The sack this week of the former Secretary to the Federal Government, SGF, by President Muhammadu Buhari, Babachir Lawal, who was suspended from office since April, has brought home the oversight role of the Senate of the Federal Republic. The action taken by the president advertises the significance of that August body in the growth and deepening of our democratic experiment.
Presidential Media Adviser, Femi Adesina, who announced the sack in a statement, said Boss Mustapha, an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain from Adamawa State, where Lawal hails from, was appointed in his stead. It is reassuring to note that the sack, according to Adesina, is in line with the recommendation of the panel set up to probe the allegations levelled against him. The probe panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had the President’s chief of staff as a member. Also sacked is the controversial but suspended director-general of the National Intelligence Agency NIA, Ayo Oke.
President Buhari received the report of the panel headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, August after returning from a medical leave, however, his silence on the issue sparked criticisms, from civil society, opposition parties and other public commentators.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has studied the report of the panel headed by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, which investigated allegations against the suspended secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir David Lawal, and the director-general, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke,” Adesina wrote in his statement.
“The president accepted the recommendation of the panel to terminate the appointment of Mr Lawal, and has appointed Mr Boss Mustapha as the new secretary to the government of the federation. The appointment takes immediate effect.
“President Buhari also approved the recommendation to terminate the appointment of Ambassador Oke, and has further approved the setting up of a three-member panel to, among other things, look into the operational, technical and administrative structure of the Agency and make appropriate recommendations,” the statement added.
The senate must be praised for the doggedness it showed to ensure that justice was done. Mr. Lawal was alleged to have funelled funds earmarked for Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs into his private business account. He was alleged to have awarded contracts for some IDP operations under the Presidential Initiative for the North East. He was nicknamed the ‘grass cutter’ as a result of the huge amount of money said to have been used to clear ‘invasive’ grass somewhere in Borno State. The whole operation and dealings smacks of irregularities.
But the sack is just one part of the puzzle as Nigerians expect EFCC to go to work. Good thing the Presidency on Monday has said the nation’s security agencies were free to go after Lawal and Oke. Oke is the man named in the Ikoyi N13 billion abandoned money scam.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed the freedom by security agents to go after both men in a statement made available to reporters.
Going further, the statement read, “the President has taken the administrative action. All other actions will be taken by relevant government agencies. The position of the President, therefore, is that investigation agencies which have already commenced the investigation of the two officers removed from office will go on with their work of investigation without any interference or hindrance.
“The President, who is fully conversant with the provisions of the constitution will not stop the investigation of anyone because he has no such power under our laws. This is a decision of the Supreme Court. The President under our laws can, through the Attorney General enter a nolle prosequi to stop an on-going trial. He may upon conviction, order a pardon. Beyond these, the president cannot order investigation agencies not to investigate anyone and does not intend to do so in this, or any other circumstance.
“Based on his wish and desire for a strict observance of the law, the President expects the EFCC, ICPC and such agencies to proceed with ongoing investigations. When and where they have reasonable grounds to charge former or serving officers to court under our laws, they do not require the permission of the President to do so,” the statement concluded.
It is now left to the law enforcement agencies to do their job. Completing this matter will go a long way in showing without a doubt that the government means business. It will deter future appointees from fiddling public funds with such impunity. The senate and National Assembly as a whole must not rest on their oars. Bukola Saraki’s leadership has shown a better way of making the legislature work for the good of all.