*We stand by our decision – Senate
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday turned down a request by the Senate to sack the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Babachir David Lawal over alleged contract fraud.
A Senate committee report in November indicted the SGF of fraud in N1.3billion Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE) contract.
Consequently, the Upper Chamber wrote the President and demanded the SGF be sacked and prosecuted as well.
However, in a letter to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, read at plenary yesterday, Buhari said he won’t sack Babachir, because the Senate was not fair to him in arriving at its decision.
Buhari said following a receipt of the Senate letter, he set up a review team to consider the Senate’s recommendations.
He said he also conducted further investigation based on Lawal’s response to the allegations and issues raised in the Senate resolution.
“I have come to the following conclusion that I believe will guide the senate in the proper review of its interim report and eventual resolution.
“The report forwarded to the presidency by the senate which informed the decision that Engr Babachir Lawal should resign and be prosecuted by the relevant authority S/Res/075/02/016 was an interim report as against a final report which ought to have been presented to the senate in the plenary for adoption as a binding and final report before submission to the presidency given the weight of allegations made in the report.
He also noted that the committee comprised of nine members whereas its interim report was only signed by three members namely senators Solomon Adeola, Yahaya Abdullahi, and Isaac M. Alfa.
Buhari said that makes it a minority report and therefore presented a challenge for the presidency to determine the weight to attach to the report.
The President said that he has also observed that the interim report and the votes and proceedings of the Senate had not established that Lawal was ever given an opportunity to appear before the committee to defend himself.
Buhari pointed out that Rholavision Engineering Limited, the company linked to the SGF was also not invited by the committee to defend itself against the allegations which eventually formed the fulcrum of the Senate’s case against the company.
“You are invited to note that non-application of principles of fair hearing by the senate ad-hoc committee is a clear contravention of section 36 (1) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and against all principles of rule of law as initiated in the Nigerian legal system as well as the rules of the National Assembly committees on handling of public petitions.
“Consequently, I am of the view that barring other consideration that may arise as a result of subsequent investigation of Engr Lawal by the interim ad-hoc committee. The current report as presented to the presidency in its own right does not meet the principles of fair hearing and compliance with the senate rules for conduct of investigations in matters relating to abuse of office by public officers.
“In the light of the foregoing, I am not able to approve the recommendation to remove and prosecute Engr Lawal on the basis of the Senate ad-hoc committee report dated 15th December, 2016, “he said.
After the letter was read, Chairman of the adhoc committee on mounting humanitarian crisis in North East which indicted the SGF, Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna) said Buhari’s response was, a funeral service for the anti-corruption fight.
“It is shocking to me that such a letter can come from the presidency with such misinformation and outright distortions. They lied by saying that the committee didn’t invite the SGF. The committee invited the SGF and the letter was acknowledged by the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the SGF.
“To make sure that we buttress our point, we made a paid advert in three or four national dailies: this (raising a Daily Trust publication) was published on Dec. 2, 2016 and the SGF is clearly mentioned as one of those that is expected to come and appear before the National Assembly,” he said.
Reacting to the claim that only three members of the committee signed the report, said seven persons signed it.
“I have a copy of the interim report which was initially signed by seven members of the nine members of that committee and I am going to submit it to the clerk of the Senate. Even if it is nine and then three people sign, we still have a quorum, but here I have seven people,“ he said.
The Senate President tried to end Sani’s speech but senators insisted that he should continue as they chanted, “go ahead.”
Sani continued, saying , “Mr President when it comes to fighting corruption in the National Assembly and the Judiciary and in the larger Nigeria sectors the President uses insecticide and when it comes to fighting corruption within the presidency, they use deodorants. We must in every respect fight corruption within the kitchen as we do in the veranda; if we don’t do that then we are being hypocritical.”
We stand by our position – Senate
Meanwhile while addressing newsmen, the spokesperson of the Senate; Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi said they stand on their report on the SGF.
He also said the letter of the Senate did not address the issue of the DSS report.
“We stand by the veracity of the interim report. By our rules 1/3 is the number that is needed to sign the report. 3/9 is ok but the report was signed by 7 persons out of the 9 members of the committee.
Committee members speak
Contacted, Senator Mohammad Hassan (PDP, Yobe) said there was no minority position on the report.
Hassan, whom the President said did not sign the report told Daily Trust on yesterday that the report represents the position of the entire members of the committee.
“Was there any member of the committee that kicked against the report? It is a committee work. We don’t have minority report,” he said. Also speaking, Senator Mallam Ali Wakili (APC, Bauchi) said contrary to the President’s letter he signed the report of the committee.
In a phone interview, he said he was among the seven members of the committee that signed it.
“I don’t want to join issue with the Presidency. If you can remember when the report was laid, Senator Gbenga Ashafa (APC, Lagos) raised a point of order that only three members of the committee signed the interim report.”
The question many have raised since yesterday is, even if the majority signed the committee report as claimed by PDP Senator Mohammed Hassan and APC Senator Mallam Ali Wakili, “Does it mean that if majority of the members of a Senate committee were wrong, the presidency that is the driving force of the executive should move on like zombie and implement the wrong decision? What if the consequence turns out to be another long term danger to the country since the AGF’s investigation report does not indict the SGF?”