|Babachir Lawal and Ayo Oke|
President Muhammadu Buhari sacked the two public officers on Monday. Before the sack, the President set up a panel headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to investigate allegations of financial impropriety levelled against the two.
The panel submitted its findings and recommendations about six months ago but the President despite public criticisms failed to act on the report. He, however, did on Monday by announcing their disengagement from service reportedly in line with the recommendations made by the panel, whose report has yet to be made public.
Reacting to the President’s action on Monday, notable Nigerians and groups said the sack was not enough, demanding more actions against the two.
Senior Advocates of Nigeria; the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose; the Peoples Democratic Party, the Ijaw Youth Congress, and civil society groups were among those that called on the President to take a more decisive action against the indicted officials.
SANS call for prosecution
Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Emeka Ngige and Yusuf Ali, who spoke to one of our correspondents in separate telephone interviews in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, argued that the two should be prosecuted if the Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo-led panel made such a recommendation. They argued that doing so would give the Buhari-led administration’s fight against corruption the required boost.
Ali said, “If there is any issue of corruption or criminality, they should be prosecuted.”
Speaking in a similar vein, Ngige said, “If the VP’s panel recommended that they should be prosecuted, nobody is above the law. If there is a recommendation for prosecution, they should be prosecuted. That is the only way the President can assure the country and the international community that nobody is above the law and it is not business as usual.”
Also reacting via the telephone, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption Prof. Itse Sagay, said the sack was long overdue.
He said, “I think there has been a consensus on this, that it was overdue; there has been too much delay. Although I will like to put a caveat that government usually have a lot more information than the rest of us as the delay might have been discretionary due to the information they had. I was patient and I definitely endorse the final decision that has been taken.”
Citing examples of corruption cases that were treated with levity by the Buhari administration, the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, said indicted Babachir Lawal and Ayodele Oke and others still in Buhari’s government should be handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for investigation and prosecution.
He spoke through his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, saying, “Enough of using probe panels to shield people accused of corruption in Buhari’s government; rather, they should be arrested, detained and prosecuted by the EFCC as being done to others perceived as the President’s enemies.”
Fayose said that apart from prosecuting the sacked officials, the report of the panel that investigated them should be made public.
Referring to similar cases, Fayose said, “Nigerians are interested in the full details of the report on the $43m discovered in an apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos. The report should be made public.
“They also want to know what happened to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu’s allegations of award of $25bn contracts without following due process against the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr Maikanti Baru.
“Nigerians are interested in the report of the panel that looked into the Department of State Service investigation that indicted Acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, of corruption. They want to know why the former Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, who was accused of corruption by the Senate, removed from office unceremoniously and declared wanted is now the Commissioner of Police in charge of the Special Fraud Unit, Ikoyi, Lagos.”
He said the FG should explain the appointment of Ahmed Gambo Saleh, the Supreme Court Registrar who was indicted and put on trial for the alleged N2bn fraud as the Secretary of the National Judicial Council and the Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee.
“Most importantly, Nigerians are not carried away by the sacking of Babachir Lawal and Oke. Rather, they want to know what President Buhari has done to those behind the fraudulent reinstatement of Maina since the report on the reinstatement was submitted last week Tuesday as directed by the President.”
Similarly, the President of the Ijaw Youth Congress Worldwide, Mr. Perotubo Oweilaemi, said, “I urge Mr. President to go beyond sacking them. They should be prosecuted in a competent court of law.”
Impeach President, PDP tells N’Assembly
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party has called on the National Assembly to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari over the way he handled the cases involving the removal of Lawal and Oke.
The party accused the President of double standard. The spokesperson for the party, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, stated the party’s position in a statement in Abuja on Monday.
He said, “The statement on the sacking of Babachir Lawal, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Ayo Oke, the former Director General of Nigerian Intelligence Agency is a slap on the face of Nigerians.
“It is an insult on the collective intelligence of our people who have waited patiently for the President’s reaction on the humongous act of corruption by two of his principal aides and this is totally unacceptable.”
Adeyeye said that the party had earlier disagreed with the setting up of the panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to look into the corruption allegations against the two government officials.
He said such cases were better handled by either the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission.
He said, “First and foremost, we had disagreed with the President last year when he decided to set up the panel headed by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to investigate the matter because we thought that was the wrong course of action to take.
