*Senate committee shuns Perm Sec
*Insist Lawal must appear to defend 2017 budget proposal
From: FRED ITUA, Abuja
The rift between the Senate and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr David Babachir Lawal, on Thursday, deepened following his refusal of to appear before the Federal Character committee to defend the 2017 budget proposal of his office.
Angered by the absence of the SGF, it was gathered that members of the committee, led by Senator Tijjani Kaura, shunned the Permanent Secretary, General Services in the office of the SGF, Mohammed Bukar, who was delegated to represent Babachir Lawal at the budget defence session.
Findings by our correspondent revealed that the SGF, through the Permanent Secretary, informed the committee of his absence via a telephone conversation minutes before the commencement of the meeting scheduled to hold at about 10am yesterday.
He was said to have told the Permanent Secretary at the last minute that he was out of Abuja attending the funeral of a relative who passed on while ago.
Some of the lawmakers who spoke to Daily Sun, but do not want to be named, frowned at the failure of the SGF to notify the committee in a written communication ahead of time on his planned absence.
The lawmakers, after refusing the Permanent Secretary to represent Lawal, insisted that the SGF must communicate a new date when he would be disposed to appear before the committee.
It was also gathered that the committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs thereafter briefed the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on the circumstances and events which led to its decision to postpone the budget defence meeting initially scheduled to hold, on Thursday.
One of the lawmakers on the committee who spoke with our correspondent said: “Much as we try to protect him as a brother, there are limits to what he should do. What he ought to do is seek the understanding of the committee to reschedule which is a normal thing.
“As far as the committee is concerned, courtesy demands him to call the Chairman. He does not appear, he does not show concern. Since he’s not here and not ready, he should make contact with the committee to reschedule.
“Why he is not here is not cogent. He said he went to condole the loss of a loved one, but here we have a colleague, a Senator for that matter, who is also supposed to attend the funeral of a loved one staying back to attend the budget defense. As far as we are concerned, the excuse he gave of going to bury a loved one is not a good one at all.”
Recall that the relationship between the Senate and SGF became frosty, following recent calls by the Red Chamber on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack him over what it described as gross abuse of office.
TThe Senate had also called for Lawal’s prosecution for allegedly violating the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and the Federal Government Financial Rules and Regulations pertaining to the award of contracts.
The Senate reached the resolution sequel to a consideration of an interim report of its adhoc committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East which indicted the SGF.
But President Buhari, in a letter addressed to the Senate President, Saraki, about two weeks ago, cleared the SGF of any wrongdoing.