• Fayose, SANs, others react
• Osinbajo heads probe panel on Ikoyigate, IDPs contracts
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Romanus Ugwu and Fred Itua, Abuja; Chinelo Obogo and Romanus Okoye, Lagos, Tony Osauzo and Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
The embattled Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir Lawal and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke, have been placed under surveillance, folowing their suspension by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Daily Sun gathered that the movement of the duo are being monitored, as investigation into their cases commences.
Sources explained that the reason the Presidentcy did not give the duo prior notice of their suspension was to ensure thorough investigation.
It was gathered that Oke was invited to the Presidential Villa, but first denied access to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, until the press release of his suspension was released. When he returned thereafter, he met with Osinbajo.
On his part, Lawal was with Osinbajo when the release on his suspension was handed to journalists.
Sources said despite the watch on Lawal and Oke they are not under any restriction.
The SGF and Oke were suspended from office, yesterday, by President Muhammadu Buhari, who also ordered their investigation over alleged involvement in corruption.
Their suspension, which would last pending the outcome of the investigations, was contained in statement issued by the presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina.
The SGF is being investigated following allegations that he violated law and due process in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
Global Vision Ltd., owned by the SGF, was indicted by the Senate last December for benefiting from inflated and phantom contracts- or ones not executed at all- awarded by PINE.
Lawal’s firm allegedly got over N200 million contract to clear grass in Yobe State’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp.
The most senior Permanent Secretary in the SGF’s office, is to act during the period of investigation.
The President also directed the suspension and investigation of Ambassador Oke over the discovery of large amount of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, which the agency reportedly laid claim to.
The investigation would 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 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 Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and the National Security Adviser, with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as chairman, would conduct both investigations and submit its report to the President within 14 days.
Oke, who was appointed NIA DG by former President Goodluck Jonathan on November 17, 2013, hailed from Ibadan, in Oyo State. He took over from Ambassador Ezeliel Olaniyi Oyedeji.
His suspension came three moths after his mother died.
Reactions from Nigerians has shown that the suspension, particularly that of the SGF, did not come as a surprise. Many people said the suspension ought to have been handed down before yesterday.
Speaking with Daily Sun, renowed lawyers and Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), Olisa Agbakoba, Mike Ozekhome and Sabastine Hon, as well as elderstatesman, Tanko Yakasai and former minister, Chief Segun Babatope hailed President Buhari for suspending the duo.
But Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose said the suspension was an “afterthought’ and a prelude to official cover-up.
Fayose, who spoke through his Special Assistant on Media and Public Communication, Lere Olayinka, faulted Buhari for setting up a probe panel instead of referring the matter to the “appropriate agencies.”
He said Nigerians could no longer be “deceived by a government that protects its own people whenever they are accused of corruption while ordering 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.”
However, Ozekhome described the SGF and NIA DG’s suspension as “good radiance to bad rubbish.”
According to him, “I am sure the government is beginning to listen to my critical but patriotic voice. We cannot continue to be a laughing stock in the international arena.
“The anti-corruption fight has so far been a case of defending corruption within the government’s inner circle and its very ‘Kitchen Cabinet’, decorating it with powerful sweet smelling sasarobia perfume, while fighting that of perceived enemies and critics with powerful insecticides, pesticides and herbicides. The chicken is finally coming home to roost. I congratulate PMB on this move, even if belated.
“But, there are still more tons of petitions existing against some serving ministers and other key figures of this government, pending before the anti-graft agencies, but which have so far been carefully swept under the carpet. Let the president open the Pandora box and he will be shocked at the ugly revelations beneath the white sepulchre of his ruling party. The actions of the security and anti-graft agencies have constituted a great embarrassment and ridicule to Nigeria as a nation.”
Another member of the inner bar and author, Hon said the suspension was good for the image of the administration and the president given the recent bashing of his administration’s fight against corruption.
“By their suspension, President Buhari is trying to tell Nigerians that he is still committed to the fight against corruption. Again, suspending them will make investigations unimpeded and at the end, the outcome will be acceptable to Nigerians. Anyhow one looks at it, the president has done well.”