Social media was also agog with Nigerians calling for the prosecution of the duo. On Punchng.com, readers told the President that the sacking was not enough. One of them, GenerationNext, said, “The termination of appointment may just not be enough for the gravity of offences committed by the culprits. For instance, there might be the need to arraign them for trial and maybe subsequently serve jail terms. So, in the final analysis, this sacking might just be a soft-landing for the guys.”
Another, Oracle, said, “Sacking is a step in the right direction. The next step is prosecution; anything outside this is not acceptable.”
Speaking in the same vein, a commentator, Kalu9909, said it was not enough to terminate their appointments. “He decided to sack them as a result of the public outcry against his administration and the scandal that has rocked him lately. They must be arrested and prosecuted for the heinous offences they committed against Nigeria.”
A reader, Evidence, also wrote, “They should be arrested and prosecuted. This belated firing does not cut it.”
Another commentator, Real, said,“These two men must face the music for what they did and if they are guilty, they need to be massively punished.”
A chieftain of the Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Senator Femi Okurounmu, also supported the call that beyond their sacking, the two ex-government officials should be arrested and prosecuted for corruption.
He said, “This sacking is only the first step; it should be followed by prosecution. Sacking alone is not enough. If a person is corrupt, the first thing is to sack the person, then the logical thing is to prosecute the person and have the person convicted and sent to jail.
“If that is not done, then we are just making a joke of the war against corruption. So, sacking is not enough at all. If I steal money and all you do is to sack me, then I still have the money to go and be enjoying.”
Civil society groups call for more action
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project hailed the President for sacking Lawal and Oke, but urged him to “urgently hand over” the two officials to the EFCC and ICPC for further investigation.
SERAP, in a statement in Lagos, on Monday, signed by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, said, “Buhari also has to move swiftly to publish report of investigation into the secret reinstatement of fugitive former civil servant, Abdulrasheed Maina, and without delay, identify and bring to justice anyone suspected to be involved.”
“This government now has a real opportunity to reassure a lot of Nigerians, who may be worried about the direction of travel of the President’s anti-corruption agenda that there will be no sacred cow as far as the fight against corruption is concerned.”
Two other civil society organisations namely Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights intensified the call for further action.
The CACOL Director, Debo Adeniran, said, “What is also needful is that those officials who have been relieved of their jobs must be handed over to the relevant agencies for diligent prosecution. We also urge the judiciary to ensure that justice is served and everyone sees it. The anti-corruption war has just been reinvigorated. The agencies and anti-corruption organisations must intensify their activities.”
The Human Rights Writers Association, in its response, called for the prosecution of the sacked officials without further delay. The association said only their prosecution after they had been relieved of their appointments would send the right signals. This was contained in a statement signed by its national coordinator, Mr. Emmanuel Onwubiko.
The CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said, “It is not enough that they were removed but they must also be lined up for prosecution.”
New SGF is Babachir Lawal’s cousin, says Junaid Mohammed
Unknown to many, Mustapha is a first cousin to Babachir Lawal whom he has been appointed to replace. A member of the House of Representatives during the Second Republic, Dr Junaid Muhammed, revealed this to one of Punch correspondents.
He said, “Before you begin to celebrate the appointment of Boss Mustapha as the new SGF, do you know that he is in fact, Babachir Lawal’s first cousin? This is a continuation of the cronyism and nepotism the Buhari-led administration has become infamous for.”
But even as many Nigerians lament the failure of the President to direct further actions on the sacked officials, the All Progressives Congress has said Buhari’s sacking of the two officials couldn’t have come at a better time than now.
APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said, “Few days ago, when the President directed the dismissal of Abdulrasheed Maina, some people said that was right but what about the suspended SGF, BD Lawal? But we as a party said look, the President is the only person who has all the information. All of us can only have one side of the story or the other.
“But the President by the virtue of the position he occupies is the only one who has all the information and he would do what is necessary at the right time, now we have been vindicated and it shows that the President has not in any way waived his commitment not to tolerate corruption at any level no matter who is involved.”
Similarly, the Arewa Consultative Forum applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for sacking Lawal and Oke. In its reaction to the development, the ACF through the National Publicity Secretary, Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, said, “The action taken by President Buhari on the report submitted by the Osinbajo Committee that investigated the suspended SGF and the DG NIA is appropriate and timely.”
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