Prominent individuals and eminent persons, groups, on Wednesday, hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for suspending the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. David Lawal; and the Director-General of National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayo Oke.
Among the groups that commended the President for suspending the SGF are the Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights and the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders.
The suspension of Lawal and the NIA boss was contained in a statement on Wednesday by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina.
While Lawal was suspended in connection with the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on North-East, Oke was suspended in connection with the uncovering of $43m (about N13bn) by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, over which the NIA has made a claim.
According to the statement, Buhari has ordered that thorough investigations be conducted into the allegations against the two top government officials.
The President therefore set up a three-man committee, comprising the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN); the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; and headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to investigate the allegations.
The committee has 14 days to submit its reports.
The statement read, “President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered an investigation into the allegations of violations of law and due process made against the SGF, Mr David Babachir Lawal, in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North-East.
“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 EFCC in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, over which the National Intelligence Agency 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.
“The President has also directed the suspension of the Director-General of the NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke, pending the outcome of the investigation.
“A three-man committee, comprising the AGF and Minister of Justice, and the NSA, headed by the Vice-President, is to conduct both investigations.
“The committee is to submit its reports to the President within 14 days.
“The most senior Permanent Secretary in the SGF’s office and the most senior officer in the NIA are to act, respectively, during the period of investigation.”
Drama as Osinbajo meets suspended Lawal, Oke
A mild drama played out at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday, shortly after the Presidency announced the suspension of the SGF and the DG of NIA.
Lawal was in a meeting with Osinbajo as of the time his suspension was announced.
As he was descending the staircase of the Vice-President’s office after the meeting, the suspended SGF walked into the waiting hands of State House correspondents.
When he was asked to react to his suspension, he claimed he was not aware of the development.
The following conversation ensued between the reporters and the suspended SGF:
Your suspension has just been announced. How will you react to the development?
Who announced it?
Then ask them. Why are you asking me? Who is the Presidency?
Have you been informed of the suspension?
By who? About what? What about you? Have you been informed?
By the Presidency sir.
I have not seen it. I should have been given… I have not seen the press release; so, I cannot comment on it.
It is currently trending online. Are you doubting the authenticity of the statement?
I have not seen it.
Tell us the outcome of your meeting with the Vice-President sir.
I am always here. I always meet the Vice-President. I used to come here even before I was made the SGF.
Shortly after, Lawal was driven out of the premises in his official car, Oke also arrived the Presidential Villa.
Immediately he stepped out of his official car and sighted journalists, he was also moved to tears and turned back.
His security operatives quickly shielded him from photojournalists as he was smuggled back into his car.
They made an attempt to drive him into the forecourt of the President’s office through the Service Chiefs’ Gate but his convoy was denied access by the security men manning the gate.
He was then driven out of the premises.
Officials from the media office later came out to appeal to journalists to leave the area and return to the Council Chambers’ Press Gallery.
Shortly after the area was cleared of journalists, Oke returned to meet Osinbajo.
Journalists were barred from interviewing him.
With the presence of the Monguno at the Vice-President’s Office, it is believed that the three-man committee, set up by Buhari to investigate Lawal and Oke, had started work.
SGF giving the administration a bad name –Minister
A minister, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said the decision to suspend Lawal was part of the consensus reached at a reconciliatory meeting being held by the Presidency and the leadership of the Senate.
The frosty relationship between the Presidency and the Senate has informed the decision of the lawmakers to suspend the screening of the President’s nominees for the positions of Resident Electoral Commissioners.
The minister said, “The President was advised to suspend the SGF because his issue was already giving the government a bad name.
“Apart from the fact that he is not known as a major part in the APC, he is also being seen as a cog in the wheel of the government anti-corruption crusade.
“Already, his issue has also polarised the party and the Presidency. So, in order to give a bite to the anti-corruption war, he needs to be suspended.”
Senate, Reps panels hail Buhari, lawmaker says N’East contracts probe continues
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East, Senator Shehu Sani, on Wednesday, hailed Buhari for suspending the SGF.
Sani, in an electronic mail to The PUNCH stated, “It is commendable that the President has taken the Senate committee report and recommendations seriously. The sword of truth is not just cast and sharpened for the neck of foes but also for those of friends.
“The Senate and the committee have nothing personal against the SGF or any person affected but we simply did our job in conformity with our constitutional responsibilities and the moral calling of our conscience.”
