Barring last minute alteration in its decisions, the Presidential Investigative Panel probing suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ayodele Oke, may have set free the security chief while recommending Lawal for criminal investigation and likely prosecution.
The three-man panel set up by President Muhammadu Buhari, under the chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, was constituted two weeks ago and given 14 days to conclude the assignment. Though it has concluded the probe since Wednesday, May 3 the panel will submit its report to President Buhari on Monday.
The panel, which also had the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Munguno (Retd), as members, sat in camera throughout its work.
Lawal was accused of legal and due process violations in the award of contracts to companies handling the resettlement of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
Oke got into trouble following the discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies totaling over N13 billion by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in an apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos. The NIA subsequently claimed ownership of the fund, adding that the money was warehoused in the private apartment for covert operations across Nigeria and some neighbouring countries.
The Senate, which had been probing Lawal on alleged contract fraud, on Wednesday, recommended his prosecution after indicting him for allegedly taking bribes to the tune of N500 million from contractors his office awarded contracts to. The Osinbajo panel’s findings, it was gathered, agreed with the upper chamber of the National Assembly on virtually all the issues raised for consideration.
According to presidential sources , the Osinbajo panel was however convinced that the seized N13 billion was no proceed of crime and that it truly belongs to the NIA for its operations following “overwhelming evidence of documents tendered and witnesses called to testify, all of who exonerated Oke of any wrongdoing.”
The panel was also said to have established that soon after Gen. Monguno was appointed the NSA, Oke briefed him “on all on-going operations and projects along with available funds, both in cash and in the banks.” It also agreed with Oke’s submission that the NSA in February 2016 directed a team to verify the NIA’s submissions, as a result of which Gen. Monguno did a memo to Oke on May 17, 2016, informing him of his decision to inform President Buhari on intelligence operations and projects embarked upon by the Agency.
The panel came to that conclusion following oral testimonies and submission of copies of the correspondence involving Buhari, Monguno and Oke. Though the panel in its report had issues with Oke’s explanations on why he used his wife’s company name to procure the Osborne apartment, it could not however indict Oke for money laundering as a result of provisions of paragraph 12(1) & (2) of the National Intelligence Agency Instrument No.1, a subsidiary legislation to
National Security Agencies Act, 1986, which states that the NIA reports directly to the president and its accounts are prohibited from external auditing.
A source close to the panel said Oke was able to itemise the $289 million intervention fund approved and released to the agency by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in November, 2014, just as he had stated in his memo to the NSA in 2016.
Though the panel failed to indict the acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu for not handling the investigation in a tidy and professional manner, it however acknowledged the fact that Oke did the right thing by visiting Magu in his office to brief him about the true ownership of the money while the operation was still going on at the Ikoyi apartment.
As at the time of filing this report, it could not be established whether President Buhari will indeed handover Babachir Lawal to the EFCC for further investigation and prosecution, or whether Ayo Oke would be allowed to complete his tenure which ends in November or be asked to proceed on terminal leave as soft landing since no case of criminal breach could be established against him.