Junaid, SERAP, Yakassai, Fayose, PDP, APC react
President appoints Mustapha new SGF
By Ismail Omipidan (Lagos), Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye (Abuja) Chinelo Obogo, Chukwudi Nweje (Lagos), Laide Raheem (Abeokuta), Wole Balogun (Ado Ekiti), Ndubuisi Orji and Romanus Ugwu (Abuja)
A few hours after President Muhammadu Buhari approved the sack of suspended Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal and Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke, Nigerians have called for the prosecution of the duo.
This is coming at a time President Buhari appointed Boss Gida Mustapha, Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), as new SGF.
Lawal and Oke were suspended on April 19 and a three-man committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was inaugurated to investigate allegations against them. Other members of the panel were National Security Adviser (NSA), General Babagana Monguno and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
Dr. Habibat Lawal was named acting SGF, while Ambassador Arab Yadam, was appointed acting NIA DG, following President Buhari’s directive that the most senior permanent secretary in the Office of the SGF and senior deputy, in NIA should take over.
Revealing the sack of Lawal and Oke, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Buhari accepted the recommendations of the Osinbajo panel and, therefore, approved the disengagement of the duo.
Said Adesina: “President Muhammadu Buhari has studied the report of the panel headed by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, which investigated allegations against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir David Lawal, and the Director General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke.
“The president accepted the recommendation of the panel to terminate the appointment of Mr. Lawal, and has appointed Mr. Boss Mustapha as the new Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The appointment takes immediate effect.
“President Buhari also approved the recommendation to terminate the appointment of Ambassador Oke, and has further approved the setting up of a three-member panel to, among other things, look into the operational, technical and administrative structure of the agency (NIA) and make appropriate recommendations.”
Osinbajo submitted the panel’s report on August 23 to President Buhari on his return from 100 days medial vacation in London. The panel was earlier scheduled to submit its report to President Buhari on May 8, but he left Nigeria for the United Kingdom on May 7 for a follow-up consultation with his doctors and stayed for 100 days.
Lawal was investigated for allegedly awarding N200 million contract for the cutting of grass in Yobe State to Global Vision Limited, a company he had interest, under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
A Senate Committee on Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East had indicted Lawal and demanded his resignation and prosecution.
Oke was investigated over the discovery of $43.4 million at apartment 7B in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.
He had claimed that the money belonged to the NIA and was approved by former President Goodluck Jonathan for some covert operations.
The presidential panel was mandated to uncover the circumstances in which the NIA came into possession of the funds and find out how and by whose or which authority the funds were made available to the NIA as well as to establish whether or not there was a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds.
Meanwhile, Nigerians have asked the Federal Government to go a step further by prosecuting sacked Lawal and Oke, even as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP called for the impeachment of President Buhari for what it termed double standards.
Reacting to the sack of Lawal and Oke, elder statesman, Tanko Yakassai, said the presidency owed Nigerians an explanation as to why both men were fired.
He said for the fight against corruption to be holistic, Nigerians should know the details of the report as well as when both men would be prosecuted.
Said he: “It is not enough to say that you are sacking them. What are you sacking them for and when would they be prosecuted? What of the millions of dollars that the EFCC discovered in a residential building in Ikoyi, which the DG NIA said belonged to the agency? Who owns them? Were they properly acquired? If they were not properly acquired, what follow-up is the government doing to ensure that these questions are answered? In the case of Babachir Lawal, is he guilty of what he is accused of? And if he is guilty, what is going to happen to him?
“Let us also tackle the issue of belatedness. The report had been ready even before the President came back from his sick leave; so my question is, why the delay in acting on the report? Why did the president have to wait for over two months before he acted upon a report that has been ready a long time ago? This is an administration that came on the premise of fighting corruption; so if these questions are not answered and there is no prosecution, then it goes to show that the fight against corruption is not being done properly.”
Also speaking in the same vein, Afenifere chieftain, Senator Femi Okurounmu, said sacking the Lawal was not enough and called for his immediate prosecution.
According to Okurounmu, until the former SGF faces corruption charge in the court of law, the anti-corruption war of the President Buhari administration remained a hoax.
Speaking in Abeokuta, he stressed that any public official found culpable in corruption case should first be kicked out, then made to face prosecution, to serve as deterrent to others.
He challenged the presidency to walk its talk on the fight against corruption by making the ex-SGF face corruption charge in the court of law.
According to Okurounmu, “this sack is only the first step. It should be followed by prosecution. Sack alone is not enough. If a person is corrupt, the first thing is to sack the person, then the logical thing is to prosecute the person and have the person convicted and sent to jail. If that is not done, then we are just making a joke of the war against corruption.”
Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, although describing President
Buhari’s sack of Lawal, and Oke as face-saving and an afterthought, called for their prosecution.
A statement by Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, quoted Fayose as saying that President Buhari acted only because of the outcry of Nigerians, especially over the fraudulent reinstatement of the former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina.
The governor, who said the sacked SGF, NIA Director General and others still in Buhari’s government should be handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) called for thorough investigation and prosecution.
“Enough of using probe panels to shield people accused of corruption in Buhari’s government. Rather, they should be arrested, detained and prosecuted by the EFCC, as being done to others perceived as the President enemies,” he said.
Fayose congratulated Nigerians whose resistance, he said, forced President Buhari to act, saying: “Once again, Nigerians have proved that the power of the president is not greater than that the people who elected him.