Agbakoba also agreed that the suspension of the SGF would make a way for allegations made against him to be investigated.
Speaking on the development, Yakasai, an elder statesman said the decision to suspend the SGF was better late than never.
“I think that the president should from now on consider taking actions promptly when an issue of this nature comes up. I say this because this type of delay is costing the government a lot of goodwill. I would advise that in future, the president should be proactive in dealing with such issues.”
In his reaction, former minister of transport and PDP chieftain, Chief Babatope said the president’s decision was a step in the right direction. He said that the president was the head of the administration and could do anything he wanted, but in doing that, he must ensure that no innocent person suffered.
He said: “People are complaining about those that make up the committee that would probe the men, but my response to them is that it is the president’s business to choose whoever he wants to choose to head the committee.
He is permitted to do as he deems fit and I do not think we can hold him to ransom in that regards. He has taken the decision to suit the current political climate and I do think it is a step in the right direction, so he should be encouraged.”
Senator Shehu Sani, who heads the Ad-hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East which indicted the SGF lauded Buhari for taking the Senate Committee report and recommendations seriously.
“The sword of truth is not just casted and sharpened for the neck of foes but also for those of friends. Moral gallows is not just meant for a belligerent foe but for a perfidious friend. Courage is dispensing justice, greater courage is dispensing justice against our emotions and temptation towards saving a friend. It’s easier to annihilate an adversary for a heap of wrong than reprimand a friend for a mountain of wrong.
“It’s commendable for the President to heed the call to fumigate the throne of lice and bugs with the same ability he goes after rodents afar. The Senate and the Commitee have nothing personal against the SGF or any person affected, but we simply did our job in conformity with our constitutional responsibilities and the moral calling of our conscience. We cannot jubilate because a mighty mortal is caught in the trap of his fate; we are neither saints nor Angels, but we have a duty to raise a card a blow the whistle.”
While Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe said the suspension was long overdue, Kabiru Marafa is of the opinion that it would rekindle the anti-graft war.
“Once there is an allegation of impropriety at that level, there was no point making it linger for such a long time,” Enyinaya said.
“The suspension of the SGF is a step in the right direction. It goes to show that the confidence Nigerians have in him is not abused. It means there is no sacred cow in President Buhari’s administration.
“The SGF had to step outside for him to be investigated. Nobody is saying that the SGF is guilty. But in the principle of fairness, he had to step aside for a proper investigation to be carried out.
“At the end of the day, the report of the investigation will be submitted to President Buhari for deliberations and consideration. That is when we will know the actual punishment. It is a bright day for democracy in Nigeria”, said Marafa said.
For the Edo State Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Godwin Erhahon, the suspensions “is a demonstration of the fact that Buhari has nothing to hide.
The Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), hailed the suspension, but faulted the constitution of the probe panel.
“Why Mr. President has decided to use an unknown body that lacks investigative knowledge and skill baffles me. I want to believe this presidency doesn’t still believe in the doctrine of 97 per cent and 5 per cent. All citizen, friends and foes should be treated exactly the same way. We cannot have one rule for APC and another for the rest of us,” said the PDP spokesman, Chris Nehikhare.
A lawyer, Olayiwola Afolabi said for the president to have moved against members of his government was a proof that he was neutral and committed to fighting corruption.
This is even as the embattled Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Timi Frank, said Buhari must go beyond the suspension of the two official stressing that “more more heads must roll.”
SGF’s suspension: What next for Lawal?
By Ismail Omipidan
The suspension yesterday of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal, came to many Nigerians as a surprise. This is because President Muhammadu Buhari has been variously described as one who places “undue premium on personal loyalty,” as such could “ignore, excuse, and even defend the alleged corruption of his close associates.”
Those who hold this view were vindicated shortly after the Senate indicted Lawal last year over alleged breach of the country’s law in handling contracts awarded by the Presidential Initiative for the North East, PINE.
