The suspension of the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr David Babachir Lawal by President Muhammadu Buhari, did not come to many as a surprise.
For keen political observers, the suspension ought to have been handed down months ago.
President Buhari, while announcing the suspension of the SGF on Wednesday, through his spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, 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 also directed the suspension of the SGF from office pending the outcome of the investigations.
The President’s action is a sharp contrast from a letter he addressed to the Senate in January, 2017, where he exonerated the SGF of any wrongdoing in the handling of PINE.
Buhari, had in his letter, accused the Senate of bias and had insisted that the SGF and his company, Roller Vision Limited, were not given any chance to defend themselves during the public hearing on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East.
He had also claimed in the letter that only three, out of the nine adhoc committee members signed the interim report.
President Buhari had maintained that based on the loopholes in the report, he could not in good conscience, act on the resolution or sack Mr. Lawal. He said he could not also hand him over to any anti-graft agency for prosecution.
The suspended SGF’s travails, started in 2015, shortly after the election of Senator Bukola Saraki as President of the Senate. Within the four walls of the Senate, it is was popularly believed that the SGF, played a role in the ongoing Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) travails of Saraki.
Repeatedly, Lawal, called on Saraki to resign. On several occasions, he also refused to honour series of invitations extended to him by the Senate committees.
In late 2015 and early 2016, Lawal, again, said the Federal Government, under his watch, will not release budgeted funds earmarked for constituency projects for Senators.
When he was summoned by a Senate committee, he maintained his grounds that the constituency projects funds will not be released.
In 2016, the immediate-past Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, moved a motion and drew the attention of the Red Chamber to the deplorable humanitarian crisis in the North-East.
The Senate President, Saraki, subsequently, set up an adhoc committee, headed by Senator Shehu Sani to investigate the claims.
For weeks, the SGF, declined to honour summons from the committee. His company, Roller Vision Limited, indicted in the alleged fraud, did not honour the invitation as well.
Just before it embarked on its Christmas break last year, the Senator Sani-led committee, submitted an interim report which indicted the SGF and his company.
The report which was unanimously adopted by Senators also recommended that the embattled SGF be suspended by President Buhari or either resign and be prosecuted by the relevant anti-corruption agencies in the country for violating the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and the Federal Government Financial Rules and Regulations pertaining to the award of contracts.
Sani who presented the report during plenary, accused the SGF of using his office to enrich himself, contrary to various provisions of existing laws.
He said the PINE took undue advantage of the provision of emergency situation contract award in the Public Procurement Act, 2007 to over inflate contracts.
“Not only that, contracts were awarded to companies belonging to top government officials’ cronies, family members and close associates. For example, Rholavision Engineering Limited incorporated in 1990 with RC No. 159855 at the Corporate Affairs Commission, Abuja to carry out information and communication technology services, anchored by David Babachir Lawal, the current Secretary to the Government of the Federation was awarded consultancy contract for the removal of the invasive plant species in Yobe state on 8th March, 2016.
“Although, Lawal resigned the directorship of the said company in September, 2016, it is on record that he is still the signatory to accounts of the company. About 95 to 100 per cent payments of all contracts awarded by PINE have been paid even as some contracts are yet to be fully executed, e.g, payment of One Hundred and Eight Million naira (N108 million) only for the supply of 1100 units of temporary tarpaulin carbines at Three Hundred and Two Thousand naira (N302,000:00) per unit made to Dantex Nigeria Limited despite the fact that 125 units valued at N37.7m were yet to be supplied,” Sani had reported.
The Senate had lamented to Buhari that a number of his appointees, including to the SGF, viewed the Senate with disdain, and belittled their function as an arm of government.
His actions no doubt contributed to the friction between the two arms of government, as he was vowed by many as untouchable. But analyst are of the view that Lawal may have just bitten more than he can chew, and that he may have placed himself to be used as a sacrificial lamb.
They also contend that it is very unlikely the engineer will return to his position as a member of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet, given the Senate’s view of him, and the administration’s stand against corruption.
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