recently found Babachir Lawal guilty of complicity in the finances meant for the welfare of the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, in the Northeast and called on the president to remove him. Similarly, the President also suspended the Director General of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke over the huge cash recently discovered in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos. The president set up a panel to be headed by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo to investigate both persons. The statement read, “President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered an investigation into the allegations of violations of law and due process made against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr David Babachir Lawal, in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East, PINE. “The President has also directed the suspension of the SGF from office pending the outcome of the investigations. “In a related development, the President has ordered a full scale investigation into the discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, over which the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, has made a claim. “The investigation is also to enquire into the circumstances in which the NIA came into possession of the funds, how and by whose or which authority the funds were made available to the NIA, and to establish whether or not there has been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds. “A three-man Committee comprising the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and the National Security Adviser, headed by the Vice President, is to conduct both investigations. “The Committee is to submit its report to the President within 14 days. The most senior Permanent Secretary in the SGF’s office, and the most senior officer in the NIA, respectively is to act during the period of investigation.” How Senate nailed Babachir Lawal Senate had asked President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend and ensure prosecution of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, over alleged breach of Nigeria’s law in handling contracts awarded by the Presidential Initiative for the North East, PINE. Senate’s resolution followed the presentation of the report on the mounting humanitarian crisis in the north-east by the Shehu Sani-led ad hoc committee. Mr. Lawal’s company, Global Vision Ltd, is one of the companies indicted by the committee for allegedly benefiting from inflated and phantom contracts – or ones not executed at all – awarded by the PINE. Mr. Lawal’s firm was said to have been awarded over N200 million contract to clear ‘invasive plant species’ in Yobe State. The committee found that as of the time the contract was awarded in March 2016, Mr. Lawal was still the director of Global Vision and that he just resigned in September. The report added that as at when he was actively the SGF, Lawal remained signatory to the company’s account, an action held to contravene Nigeria’s code of conduct for public officials. Mixed reactions trail suspension Following the announced suspension of embattled Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, by President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, newsrooms across the country were awash with varied reactions by Nigerians. Their respective takes which came via press statements, phone calls and social media platforms include the following: . Fayose: It’s an afterthought, cover-up plot Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose has described the suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal and the Director-General of National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke, as well as setting up of a three-man committee to investigate the discovery of over N13billion cash by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos as diversionary, afterthought and a prelude to the official cover-up of the original owners of the money. The governor who said the Buhari- led government was becoming an embarrassment to Nigerians with its macabre dance of shame, asked, “Would the President have set up a probe panel if these scams were linked to anyone in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, or those members of his party that are not in his good books? “Most importantly, what business does Presidential Committee have with investigation of crime? Are they telling Nigerians that they have lost confidence in all the intelligence and investigative agencies of the government, including the EFCC and DSS?” Speaking through his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, Governor Fayose said it was becoming obvious that President Buhari has lost control of his government, adding that, “The Buhari-led Federal Government is operating like many governments within one government. There appears to be many Presidencies within the Presidency and this is the reason for the confusion everywhere.” The governor declared that “the cat of President Buhari’s government hypocrisy in its fight against corruption has already been let of the bag” adding that; “Nigerians can no longer be deceived by a government that protects its own people whenever they are accused of corruption while setting the DSS and EFCC to invade houses of members of opposition parties, especially those perceived as having presidential ambition in 2019 in the night to arrest and detain them indefinitely even when corruption allegations against them have not been proved.” He said it was the inability of the President to take actions beyond his political party and ethnic sentiments that plunged his government into the present controversies, asking, “Did the President not write a letter dated January 17, 2017, to the Senate, exonerating the SGF? So what has changed in the case of the SGF? Was his announced suspension just for balancing? “Why waiting for this messy Osborne Gate to act on the Presidential Initiative for the North East, PINE, grass-cutting scam? Could it have been a case of one Presidency (Buhari) writing the Senate on January 17, 2017 to clear the SGF and another Presidency suspending him today? “Whichever way one looks at it, it gives no other impression than that of confusion in the government.” Speaking further, the governor asked, “Is their presidential committee also going to tell Nigerians those who abandoned N49 million cash in an airport that has CCTV cameras? What the owner of the N448 million the EFCC said it found in a shop at LEGICO Shopping Plaza, Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos? “In all these, what I see is a government trying frantically to cover-up corrupt acts of its functionaries but like I said before now, even though we know that the APC- led federal government has the capacity to sweep it under the carpet like many others before it, Nigerians will have it on record that they are being ruled by a government of the more you look, the less you see.” Action commendable but came late – Yusuf Alli A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Mallam Yusuf Olaolu Alli yesterday commended the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari over the suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr. Babachir Lawal from office over his alleged involvement in the Internally Displaced Programme fund in the North East of the country. He however said that President Buhari’s decision was rather late in view of the avalanche of evidence tendered against Mr. Lawal by the