Lawal’s company, Global Vision Ltd., was one of the companies indicted by the committee for allegedly benefiting from inflated and phantom contracts, most of which were not executed, but for which money was paid by the PINE. PINE is directly under the supervision of the SGF’s office.
The firm was said to have been awarded over N200 million contract to clear ‘invasive plant species’ in Yobe State. But during the course of investigation by the Senate, it was found out that no grass was cleared and as of the time the contract was awarded in March 2016, Lawal was still the director of Global Vision and that he just resigned in September last year.
To this end, the Senate asked President Buhari to suspend and ensure the prosecution of Lawal. The Senate’s resolution followed the presentation of a report on mounting humanitarian crisis in the North-East by the Senator Shehu Sani-led ad hoc committee.
But rather than carry out Senate’s recommendations, President Muhammadu Buhari, wrote to the Senate to say that he could not carry out the recommendations because Lawal was not given a fair hearing by the Senate.
In a three-page letter, personally signed by the President, dated January 17, 2017, and read on the floor of the Senate by Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Buhari noted that neither the SGF nor the company said to have been used to perpetrate the alleged illegality was invited by the Senator Shehu Sani led-committee.
He also said the report of the committee was signed by three of the nine members of the ad-hoc committee, thus making its report a minority report, adding “consequently, I am of the view that barring other considerations that may arise as a result of subsequent investigations of Lawal by the interim ad-hoc committee, the current report as presented to the presidency in its own right, does not meet the principles of fair hearing and compliance with the Senate Rules for conduct of investigations in matters relating to abuse of office by public officers.
“In the light of the foregoing, I am not able to approve the recommendation to remove and prosecute Lawal on the basis of the Senate ad-hoc committee report dated December 15, 2016,” Buhari, had said.
However, about three months after initially clearing him, Buhari yesterday wielded the big stick by suspending him. It is only time that will tell, whether or not Lawal would return to his position after the fresh investigation by the three-man team, led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
From day one, Lawal left no one in doubt that he was in government to “eat.” For instance, at a Thanksgiving Church service, held in his honour, in October 2015, Lawal had said: “My wife has not met Bisi Akande, she has not met Asiwaju, she has not met Buhari, yet we have been with him. But, it is fundamentally important for Nigerians to know that goodness is not restricted to tribe, religion or political party.
“My opinion is that if you have no investment in human beings and you just invest in yourself, like most politicians present in this church do, you will end up as nothing. If you look at just your community for friendship, or you look at your religion or in the same church with you for friendship, I doubt if you will go anywhere.
“I am Secretary to the Government today, because those people that I mentioned were the very first to put the idea in the mind of the President. They were the ones that made it possible.
“Because if it has been left to northerners, it is doubtful if they will take a Christian man to make Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
“But these friends know me; they know that I am not ambitious. I just want to eat today and tomorrow I will find my way. By the grace of God, I am today the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, something I did not look for; people say it is hard work and dedication. It is not true, it is just by the Grace of God that the President will just pick you and say this is your position.”
For watchers of political events in the country too, including APC chieftains, Lawal is seen as one man who is not only incompetent, but one of those perceived to have constituted themselves into a clog in the wheel of the progress of the Buhari-led administration. This fact, was lend credence recently by the Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai.
El-Rufai, had in his controversial memo to President Buhari described both the SGF and the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, as persons, who should give way, if the administration was to deliver on its promises to Nigerians.
Specifically, he described the SGF as one who is “not only inexperienced in public service but is lacking in humility, insensitive and rude to virtually most of the party leaders, ministers and governors. The Chief of Staff is totally clueless about the APC and its internal politics at best as he was neither part of its formation nor a participant in the primaries, campaign and elections. In summary, neither of them have the personality, experience and the reach to manage your politics nationally or even regionally….”
If in the end, Lawal returns to his position as SGF, he would be the first in Buhari’s administration to survive obvious allegations of corruption against him. But if he fails to return, Buhari would have succeeded in sending a strong message to Nigerians and the international community that indeed, there are no sacred cows in his government.