Fate Of SGF Lawal, NIA DG Oke Hangs In The Balance

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The fate of suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, as well as that of embattled Ayo Oke, Director General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), appears to be on edge as President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday received the report of the probe panel set up to investigate allegations against them.

But sources within the presidency have insinuated that the two high profile officials in Buhari’s government may not survive the hammer after the president must have gone through the report.

Sources in the presidency have also insinuated that President Buhari may have requested for the report to be submitted to him as soon as he returned from his medical vacation in London to re-echo his administration’s position for zero tolerance to corruption.

The panel was constituted by Buhari on April 19, 2017 while the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was mandated to chair it.

He was assisted by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno.

Their suspension came as a surprise as both officials never had prior knowledge of it.

The embattled SGF only learnt of his suspension while he was still having a meeting with the vice president that fateful day when he was accosted by State House correspondents. He had unconsciously challenged the presidency over his suspension.

A mild drama also took place that day as Oke, on hearing of his suspension, had hurried to the Presidential Villa to see if he could salvage the situation.

The submission of the report accounted for why the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting which would have been the first chaired by Buhari upon his return could not hold.

How Lawal, Oke Got Into Trouble

Trouble started for the SGF when the Senate Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East chaired by Senator Shehu Sani uncovered some irregularities in the contract awards for the Presidential Initiative on North-East (PINE).

The committee had in its findings alleged that the PINE contract awards contravened the provisions of part one of Fifth Schedule of 1999 constitution, the Public Procurement Act 2007 and breached oath of office as SGF.

Senate also uncovered that there was no Bill of Quantities on most of the contracts awarded by PINE.

Through bank verification (BVN) details, it was uncovered that Lawal was signatory to several accounts where funds were lodged.

Lawal’s BVN also showed that he was signatory to 13 other accounts but with different names.

Shehu’s committee beamed its searchlight on Lawal when it was discovered that most of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps in the North-East were suffering from malnutrition, hunger and starvation despite huge funds ear-marked for their welfare.

Oke got into trouble when large sums of monies in foreign and local currencies were discovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.

The NIA first laid claims to the money as funds set aside by the immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan to procure some surveillance equipment before Oke came forward to give further explanation into how the monies got into the Ikoyi home.

In suspending the NIA DG, Buhari had mandated the committee 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.

Intrigues That Trailed Senate Report

After the Senate recommended that the SGF be investigated, a letter routed through the Attorney General and Minister of Justice had reportedly cleared Lawal of all wrong doings.

The crisis was believed to have been brewed following controversies relating to the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as Acting Chairman of EFCC.

Presidency Keeps Mum On Recommendations

Having received the well detailed report from the panel, the presidency has kept mum on some of the recommendations contained in the report.

The report was submitted to the president at 2p.m at the Presidential Villa, while reporters were barred from the ceremony except a reporter from the Nigerian Television Authority.

Osinbajo, who later spoke to journalists, also kept the recommendations to his chest.

When asked if he could give a brief of what the report contained, he simply said, “Of course, I cannot tell you. I mean this is a report which contains recommendations to the president.

“I cannot, how can I? This is a document which has just been submitted to the president. He is the one who will read the recommendations and the facts and then make a decision.

“It is a fact finding committee as you know and what our terms of reference were was to find out based on the fact available to us and based on the interviews of witnesses of what transpired in those cases of the report one involving the SGF and the other the DG of NIA.

“We have now concluded that and we submitted a full report with recommendations to the president. We cannot, of course, give you any kind of details because the president has to look at the report, study it and then make his own decisions based on that report.”

Also asked if heads are going to roll, “No, how can I tell you? If you want to know what is in the report you have to wait, you really have to wait,” the vice president said.

He said the panel looked into the weighty allegations with a clear sense of ensuring that fairness and justice played out in the interest of all parties.

Osinbajo said, “Well as you can imagine we are always fair minded and the whole approach is to ensure that justice is done in all cases. It is in the interest of the government and also the interest of the nation that things are done properly and that there is due process and that we are not unfair. You can be sure that we will do the right thing”.

On how soon the president will make his decision on the report known. “All I can now say is that we have submitted the report to the president and it is a very detailed report as a matter of fact. The president has to study the report and make decisions,” he said.

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Hamilton Nwosa

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