From: FRED ITUA, Abuja
Suspended Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal, on Thursday, failed to appear at the investigative hearing of the Senate ad-hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East, investigating the alleged misappropriation of funds allocated to take care of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in the North-East.
The Sen. Shehu Sani-led committee had, last December, in an interim report, indicted Lawal for allegedly contravening the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007, and the Federal Government Financial Rules and Regulations on the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on North-East (PINE).
Lawal, who is currently being investigated by a Presidential panel over the allegation, was invited to state his side of the story.
Briefing journalists after waiting for two hours for Lawal, in vain, the committee expressed disappointment that he failed to show up. According to Sani, the committee would compile its report and submit same to the Senate, next Tuesday.
Lamenting Lawal’s failure to exploit the opportunity to defend himself, Sen. Sani said: “The last time the committee invited him, the suspended SGF said we should give him more time becauae he was engaged in other official engagements; and we thought that now that he is under suspension, he would have enough time to be here. We sent letters to his former office, and his House, but the one for his house could not be delivered, the men at the gate turned back our messenger.
“Now we are here since 10am waiting for him and its now 12. It is clear to us that he is not appearing. As you can see, he is not here. As far as we are concerned, we would certainly go ahead and present our report on the floor of the Senate based on the fact and figures, we have with us at our disposal.
“We believe that in the interest of fairness and justice, we should sacrifice time, but he is not here. We see this as deliberate choice to be absent from this hearing; and we believe that the general public have seen how we all tried to give the man opportunity to defend himself publicly. This is a public hearing, and we insisted that it should be open to all Nigerians to come and hear his own side of the story.”
A member of the committee, Senator Ben Murray Bruce however, revealed that more incriminating information had been acquired by the committee against Lawal which he was invited to defend.
Confirming the development, Sani said that it was the reason the committee wanted to give Lawal a fair hearing.
“We know the implication of indicting a person, it goes to his records, his personality, his history and his legacy, and it is on the grounds of that we felt such an historical mark, should be done with all fairness, and justice. We did that to the best of our ability, but since he has decided to stay away, we declare this a no show for him, and that would not in anyway stop us from presenting our report on the floor of the senate, next week,” Sani said.