Senate. Speaking with journalists yesterday, the legal luminary said that, “A lot of outrages have trailed the continue keeping in office of the suspended SGF, Mr. Lawal when the Senate had taken decision over his alleged involvement in the IDPs fund especially his alleged ownership of companies that handled the project at the IDPs.” Continuing, he said,”It is ridiculous that in a democratic setting like ours, a Senate could take a decision, and it would be flagrantly ignored. You don’t need to like their faces in the Senate, but their words are law. But in any case, it is better late than never.” He also said, that “The President is the appointers of those two officers and can fire them at any time but that of suspended SGF ought to have come before now in view of the Senate indictment on him on the contract scam allegedly involved by his company. “One expected that, President Muhammadu Buhari ought to have asked his suspended SGF, Mr. Lawal to resign from office before now to allow proper investigation into his alleged involvement in the contract scam but with today (Wednesday) to suspend him from office then proper investigation would now be done on the issue.” . Suspensions are cosmetic, says HURIWA Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has said the suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Mr. Ayo Oke was cosmetic and not far-reaching enough. In a statement by the National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said that the suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation after several months of his indictments by the federal parliament was ill-advised and has conveyed the impression of failed and concerted attempts by the Presidency to grant him soft-landing even against the widespread calls for his dismissal and prosecution over the alleged financial scams trailing the awards of contracts for the rehabilitation of the destroyed North East of Nigeria. The rights group said “the decision to set up a politically tainted and compromised probe panel to investigate matters within the jurisdictions of established financial crimes investigative institutions amounted to double standards and has conveyed the idea that there are two sets of legal models for investigations of members of the ruling party and another for the members of the political opposition and other category of Nigerians allegedly in conflict with the law. “This approach is faulty and suspicious. This discriminatory application of different mechanisms to investigate alleged crime is a breach of the constitutional principle of rule of law.” On the suspension of the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke following his inexplicable role in the discovery of $43 million in a private Ikoyi residential apartment in Lagos, the rights group applauded the President but dismissed the setting up of a three-man team of investigators made up of the Vice president Professor Yomi Osinbanjo and the Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, and National Security Adviser as a political joke taken too far. HURIWA has therefore cautioned government not to use the three man- team of investigators made up of members of the All Progressives Congress as a smokescreen and choreographed contraption to undermine the integrity of the investigation that ought to have been carried out statutorily by the EFCC, and the ICPC. “We are at a lost to understand the rationale for constituting an Ad-hoc investigative panel made up of politicians from one political party to investigate the mysterious stashing of the massive sum of $43 million in a private residence when the governor of Rivers state produced by another party- Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Nyesom Wike and a former Aviation Minister Chief Femi Fani Kayode also of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party had alleged that the funds were diverted by the immediate past governor of Rivers State, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi who is a top flight national stakeholder of the ruling national party of All Progressives Congress and an influential kitchen cabinet member of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration? “This panel will not be independent and non-partisan and therefore not expected to turn out any genuinely objective findings particularly on the Ikoyi $43 million. Mr. President would have set up a totally independent judicial commission made up of Justices of the Supreme Court found to be totally non-partisan and credible or refer the matters to the statutory bodies such as EFCC or ICPC.” The rights group has therefore urged President Muhammadu Buhari to dismantle the panel and refer both men to institutions set up for anti-graft investigation such as the EFCC and the ICPC. . I’m not aware of my suspension – Babachir Lawal Suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal said he is not aware of his suspension. Lawal said this in an interview with State House reporters after meeting Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. President Muhammadu Buhari ordered an investigation into the allegations of violations of law and due process made against the SGF in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East, PINE. The President, according to a statement yesterday by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, has also directed the suspension of the SGF from office pending the outcome of the investigations. . NIA boss weeps after he is barred from entering Aso Rock Suspended Director-General of National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ayo Oke, broke down in tears when he was refused entry into the Presidential Villa on yesterday. Oke, whose suspension was announced yesterday following an order from President Muhammadu Buhari, became emotional after his attempts to seek an audience with Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo was rejected. He also tried to avoid journalists stationed at the Villa and left after being driven to the Service Chiefs’ gate where he was turned down. Buhari has ordered a full-scale investigation into “the discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, over which the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, has made a claim.” . Aliero: SGF would strengthen legislative- executive relationship Senator Adamu Aliero representing Kebbi Central Senatorial district has said that the suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Engr. Babachir Lawal would strengthen executive and legislative relationship. Reacting to the development when speaking with correspondents in Abuja on yesterday, Aliero, a former governor of Kebbi State, explained that the report of Senate Ad-hoc Committee on humanitarian crises in the North East which indicted the SGF was detailed. He added that Senate’s earlier resolve for the sack of SGF was not borne out of sentiment, but was in line with the anti-corruption agenda, which ought to have been the responsibility of all arms of government. “The suspension of SGF is a welcome development which will go a long way in mending fences with the executive.” “The ad-hoc Committee on the humanitarian crises in the North East was very clear and without fault. For Mr. President to suspend SGF now has been the wish of the Senate,” he said. Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari might have yielded to pressure following his earlier letter to the Senate exonerating Mr. Babachir Lawal of wrongdoing.
Culled from nigeriapilot.com