President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday wielded his hammers against two senior officials of his administration in the war against corruption. The president ordered the immediate suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Engr. David Babachir Lawal, and the Director General (DG) of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayodele Oke.
The two would remain suspended pending the outcome of investigation into various allegations against them, presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, stated in a statement issued yesterday.
The SGF would be investigated over alleged violations of laws and due process in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North-East (PINE). The Senate ad-hoc committee had, in its interim report in December 2016, indicted the SGF in a grass cutting scandal of over N200 million. The panel called for the SGF’s sack and prosecution over alleged breach of due process in handling contracts awarded by PINE.
Specifically, Lawal was indicted by the Senate Committee for awarding a N200 million contract to a company linked to him, to cut grass at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp. But Lawal pooh-poohed the Senate’s report, describing it as balderdash.
Also, in a letter to the Senate President in January, Buhari cleared the SGF, saying that he was not given fair hearing before the indictment. In a twist, the president yesterday ordered for Lawal’s probe.
The president also ordered a full-scale investigation into the discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, over which the NIA has made a claim.
The EFCC had, last week Wednesday, recovered $43.4 million, £27,800 and N23.2 million totalling about N15 billion from a private apartment at the Osborne Towers in Ikoyi, Lagos.
“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,’’ the Adesina added.
Already, Buhari has already constituted a threeman committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to investigate the two cases involving the SGF and the NIA boss. “A three-man Committee comprising the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and the National Security Adviser, headed by the Vice President, is to conduct both investigations,” Adesina stated. The Committee is expected to submit its report to the President within 14 days.
The presidential spokesman has said that 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 of the affected two federal officers.
New Telegraph gathered that the Osinbajo-led panel has commenced the investigation. But the sack of Lawal and Oke did not come without drama at the presidential villa. Few minutes after the directive by Buhari for the two principal officers to proceed on suspension, the SGF and NIA boss were sighted at the presidential villa.
Lawal, at the time the suspension was announced, was locked up in a meeting with Osinbajo, apparently unaware of the presidential directive. Speaking to State House Correspondents after his meeting with Osinbajo,althe suspended SGF threw it back at reporters, questioning their source of the story. Our correspondent reports that several workers in the villa gathered in clusters to watch what played out.
Reporters: “Your suspension has just been announced. How will you react to the development? Lawal:Who announced it? Reporters: The Presidency. Lawal: Then ask them. Why are you asking me? Who is the Presidency? Reporters: Have you been informed of the suspension? Lawal: By who? About what? What about you? Have you been informed? Reporters:Yes sir. Lawal: By who? Reporters:By the Presidency sir.
Lawal:I have not seen it. I should have been given… I have not seen the press release, so I cannot comment on it. Reporters:It is currently trending online. Do you doubt the authenticity of the statement? Lawal: I have not seen it. When reporters requested to know the outcome of his meeting with the Vice President, the suspended SGF said: “I am always here. I always meet the Vice-President.
I used to come here even before I was made SGF.” Lawal appeared nearly broken down as he walked to be driven out of the presidential villa. On his part, the Director General of the NIA, Oke, who arrived the villa, also to seek audience with Osinbajo shortly after Lawal had departed, could not have access. He was seen around the Vice President’s office immediately after the departure of the SGF.
The NIA boss, who noticed the presence of State House correspondents, however turned back and attempted to pass through the Vice President’s exit gate. He was prevented from going out through that point by security officials; the security also stopped the DG from passing through the service chief’s gate. The NIA boss later left the Presidential Villa without seeing the Vice- President.
The suspended NIA boss, it was learnt, later returned to the presidential villa where he met with Osinbajo alongside the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General (rtd) Babagana Monguno who is also a member of the presidential committee.