Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. David Babachir Lawal, is still under the radar of Senators who are insisting he must resign.
The SGF was indicted by the Senate Adhoc Committee over alleged corruption in the awards of contracts in the North-East worth billions of Naira.
President Muhammadu Buhari had last week exonerated the SGF of any wrongdoing, saying the SGF and his company were not given fair hearing by the committee.
Senators who are angry that Buhari refused to act on their recommendations that the SGF be sacked and possibly prosecuted over claims that he allegedly siphoned funds meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North-East, are not ready to retreat.
Instead, they are insisting that their December 14, 2016 interim report on the Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East, which indicted Lawal, must be implemented by President Buhari.
Spokesman of the Senate, Abdullahi Sabi, Committee Chairman on Petroleum (Downstream), Senator Kabir Marafa and Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, who chairs the Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, in separate interviews with Daily Sun, said they will not backpedal on the issue.
Sabi, who was furious when our correspondent queried him over claims that the Senate was on a revenge mission following the SGF’s refusal to release funds budgeted for lawmakers’ Constituency Projects, accused the media of taking sides.
He said the Senate as an institution of government, should be respected by the media. Though he did not extensively comment on the issue, he, however, said the Senate was not making any U-turn on its earlier stance.
Sabi said: “The media is becoming the enemy of Nigeria. The media always like stoking controversy. I will not respond to the question at all. The media is unfair to the Senate. You can quote me. It is my opinion. Is it that Senators cannot do their job again without the media accusing us falsely?
“Is it not our duty to expose anything going wrong in the society? The Senate is a democratic institution and Nigerians must respect us. We deserve some dignity. I have my integrity to protect. The media should set an agenda for us instead of this issue. We have decided on the issue of SGF and there is no going back on that.”
Senator Nwaoboshi said since the issue was already in the public domain, there was no need for him to make further comments. He urged Nigerians to analyse the issues and draw conclusions. He said he was fully in support of the position taken by the Senate.
“I stand with everything the Senate has said on the issue of the SGF. I am not a member of the committee. Nigerians should draw their conclusions from what we have done. The matter is in the public domain. Nigerians should make something out of what has happened. I am a Senator and I respect whatever decision has been reached by my colleagues,” he said
Senator Marafa said since a decision had been reached by lawmakers, it will be unfair for him to take a contrary position. He said he was in sinc with the position of the Senate.
He said: “This is an issue we have discussed extensively and I have nothing more to add. During our executive session on Tuesday, we all agreed that the Senate spokesman will address journalists and tell them what we arrived at. I do not want to be seen to be saying something different from what we have agreed on. Every inquiry should be directed to the Senate spokesman.”
Last Tuesday, Buhari wrote the Senate and accused it of not giving Lawal and his company, Roller Vision Limited, any chance to defend himself and clear his name during the public hearing on the North-East crisis.
Buhari faulted the interim report of the Senate and accused the lawmakers of bias. He also claimed in the letter that only three out of the nine Adhoc committee members signed the interim report.
He maintained that based on the loopholes in the report, he could not in good conscience, act on the resolution or sack Mr. Lawal. He said he could not also hand him over to any anti-graft agency for prosecution.
But Senator Shehu Sani responded, claiming that the President was deceived by people within the corridors of power to sign the letter. He said some ‘miniatures’ in the Presidency wrote the letter to the Senate and only compelled Buhari to append his signature.
He said the SGF and representatives of his company were duly invited by the investigative hearing of the committee.
Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Buhari “to urgently refer the allegations of corruption against the SGF to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for further investigation, and if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, for him to face prosecution.”
SERAP, in a letter issued by the Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, urged Buhari to “urgently publish the outcome of the investigation conducted on the matter by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN), and to ask Mr. Malami to hand over the file to both the EFCC and ICPC.”
In the letter dated January 27, 2017, the organisation said, “we are concerned that the failure to suspend Mr. Lawal from his position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation pending the investigation by Mr. Malami and the perceived lack of transparency in the outcome of that investigation may have created the impression that your government is treating Mr. Lawal as a sacred cow.”
The letter copied to Acting President Yemi Osinbayo reads in part: “SERAP believes that Mr Lawal’s case presents your administration with a real opportunity to reassure a lot of Nigerians who may be worried about the direction your anti-corruption agenda. Rather than assuming a defensive posture to the matter, we advise you to use this case to show to Nigerians that there will be no two standards of justice in your administration’s fight against corruption.”