When asked on the telephone if the SGF would still be expected to appear before the panel, Sani said the probe would continue and the lawmakers would decide when Lawal would appear before them.
Also, the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes described as a “welcome development”, the President’s suspending Lawal.
The Chairman of the committee, Mr. Kayode Oladele, told The PUNCH that suspending Lawal would allow for an unfettered investigation to be carried out into the contracts.
He explained, “It will appear that the Presidency has finally come to terms with the resolution of the Senate, calling for an investigation of the SGF.
“It is logical that in such a situation, suspension is the best step so that the SGF does not use his position to influence the investigation.”
On the NIA’ boss, Oladele noted that from the point of the EFCC and the law, the money found by the anti-graft agency was “slush funds” until proven otherwise.
“Both actions, as taken so far by the Presidency, are a welcome development,” Oladele said.
Groups, Nigerians react to the suspension of Lawal, Oke
In separate interviews with The PUNCH on Wednesday, some groups said the suspension of the Lawal came late.
But SERAP and CDHR urged the Federal Government to charge suspended SGF and the NIA boss to court if indicted after the investigations.
The SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, in an interview, said, “Immediately the allegations against the SGF surfaced, I stressed that he should step aside. That is what obtains in saner climes and edifying environments. The same applies for the NIA DG.
“Buhari should step up his game and take decisive actions against them. If the two government officials are eventually indicted, they should be taken to court. Let them have their day in court. This should not just be suspension for suspension sake.”
The CDHR President, Malachy Ugwumadu, said though the Presidency’s action was belated, the two suspended officials must face court action if the allegations against them were established.
He said, “By and large, it goes to show that this is a government that still wants to fight corruption. We welcome this development. We urge the panel to thoroughly investigate the allegations.’’
In his reaction, the Executive Chairman, CACOL, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said, “It is a step in the right direction. The suspension of the SGF is belated; it ought to have been done right from when the news broke out that he spent so much in cutting grasses at the IDP camp.
“As for the Director-General of the NIA, it is the best thing the government could do to save face and to prove that it is not treating corruption with deodorant rather than using insecticide. That is the way to go.”
A prominent lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), described the suspension of the SGF and the DG of NIA as a “good riddance to a bad rubbish”.
He said, “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. The chicken is finally coming home to roost. I congratulate PMB on this move, even if belated.”
A former Chairman of the Lagos Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Chijioke Okoli (SAN), said although the suspension of the SGF was belated, it was a step in the right direction.
Okoli canvassed support for the President over the actions taken against Lawal and Oke.
The SAN said, “Regarding that of the SGF, my point is that it is extremely belated but it is welcome. It should have been done a long time ago. I think the SGF’s continued stay in office has done massive disservice to the government.
“On the NIA DG, for the President to have suspended him, now means that it is actually true as reported by the media that the NIA was laying claim to the money. I had said the NIA should tell its story that it had been keeping the money for covert operations, to the marines. The story doesn’t add up.
“I think suspending him in the present circumstance even without knowing the entire facts is justified.”
A member of the House of Representatives in the Second Republic, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said though the suspension of the SGF and the NIA boss was coming a little too late, it was better than nothing.
Mohammed stated, “As far as I am concerned, it is certainly better than nothing.
“But you can see clearly from the way the suspensions were announced, it was done out of pressure and a sense of appeasement for public opinion. He should take a step further by identifying others and flushing them out of the system.”
A SAN, Mallam Yusuf Ali, described the suspension of the SGF and the NIA boss as a good development.
Ali stated, “I think the President has done what is expected of him because the man is holding such a high office and he was indicted by the Senate for the IDP (contract) issue, he had no moral authority anymore.
‘‘Although his suspension was long overdue, the President did it eventually. I salute the President for that.”
The Executive Secretary of the Anti-Corruption Network, Ebenezer Oyetakin, said the suspension of the SGF was overdue.
He said, “The suspension of the SGF is coming rather too late, but it is better late than never. This is because, beyond the issue of corruption, he is making the government lack rhythm of governance due to total lack of co-ordination.’’
He stated that Oke’s case was outrageous, adding that the NIA seemed to have outlived its usefulness. Also, the Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (popularly called Intersociety), Emeka Umeaghalasi, said there was nothing wrong with the suspension.
‘‘The matter at hand is purely criminal, requiring the requisite criminal interrogation for the purpose of finding out criminal motives behind the possible guilty acts,’’ he said. (Punchng.com)