•Clearing Lawal funeral service for anti-graft campaign, says Sani
There was uproar in the Senate yesterday its President Bukola Saraki read President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter on the Senate’s resolution that Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir David Lawal, should resign following alleged abuse of office.
Senator Shehu Sani, (Kaduna Central), who said he was shocked that President Buhari could be misled to write such a letters, described it as “the funeral service for anti-corruption fight” in the country.
Senator Sani chaired the ad-hoc committee on “mounting humanitarian crisis in the Northeast”.
The Kaduna Central senator, elected on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), noted that Buhari had chosen to fight corruption with “insecticide when it has to do with the Judiciary, National Assembly and the larger society and uses deodorant when it has to do with the Presidency.”
He added: “It is unfortunate that we have a political atmosphere where you have a saintly and angelic Presidency and a devillish and evil society.”
Saraki appeared uncomfortable with the line of defence Sani’s submissions and attempted to cut him short.
There was instantaneous uproar in the chamber as senators across party line, urged Sani to “fire on.”
Saraki retreated and allowed Sani to continue. He explained how his committee arrived at its conclusions and recommendations on the need for Lawal to resign and be prosecuted for alleged abuse of office.
Many senators were also said to have doubted that President Buhari wrote the letter since it was “hurriedly sent to the Senate after President Buhari travelled to the United Kingdome for medical treatment.”
In the letter, President Buhari faulted the Senate for resolving that Lawal should resign and be prosecuted.
The President said due process was not followed before the Senate arrived at its resolution.
Buhari’s letter dated January 17, 2017 absolved Lawal of wrong doing in the handling of funds approved for the care of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) reads:
“Re-resolution by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria concerning the humanitarian situation in the northeast region particularly in relation to the alleged role of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr. David Babachir Lawal in the contract implementation regime of the Presidential Initiative for the northeast (PINE).
“You may recall your letter with reference NASS /8X/R/01/5 dated 15th December, 2016 in respect of the Senate consideration of the report of its ad-hoc committee on the mounting humanitarian crisis in the northeast that conveyed the resolution of the committee as contained in paragraph 1 subsection 8 therein which reads as follows:
“Engr. Babachir Lawal having contravenes the provisions of part one of the 5th schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended had breached his oath of office and should resign and be prosecuted by the relevant authority, S/075/02/01/16.
“Following the receipt of your letter, I set up a review team to consider the recommendations from the Senate committee.
“I have also conducted further investigation based on Engr Lawal’s response to the allegations and issues raised in the Senate resolution.
“I have come to the following conclusion that I believe will guide the Senate in the proper review of its interim report and eventual resolution.
“The report forwarded to the Presidency by the Senate which informed the decision that Engr Babachir Lawal should resign and be prosecuted by the relevant authority S/075/02/016 was an interim report as against a final report which ought to have been presented to the Senate in the plenary for adoption as a binding and final report before submission to the Presidency given the weight of allegations made in the report.
“The Senate committee set up to investigate the mounting humanitarian crisis in the northeast comprised of nine members namely, senator Oluremi Tinubu, senator Mohammed Hassan, Senator Solomon Adeola, senator Ben Murray Bruce, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, Senator Theodore Orji, Senator Yahaya A. Abdullahi, Senator Mallam Aliu Wakili and Senator Issac M Alfa.
“The review of the interim report shows that the interim report was only signed by only three out of the nine members namely Senator Solomon Adeola, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, and Senator Isaac M. Alfa
“The signing of the interim report by three out of nine members of the committee makes it a minority report of the Senate committee and not a committee report being an interim report. Thus, presenting a challenge for the Presidency to determine the weight to attach to the report as currently presented.
“I have also observed that the Senate ad-hoc interim committee report and the Votes and Proceedings of the Senate have not in its own right established that Engr Babachir Lawal was ever given an opportunity to appear before the committee and defend himself.
“It is also on record that a company linked to him Rollervision Engineering Limited was also not invited at anytime before the committee against the allegations which eventually formed the fulcrum of the Senate’s case against the company.
“You are invited to note that non application of principles of fair hearing by the Senate ad-hoc committee is a clear contravention of section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and against all principles of rule of law as initiated in the Nigerian legal system as well as the roles of the National Assembly committees on handling of public petitions.
“Consequently, I am of the view that baring other consideration that may arise as a result of subsequent investigation of Engr 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 replying on the foregoing, I am not able to approve the recommendation to remove and prosecute Engr Lawal on the basis of the Senate ad-hoc committee report dated 15th December, 2016.”
Senator Sani said: “It is shocking to me that such a letter can come from the Presidency with such misinformation and outright distortions.
“They lied by saying that the committee didn’t invite the SGF. The committee invited the SGF and the letter was acknowledged by the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the SGF.
“To make sure that we buttress our point, we made a paid advert in three or four national dailies: This one was published on Dec. 2, 2016 and the SGF is clearly mentioned as one of those that is expected to come and appear before the National Assembly.
“If they have the intention of simply reaching a pre-determined conclusion by covering up on the issues raised by the committee that is one thing.
“Secondly, issues were raised that only three members of the committee signed that interim report, that was also a second lie coming from the Presidency.
“I have a copy of the interim report which was initially signed by seven members of the nine members of that committee and I am going to submit it to the clerk of the Senate.
“Even if it is nine and then three people signed, we still have a quorum, but here I have seven people.
“I will say also that I listened to the list of the names that were read and they omitted the chairman which is myself.
“I know I am not very big in frame but I believe my name shouldn’t have been omitted.
“This shows clearly how the SGF and his minions in the Presidency misinformed the President to sign this letter.
“Secondly I will say this clearly, this letter is a funeral service for the anti-corruption fight.”
At this stage, Saraki tried to stop Sani from continuing.
The Senate President was overwhelmed by protests from senators.
“I stand by the report of that committee and it is very clear to us: if we can allow this committee’s report to be shredded into pieces then I think it would be in order for us to open all the 138 prisons in this country for all the convicts and awaiting trial inmates to go scot free.”
Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, told reporters after plenary that the “Senate stands on its resolution on Lawal.”
Abdullahi said Buhari’s letter absolving the SGF did not in any way change the position of the Senate. (The Nation)