… Has Babachir Lawal Escaped The Wheel Of Justice?
On October 30, Babachir Lawal was relieved of his position as the secretary to the government of the federation.
On that same day, President Muhammdu Buhari said he expected the anti-graft agencies to go after Lawal alongside Ayo Oke, former director-general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), who was also sacked at the time.
Seventy-four days down the line, nothing has been heard of Lawal’s investigation, either from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or from the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offence Commission (ICPC), Nigeria’s two main anti-graft agency.
No invitation has been extended to him, at least to public knowledge, or a hint from the agencies that they are following up on the matter.
Whereas not just Oke but also his wife has been invited by the EFCC.
FORGOTTEN, OR A CASE OF THE WHEEL OF JUSTICE GRINDING SLOWLY?
The intrigues in Lawal’s case are not entirely new to Nigerians.
From the moment he was accused of sharp practices in the welfare of internally displaced persons in the north-east, the “wheel of justice” (in the words of Femi Adesina, Buhari’s spokesman) has been grinding slowly but not steadily.
On December 14, 2016, a senate ad-hoc committee on ‘mounting humanitarian crisis in the north-east’ indicted Lawal of fraud in a contract awarded for the clearing of “invasive plant species” in Yobe state, through the Presidential Initiative on Northeast (PINE).
PINE, which was under Lawal, was at the time unable to account for N2.5 billion allocated to it for the alleviation of the IDPs’ suffering.
Lawal’s crime, according to the ad-hoc committee, included his alleged spending of N570m to cut grass.
PART OF THE SOUL DEAL
Rholavision Engineering Ltd, a company owned by Lawal, was also said to have got suspicious payments of N200m from the said contract.
Rholavision’s bank statements and other documents obtained by TheCable at the time had shown how Josmon Technologies Ltd, a company that got the contract from PINE to clear grass for N248, 939, 231, made cash deposits of N10m into Lawal’s company’s account 20 times from March 29.
Although the former SGF had claimed that he resigned from his company on August 15, 2015, and as a result was not a party to whatever business it contracted, TheCable had also confirmed from a document from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) that he was a director of Rholavision until September 16, 2016, when he wrote to the commission informing it of his intention to relinquish 1,500,000 ordinary shares.
TOOK 124 DAYS TO GET SUSPENDED AND ANOTHER 68 TO GET SACKED
After much back and forth battle between the former SGF and the senate, President Muhammadu Buhari suspended him on April 19 – 124 days after the committee indicted him of the said crime.
The president subsequently set up a probe panel to investigate him. The panel, which was led by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, also indicted Lawal.
After the committee submitted its report to Buhari, Nigerians kept watch, waiting patiently for the president to act on the report.
One week. Two weeks. One month. Two months. And nothing happened.
The long wait then prompted various Nigerians, including Ayodele Fayose, governor of Ekiti state, and Shehu Sani to speak against any plan to sweep the matter under the carpet.
Sixty-eight days after receiving the panel report on Lawal, the president fired him alongside Oke. He announced Boss Mustapha, an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain from Adamawa, where Lawal hails from, as the new SGF.
But that was not the end, as some Nigerians alleged foul play and asked that Lawal and Oke be brought to book as well.
In reaction, the president said he expects the anti-graft agencies to “proceed with investigation” of the duo as he “has taken the administrative action” and “all other actions will be taken by relevant government agencies.”
Thursday makes it 74 days since the presidency’s statement. While the EFCC proceeded with Oke’s case, no word has since been heard from any of the anti-graft agencies concerning Lawal.
EFCC KEEPS MUM
Efforts made by TheCable to get the EFCC to comment on Lawal’s case was unsuccesssful.
Wilson Uwajuren, spokesman of the commission, neither answered his calls nor sent a reply to the text message sent.