Published On: Fri, Apr 21st, 2017

Anti-graft war: Who’s next after Lawal?

In this piece, BODE OLAGOKE analyses how the suspension of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF),  Babachir David Lawal, will reinforce  the anti-graft war of President Muhammadu Buhari

For Engr. Babachir David Lawal, the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), his suspension over alleged complicities in contract scam through the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE), on humanitarian crisis in Yobe  axis, is a bad dream.
He had thought such a day would never come, especially having been cleared of allegation of corrupt practices in a controversial letter to the senate, personally signed by President Muhammadu Buhari , in addition to being an acclaimed strong man of Buhari’s cabinet.
Previously, the SGF had shunned Senator Shehu Sani’s Senate Committee investigating the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) when he was indicted for awarding contracts to a company in which he had interest and even called the lawmakers “balderdash.”

Lawal allegedly awarded  contract of N220 million for the removal of wild grass and the provision of 115 hectares of simplified village irrigation in Yobe state while the said company allegedly subsequently transferred the money into another firm, Rholavision Engineering Limited, said to be owned by the SGF.
The said amount was allegedly paid between March and September  to the company’s account in EcoBank along the Ahmadu Bello Way, Kaduna, with account numbers 0182001809 and 1180010559651.

However, the  SGF had in media chat defended himself against  the allegations.
Lawal had said, in a response to a question on N1.3billion meant for IDPs and the Senate investigation: “Who is investigating?  The Senate? These are also part of the issues of separation of power  that people abuse. I do know that I don’t have immunity to accuse you without proof, but the members of the National Assembly can say anything on the floor and are immune to prosecution , but people are abusing it and in this case people are maliciously abusing and wickedly abused their privileges in the National Assembly.

“PINE, Presidential Initiative on the North East, was set up by President Jonathan – thank God for him.  It used to be run under the finance ministry, under the minister of state.  When I took over, we were wondering who was running the North East programme, until one day, the National Assembly members from the North East paid me a courtesy call thinking that it was being run by my office.  I told them it wasn’t my office, so I telephoned the Vice President and asked ‘Oga, who is running PINE’, he said ‘I think it is your office.

“When it got to budget period, I asked the minister of budget the same question about PINE, he said it is your office or the NSA’s office. “What I discovered was that there was a consultant, Senior Special Assistant to the former NSA, who was in charge of PINE. “The man who was claiming to be leading the PINE was an adviser to the former NSA and such a person’s tenure lapsed with the other principal officer.
“So I said you can no longer run PINE. At that time in 2015, there was N2.5 billion for the programme.  The money was just there doing nothing but paying consultants. I understand that at one time they were using it to buy pre-fabricated schools.  The principle of PINE is this and there is a Permanent Secretary who runs PINE.

There are 23 of such agencies in this office.  We now said for people to return to their homes, we must guarantee that they are able to engage in productive work before they were pushed out, which means rebuild the schools that were burnt, rebuild the police stations and barracks so people can return,  part of confidence-building.  That’s just it.”
Despite Lawal’s explanations to the media, the Senate had asked the president to suspend him  and order for his investigation which the presidency never did but went ahead to accuse the Senate of not giving a fair hearing to Lawal.

To keen watchers of  events, Lawal’s belated suspension was long overdue for a government whose one of its cardinal points is war against corruption.
Nevertheless, to many observers it is better late than never.  Expectedly, when  President Buhari wielded the big stick and suspended the “strong man” of his administration, commendations have greeted the decision. And many critics of the administration are even asking: Who is next to fall after Lawal?
In his view, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, a constitutional lawyer and Human rights activist, “President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti -corruption fight has so far been a case of defending corruption within the government’s inner circle and it’s 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 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.
“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 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 Sepulcher 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. Contrary to simulated position being pushed by government, aside the loot recovery spree, some quite unverified, with no transparency about, or accountability of, recovered  monies and attached properties, corruption today literally walks, not just on all fours, but even on its head and buttocks. Let the music play on. Let the real anti -corruption fight begin” .
According to Olisaemeka Akamukali, a member of the  APC Board of Trustees (BOT), “Babachir Lawal is an embarrassment to the party, may be because the man in the eye of the storm had reportedly embarrassed his former colleagues in the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling party”.

Akamukali added : “the news is good radiance to bad rubbish. BD Lawal was becoming an embarrassment to the APC government. This is a man who was a member of merger committee, this is a man who was an ex-offio to the interim excos. This is a man who became secretary to the Government of the Federation as a Vice Chairman North-east of APC, yet he turned around to call all other members of the same excos corrupt people.
“This is a man when he opens  his mouth to speak what comes out is acid. So long as Babchir is concerned every other person is bad, he is the only good person yet, as SGF, he has dipped his hands in so many unspeakable of that office.

That issue of his company being a consultant in the case of cutting of grass was not appropriate.”  He maintained.
While calling on President Buhari to appoint a replacement with immediate effect, Akamukali said: “The President should not give a boy a man’s job, he will mix it up. Secretary to the Government is a dignified job. Honestly, I’m not rooting for anybody but, if Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, had gotten the SGF he would have brought discipline and maturity to the office. Please, there are jobs for the boys.”

Also recently, the Kaduna state Governor Mallam Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, in a memo to President Buhari which was later leaked to the media, called for the sack of both the SGF and the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, if the administration was to deliver on its promises to Nigerians.
El-rufai’s memo 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….”
In view of the unfolding development, analysts have cautioned the leadership of the ruling APC and Buhari to use the template established by the Wednesday’s suspension of Lawal to clinically overhaul the cabinet, as it will not only restore public confidence, but also will improve the party’s chances in future general elections.

 Also recently, the Kaduna state Governor Mallam Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, in a memo to President Buhari which was later leaked to the media, called for the sack of both the SGF and the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, if the administration was to deliver on its promises to Nigerians.

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