Olalekan Adetayo and Oladimeji Rahmon
Following the allegation of corruption levelled against Mr. Babachir Lawal, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Sunday, directed the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to probe all top government officials accused of corruption.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, stated this in a two-paragraph statement.
Shehu said any of the government official found guilty of the allegations levelled against them would not escape prosecution.
The statement read, “The attention of the Presidency has been drawn to a number of reports in the media, in which various accusations of corruption have been levelled against some top officials in the administration.
“In that regard, President Buhari has instructed the Attorney General of the Federation to investigate the involvement of any top government official accused of any wrongdoing. If any of them are liable, they will not escape prosecution.”
Although Shehu did not mention names, top government officials who have been accused of corruption so far, included the SGF, the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari; and the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu.
Meanwhile, a human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has called on President Buhari to fulfill his vow not to protect sacred cows in his government by immediately sacking the SGF.
The call came on the heels of an allegation by the Senate that the SGF awarded contracts to a conpany, Rholavision Engineering Limited, allegedly belong to him in the Internally Displaced Persons camps.
Also, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Jiti Ogunye, and the Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adeniran, have called on the Presidency to refer Lawal to the EFCC or the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission for probe.
Falana, in an interview with one our correspondents on Sunday, said not just Lawal, but all other corrupt members of the President’s cabinet must be “flushed out,” or else the government would lose the moral right to continue to fight corruption.
He said, “So, the President has to decide because he has said that there shall be no sacred cows.
“If those involved in corruption are allowed to remain in government and treated like sacred cows, the government will lose the entire moral right to fight corruption.
“All the corrupt members of the cabinet have to be shown the way out, they have to be flushed out.”
The Senate had at a plenary on Wednesday called for the removal and prosecution of the SGF following alleged complicity in contract award in the IDP camps in the North-East.
Lawal, who denied all the allegations, described them as balderdash even as he said they were aimed at pulling him down.
But Falana said Lawal’s defence was not a denial, stressing that it was a confirmation of the allegations levelled against him.
He said the allegations levelled against Lawal were on the same scale as crimes against humanity, stressing that the President must not allow Babachir to remain in office.
Falana said, “The President should relieve him of his position. The SGF has to be relieved of his post.
“He was appointed last year May or whenever, now you are telling us that you resigned from the company in August, during which time contracts were going to that company.
“His defence is not a denial of the allegation. In fact, it is a confirmation. Under the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, the first rule is that there shall be no conflict of interest.”
Also, Ogunye, and the Executive Chairman, CACOL, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said if the anti-corruption agency established a prima facie case against Lawal, he should immediately be relieved of his post and subsequently prosecuted.
Ogunye said, “The Senate has made a report. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation has defended himself in the media. Both the allegations and the defence should be collated by the President and forwarded to the anti-corruption agencies and the President should tell the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to go and appear before the anti-corruption agency and clear himself.
“As to whether he should step down or not, an allegation has been made and he has defended himself. I do not know the truth of the situation but I believe that either of these two anti-corruption agencies would be in the best position to look into that matter, investigate and charge him to court appropriately if an offence has been committed.”
Also, a Second Republic lawmaker, Mohammed Junaid, said he was not surprised about the allegation of scam trailing Babachir, recalling that he had warned the President against appointing him as the SGF in the first place.
He said, “Now that he (Babachir) is enmeshed in a scandal, which has also become public knowledge, the person who should give explanation to Nigerians is Buhari himself. And if Babachir is corrupt, then it is Buhari that is corrupt, because he couldn’t have done what he did without the foreknowledge of General Buhari.” (Punchng.com)