The Senate, on Wednesday, called for the resignation and prosecution of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, following alleged complicity in the diversion of North-East humanitarian funds.
This followed the presentation of interim report of the Adhoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East, by its Chairman, Sen. Shehu Sani in Abuja on Wednesday.
The call for Lawal’s resignation followed alleged contravention of the provisions of Public Procurement Act and the Federal Government Financial Rules and Regulations pertaining to award of contracts.
Presenting the report, Sani said that some of the contracts were awarded to companies belonging to top government officials’ cronies and family members. He explained that the committee found out that Rholavision Engineering Limited, a company, with Lawal as Director, for instance, was awarded consultancy contract. The company’s major role, according to him, is the removal of invasive plant species in Yobe on March 8. The contract was worth N233 million.
“Although, Lawal resigned the directorship of the said company in September 2016, it is on record that he is a signatory to the accounts of the company,’’ he said.
Sani further said aside Lawal’s complicity, the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE), which carried out the entire procurement activities, contravened laid down rules.
According to him, those that award contract takes undue advantage of the provision of emergency situation contract award in the procurement act to inflate figures.
He also said most of the contracts had no direct bearing or impact on the IDPs, who were living in deplorable conditions. Sani said that in spite of the health challenges in the camps, there was absence of the Federal Ministry of Health. According to him, only the Nigerian Air force Medical Team has presence in the area with only little equipment at their disposal.
He explained that the committee equally noticed the presence of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), working with other agencies.
“Despite the claim by some federal government agencies, what is on ground as seen by the committee does not justify or reflect the claims. For example, over 70 per cent of displaced children both in camps and with host communities are out of school due to lack of infrastructure. Generally, there is acute shortage of food amongst the IDPs, as observed in one of the IDPs visited,’’ Sani had said.
Supporting the call for Lawal’s resignation, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Sen. Dino Melaye, said the report showed that Lawal became SGF before his resignation as director of the company.
According to him, the action is not befitting of a man of his caliber.
“When this committee started looking at the books, SGF ran to the Corporate Affairs Commission and quickly withdrew his directorship of the company after the execution of the contract. As I speak to you, he is still a signatory to the account of the company. This contract is not a constituency project.
This is disgraceful, this is abominable, this is condemnable, this is unheard of and this is an embarrassment to we members of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Babachir Lawal have exhibited anti-Buhari tendencies. This is gross abuse of office, the truth is mightier than any currency and every lie has an expiry date,’’ Melaye had said.
Following the call for his resignation and prosecution, Lawal, after President Buhari presented the Budget to the Senate on Wednesday, said that the Senate’s position is an attempt to rubbish him.
“The senate is talking balderdash; it has developed the habit of bring-him-down syndrome. I have the report of the senate committee in which it was said that I didn’t resign from Rholavision Nigeria Limited. Let me tell you, Rholavision was formed by me in December 1990, and it has been a company that was run very successfully.
Now, when I was appointed secretary to the government of the federation, I resigned from that company on 18th August 2015. I can see that in their report, they are talking about 2016. I don’t know where they got their facts.
By the way, it is very instructive that when the committee was sitting, no effort was ever made to invite me to come and make submission. It is therefore, surprising that they devoted a whole session of today (Wednesday) at maligning me, claiming what is not true without even giving me the chance to come and put my own case before them,” Lawal said.
Speaking exclusively to PREMIUM TIMES, Senator Sani insisted that Lawal lied in the claims he made.
“We invited him but he sent a representative. On the claim of resigning from the company last year before the contract was even awarded in March 2016. We got to know from the Corporate Affairs Commission (that he held directorship till September 2016). We wrote the Corporate Affairs Commission and they supplied us the information,” Sani said.
He said there was more the committee would reveal regarding how officials and companies criminally benefited from the North East crisis when the Senate resumes next year.
During plenary on Thursday, Sen. Melaye brought the matter before the Upper Chamber.
“A mere appointee of the President says that we are liars. If the SGF says the document presented by the CAC is fake, he should produce the original. Every document that (is) fake, must have original. I challenge the SGF to bring the original of these documents,” Melaye said.
“The issue we have here is very serious because it bothers on the integrity of the Senate. A matter like this should not be personalised, how can the SGF say we are saying rubbish,” Senate President, Bukola Saraki said.