Nigeria’s topmost government official as well as the nation’s top spy master vacated office shortly after they were suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal, handed over to the most senior Permanent Secretary in his office Alhaji Mohammed Bukar.
On his part Mr. Ayo Oke, the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, handed over to the most senior director in the agency whose name was not revealed at press time.
Their suspension was announced in a statement yesterday by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina.
Adesina said the president ordered their suspension from office pending the outcome of the investigation in two separate events.
Adesina said the investigation would be conducted by a three-man committee chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The two other members are the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) and the National Security Adviser (NSA) Babagana Monguno.
The presidential spokesman said the committee is to submit its report to President Buhari within 14 days.
Lawal was alleged to have inappropriately awarded millions of naira contracts to companies in which he had interest under the Presidential Initiative on the North East.
Oke’s trouble started a week ago after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission seized N15 billion in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Oke had claimed the money belonged to his agency and was approved by the former president Goodluck Jonathan for some covert operation.
The presidential spokesman said the investigation was to find out the circumstances in which the NIA came into possession of the funds.
It would also seek to discover how and by whose or which authority the funds were made available to the NIA as well as to establish whether or not there has been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds.
An interim report by a Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East indicted Lawal of sharp practice in expending the funds meant for alleviating sufferings of Internally Displaced Persons in the North-East. The Senate had demanded his resignation and prosecution.
Buhari, in his reply to the Senate, after an investigation by the Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami, said Lawal was not given a fair hearing.
There was a mild drama at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday following Lawal and the NIA boss’ suspension.
Minutes after his suspension, Lawal met behind closed-doors with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Addressing State House reporters later, Lawal, feigned ignorance of his suspension.
The following conversation ensued between Lawal and the journalists:
•Question: Your suspension has just been announced. How will you react to the development?
Lawal: Who announced it?
• Question: The Presidency
Lawal: Then ask them. Why are you asking me? Who is the Presidency?
•Question: Have you been informed of the suspension?
Lawal: By whom? About what? What about you? Have you been informed?
• Question: Yes sir.
Lawal: By whom?
•Journalists: 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.
• Question: It is currently trending online. Are you doubting the authenticity of the statement?
Lawal: I have not seen it.
• Question: Tell us the outcome of your meeting with the vice-president sir.
Lawal: I am always here. I always meet the Vice-President. I used to come here even before I was made SGF.
The suspended NIA DG, Oke, betrayed emotions yesterday, fighting back tears when he visited the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja.
His attempts to gain access to Osinbajo and Buhari’s offices initially hit a brick wall and he left the Villa.
But about 30 minutes later, Oke resurfaced at the Presidential Villa and headed for Osinbajo’s office for a closed-door meeting.
The National Security Adviser (NSA) General Babagana Monguno also met the vice president yesterday.
Senate welcomes SGF’s suspension
Chairman of the Senate ad-hoc Commitee on mounting humanitarian crisis in the North East, Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna) has described the suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir David Lawal as a welcome development.
Sani’s committee had in December last year indicted Lawal in a grass cutting contract scandal worth N200m involving the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE). The Senate in a unanimous resolution requested President Buhari to sack the SGF.
Rather, Buhari in letter to the Senate in January, said the Senators were unfair to the SGF. The SGF issue is one of the causes of the feud between the executive and the legislature.
Sani in a statement said the suspension was commendable and that President Buhari has taken the Senate Commitee report and recommendations seriously.
“The sword of truth is not just casted and sharpened for the neck of foes but also for those of friends. Moral gallows is not just meant for a belligerent foe but for a perfidious friend.
“Courage is dispensing justice,greater courage is dispensing justice against our emotions and temptation towards saving a friend. It’s easier to annihilate an adversary for a heap wrong than reprimand a friend for a mountain of wrong,”he said.
Sani who chairs the Senate Commitee on local and foreign debt added that, “It’s commendable for the President to heed the call to fumigate the throne of lice and bugs with the same ability he goes after rodents afar.
“ The Senate and the Commitee 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.
“We cannot jubilate because a mighty mortal is caught in the trap of his fate,we are neither saints nor Angels, but we have a duty to raise a card or blow the whistle”.
Bukar takes over from Babachir
The Permanent Secretary General Services Office (GSO), Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), Alhaji Muhammed Bukar has taken over as the acting Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), officials told Daily Trust last night.
This follows yesterday’s suspension of Babachir David Lawal by President Muhammadu Buhari over allegation of corruption in contract awards, at the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
Officials at the OSGF told Daily Trust yesterday that the SGF, who was in the office yesterday morning before moving into the Presidential Villa, was caught unawares by his suspension.
The officials cannot be quoted as they were not authorized to speak on the matter saying, “Mr Bukar has taken over as the acting SGF. He is the most senior of the six Permanent Secretaries in the office (OSGF)…” one of the officials said.