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26 Aug 2017

Osinbajo Panel Report: Witnesses Open Can of Worms

Some close associates of President Buhari have been rumoured to be indicted by the Osinbajo panel report which investigated the grasscutting scandal of the suspended SGF and the stray Osborne Tower funds.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo
The long medical vacation in the United Kingdom by President Muhammadu Buhari may have pushed to the back seat the controversy generated by the graft allegations against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke, but with the return of the ‘Lion King’ last weekend, the storm appears gathering again.

The storm, which has so far swept Lawal and Oke off their powerful seats in government may bring down more principal officials of the Buhari administration going by alleged revelations in Lawal’s statements of defence before a presidential probe panel set up by President Buhari and headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

The committee which had the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN); and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, as members was initially billed to submit its report to Buhari on May 8 but could not do so because the President left the country on May 7 for medical follow-up in London.

Speaking to State House correspondents after submitting the report on Wednesday, Osinbajo said he would not divulge the details of the report.

He said the ball was now in the President’s court to study the report and take decisions based on the recommendations.

When asked whether he would disclose a brief of what is contained in the report, Osinbajo said, “Of course not. This is a report, which contains recommendations to the President. 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, one involving the SGF and the other the DG of NIA.”

A highly placed security source with insight into the details of the report however told Saturday Sun that “the recommendations by the Osinbajo panel may not be as damning as the statement of the suspended SGF himself because he had to open up that other principal officials of the administration (Names withheld) also benefitted from the IDP rehabilitation contracts.”

Saturday Sun gathered that “it is not unlikely that the President will refer the Committee report to one of the anti-graft agencies whose head has been called to return home immediately from a trip to Vienna, he should arrive this weekend. It then means that more senior officials within and outside the presidency who benefitted directly or through proxy, may eventually lose their jobs for conflict of interest and may eventually face prosecution if the evidence against them is strong enough.”

The decision of President Buhari to keep his line of action close to his chest has also been generating panic and tension among the concerned officials.

“Some of them believe they are too close to the President to be sacrificed but they are apprehensive because the President is not talking to them about it and as such they can’t read his mind or predict his next line of action.

Though they are putting indirect pressure on the President, creating an impression that the probe was designed to persecute his inner caucus but I doubt if the President will give them any soft landing”, the source told Saturday Sun in Abuja on Friday.

The President had on April 19 suspended Lawal and Oke and constituted a three-man committee led by Osinbajo to investigate them.

The panel investigated allegations of violations of law and due process made against Lawal in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East while it probed Oke on the discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, for which NIA is laying claim. A company founded by Lawal was said to have benefitted in the contracts bazaar.

The Senate had first made accusations of corruption against Lawal in December last year, after its committee on the humanitarian crisis in the Northeast indicted him and then asked that he should be suspended and prosecuted.

But in January, the president rejected the Senate’s indictment, saying he was not given fair hearing; before suspending him, alongside Oke, four months later.

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