Why has Govt been quiet on Suspended Babachir Lawal?

On April 19, 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal and Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Ayodele Oke.

Lawal was apparently suspended after the senate indicted him of awarding humanitarian contracts in the Northeast to companies in which he retains considerable interests.

Oke was suspended after the discovery of a certain $50M in an Ikoyi apartment back in April. The NIA claimed ownership of the cash haul which has since been forfeited to the federation account following a court ruling.

A presidential statement announcing the suspension of the duo had read thus: “The President has also directed the suspension of the SGF from office pending the outcome of the investigations.

“In a related development, the president has ordered a full scale investigation into the discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, over which the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has made a claim.

“The investigation is also to 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 to the NIA, 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”.

Committee

A committee to probe Lawal and Oke was immediately set up by the president.

The committee had as members Attorney General Abubakar Malami and National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was named as head of the committee.

The committee was given 14 days to submit its report.

However, Buhari’s medical vacation abroad meant that the report of the committee wasn’t physically submitted to the president until August 23, 2017.

Mum is the word

Since Buhari received the report from Osinbajo, no word has been heard about it; with Lawal and Oke now serving six months of their respective suspensions.

A presidency source told Pulse that the Osinbajo committee recommended the outright firing of the duo and prosecution of one of the indicted, thereafter.

On August 4, 2017, a reliable source in the presidency told Pulse that Osinbajo—who was at the time Acting President—couldn’t take action on the report because he was a member of the committee that drew up the recommendations in the report.

This top ranking Aso Rock official also told Pulse to await Buhari’s return to the country for action on the report.

Calls and text messages sent to presidency spokespersons Garba Shehu, Laolu Akande and Femi Adesina on the status of the report and when action will be taken, were ignored.

However, another presidency aide told Pulse on the basis of anonymity that “I am as clueless on the report and what Buhari will do, as you are. No one knows what Baba is going to do, trust me”.

Swept under a carpet

There are growing concerns across the country that the report may just have been swept under the carpet like those before it.

Nigerians across all social media platforms have been clamouring for action to be taken based on the recommendations of the Osinbajo committee. But the presidency has remained tone deaf through it all.

Prof Itse Sagay who heads Buhari’s committee on anti-corruption, recently admitted that action on the report has “been much too slow”.

“On the specific issue of the suspended Secretary to the Federal Government and the Director-General of the NIA, I would agree that action has been much too slow and there should be immediate decision on this matter so that we can put it to rest and move on. I agree with that”,Sagay said during an appearance on ChannelsTV.

However, Sagay also added that the presidency has no intention of sweeping the recommendations of the report under a carpet.

“I have no doubt in my mind that the present government is actually fighting corruption in accordance with its mandate and promises. There is no question about that,” he said.

“I think there is an even-handed approach to the issue of fighting corruption. Everybody who is suspected of corruption by the commission of economic and financial crimes will be investigated and the EFCC and the ICPC who are the bodies who are invested with the authority to act in such matters will act in accordance with their own priority,” Sagay added.

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