“What Nigerians expected from a president who rode to power on the basis of integrity is a total cleansing of his government, not setting up panel to investigate corruption allegations involving his men and reluctantly sacking a few of them because of public outcry.”
Maintaining that President Buhari was aiding and abetting corruption,
the governor said: “As far as I am concerned, sacking the SGF and NIA
Director General is just an afterthought and it is not enough. Let
them be handed over to the EFCC for prosecution just like other
Nigerians they have accused of corruption. Apart from prosecuting the sacked officials, Nigerians are interested in the full details of the report on the $43 million discovered in an apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos. The report should be made public.
Commending President Buhari for acting on the report, two anti- corruption groups, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) and Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) yesterday also called on the president to immediately hand over Lawal and Oke to the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) for prosecution.
Executive Chairman of CACOL, Debo Adeniran, said Buhari had demonstrated that he would not tolerate any act of corruption and abuse of office, no matter who is involved, while director of SERAP, Timothy Adewale said: “This is a positive development in the fight against corruption, although this decision is coming rather late. Buhari now has to go a step further by making sure that both Lawal and Oke are promptly brought to justice in fair trials.”
Adeniran said: “We are delighted that the president has demonstrated that he does not tolerate any act of corruption and abuse of office, no matter who is involved…We hope that these disgraceful elements would be promptly handed over to relevant anti-graft agencies for prosecution, with a view to ensuring that deterrent punishments are meted out. We equally urge the judiciary to key into the renewed vigour that the fight against corruption has now assumed. Every law officer involved in the adjudication in corruption cases should ensure that justice is not only done, it should be seen by all and sundry to have been done.”
SERAP said: “Buhari also has to move swiftly to publish report of investigation into the secret reinstatement of fugitive former civil servant, Abdulrasheed Maina, and without delay identify and bring to justice anyone suspected to be involved.
“This government now has a real opportunity to reassure a lot of Nigerians who may be worried about the direction of travel of the president’s anti-corruption agenda that there will be no sacred cow as far as the fight against corruption is concerned.”
Second Republic member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, described Lawal and Oke’s sack as an anti-climax of the government’s anti-corruption war.
He noted that with the appointment of Mustapha as new Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the government was “showing its true colour in terms of corruption, nepotism and cronyism.”
Mohammed, who insisted that the sacking of the duo of Lawal and Oke does not, in any solve the image problem of the Buhari-led administration, further said: “The news about the sacking is an anti-climax of the government’s war on corruption. It will not clear the rot, which is evident. It is clear that he never meant to sack them. He (Buhari) had no doubt that they (Lawal and Oke) were guilty. For some reasons, he had to wait for so long until pressures was brought to bear on him from within and outside, before acting.
“If this is decision making, by his (Buhari) own definition, then this country is doomed. In administration, decision making is very key; but he has shown that he only takes action when pressures are brought to bear on him. This is not how to grow the country. I am utterly disappointed.
“The appointment he has made again was based on certain primordial characteristics. This is not healthy for our country. To make matters worse, Mustapha is not only a Christian from Adamawa like Lawal, but also a cousin to Lawal. Quote me on that. And what this means is that the government is showing its true colour in terms of corruption, nepotism and cronyism. God save Nigeria.”
Impeach Buhari for double standards, PDP tells NASS
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday called on the National Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against President Buhari over alleged violation of the constitution in the prosecution of the anti-corruption war.
The PDP, while reacting to the sack of former SGF and Ex-NIA DG, berated President Buhari for allegedly operating double standards in dealing with corruption cases in the country.
National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, told Daily Sun that the sack of Babachir and Oke was a mere slap on the wrist, noting that the party rejects it completely.
He said the government must make public the findings of the panel that investigated the duo.
According to him, President Buhari was in the habit of treating corruption case involving members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) with kid gloves, while opposition party members were subjected to various forms of harassment on flimsy excuses.
He said former National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (retd) has been imprisoned for three years without trial, while APC members with corruption cases are walking free.
Adeyeye said he has no doubt that Buhari was pressured to sack the former SGF and NIA boss because of the uproar against the reinstatement of Maina., while describing the sack as “an insult on the intelligence of generality of Nigerians, who have waited for one year, for the humongous acts of corruption against two of his principal aides to addressed.
“President is coming to Nigerians to tell us that he has sacked Babachir Lawal, that he had sacked Oke. He is expecting us to be clapping for him. We reject the actions of the president and demand that the law must take its proper course. The matter must be referred to the EFCC.”
Commendation for Buhari
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has commended the sack of Lawal, stressing that the decision had vindicated it.
APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said the President had done the needful.
According to him, “a few days ago when the President directed the dismissal of Abdulrasheed Maina, some people asked about the suspended SGF. But, we as a party said look, the President is the only person who has all the information. All of us can only have one side of the story or the other.
“Now we have been vindicated and it shows that the president has not, in anyway, waivered his commitment not to tolerate corruption at any level no matter who is involve.”
Also reacting, Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption Prof. Itse Sagay, said the sack was overdue
According to him, “I think there has been a consensus on this and that was over due. There has been too much delay. Although I will like to put a caveat that government usually have a lot more information than the rest of us, as the delay might have discretionary due to the information they had, I was patient and I definitely endorse the final decision that has been taken.”