About four months after President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo-led three-man probe panel to investigate allegations of violation of law and due process involving the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, and the suspended Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke, the president has finally received the report.
The report which had originally been slated for submission in May based on the panel’s two-week timeline, was Wednesday submitted by Osinbajo to the president at his home office in a brief ceremony which featured the two other members of the panel— the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno. The Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, was also present.
The yet-to-be-resolved highly controversial corruption matter has been the subject of much public interest and speculation. While some questioned the decision to set up an internal probe panel in the first place instead of allowing external investigative bodies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) handle the investigation, thus alleging a cover-up plot, others have wondered why Osinbajo, while acting as president, could not take action on the matter whether on his panel’s report or by simply transferring the investigation to the EFCC or ICPC, especially given the president’s long absence and the sensitive nature of the matter.
Some however argued that Osinbajo was in a tight spot as he could not establish neutrality as acting president were he to attempt to make progress on the matter, having sat as head of the investigation as vice president.
Regardless of the divide to which Nigerians belong on the debate surrounding the delay in resolving the case, one thing most will agree on is that the length of time so far taken is both unusual and unhealthy in ensuring efficient administration and maintaining public trust.
Speaking to newsmen after submitting the report, Osinbajo made the following comments in response to different questions:
“This is a report which contains recommendations to the President. The fact finding committee as you know and what our terms of reference were, were to find out based on the facts available to us and to find out based on interview of witnesses and what transpired in both cases that were before us.
“The one involving the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the one involving the DG NIA. And we have now concluded that and we submitted a full report with recommendations to Mr President.
“Of course I cannot give you any kind of details because the President has to look at, study the report and then make his own decisions based on that report.
“Well I think that as you can imagine that 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 in the interest of the nation that things are done properly, that there is due process in anyway. That is the proper thing to do and you can be sure that we will do the right thing.
“…It is a detailed report, two reports as a matter of fact and Mr President has to study the report and then make decisions”.
It will be recalled that in April, following allegations against Lawal and Oke, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had released the following statement:
“President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered an investigation into the allegations of violations of law and due process made against the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Mr David Babachir Lawal, in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North-east (PINE).
“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 Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, over which the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) 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 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.
“The committee is to submit its report 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.”
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