The suspension of Babachir Lawal as the Secretary to the Government of Nigeria though commendable, is long overdue. It is a pointer to the fact that the anti-corruption fight of Maj. Gen. Buhari is one-sided. The inconsistency of the President can be seen in the manner Babachir Lawal was suspended as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. It is so embarrassing that the President could suspend Babachir Lawal for an allegation he has exonerated him for. In fact, the failure and inability of the Presidential advisory committee on corruption to have given him advise to have suspend Babachir Lawal raises moral and legal question on the importance of the advisory committee constituted by the President. In fact, the failure of Nigerians to allow the Senate carryout its constitutional duty by stampeding their decision is uncalled for.
It must be stated categorically that Babachir Lawal ought to have voluntarily resigned as a matter of personal honour or be removed by his integrity-conscious appointer in saving the face of his anti-corruption administration based on the much sufficient documentary evidence and the recommendations of the Senate against him in order to clear his name through the due process of transparent investigation and prosecution.
However, the failure of Babachir Lawal and the President to give way to fight the corruption allegations levied against him shows how inconsistent the fight against corruption is. It must be noted that the Senate did not go there to originate or write the report; what they did was to exercise their right in working judiciously on the report that was submitted to them and give recommendations. In fact, it does not matter if the allegations levied against him were proved or not, all he ought to have done was to tender his resignation letter so as to give way to fight it. Not until after the allegations have been investigated and proved otherwise, Lawal may not qualify for a return to his high office or any other office in the future.
As a Public Servant, Lawal is constitutionally bound to Section 172 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), observe and conform to the Code of Conduct for Public Officers stated in the Fifth Schedule, Part 1. It stipulates that “a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interests conflict with his duties and responsibilities.” Section 2(b) also demands that a public officer – which Lawal certainly is as defined in the Fifth Schedule, Part 2 (10) – “shall not, except where he is not employed on full time basis, engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade .,.”
However, the report of the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East, states that Babachir David Lawal breached these provisions of the constitution and more. It was made known that Babachir Lawal did not only retained his position in a private company that he claimed to have ‘formed in 1990’, the company not only got patronage from the Presidential Initiative on the North-East (PINE) which is administered by Lawal’s office, but also received payment in a manner that violates the rules that govern the provision of goods and services under the Public Procurement Act, 2007. Besides that, the Ad-hoc Committee also claimed that the procedure of award and payment violates the procurement law, the N223 million contract ‘for the removal of invasive plant species from Komadugu Yobe Water Channels’ was considered too high for such service, and, in the words of the senators, ‘most of the contracts awarded by PINE have no direct bearing/impact on the lives of the displaced persons apparently languishing in hunger, disease, squalor and other deplorable conditions…’
It must be stated categorically that the case built by the Senate against Babachir Lawal is serious enough to have warrant a robust, point-by-point and documented response from him which he failed to do. And, his recent suspension by his appointer, Maj. Gen. Buhari, signalled that the Senate report against Babachir Lawal is highly correct, and, which means that he has broken his Oath of Office, the Procurement Act and the Code of Conduct Law for Public Officers. In all, the 3-man committee setup by the President to investigate a glaring corruption case as this is totally unnecessary and raises moral questions on the seriousness of the anti-corruption war of Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Bulgari.
The 3-man committee setup by the President is enough to change public perception and high-hope that is put on this administration to fight corruption as misplaced. It is not totally out of point to say that the 3-man committee setup by the President is a way to shield Babachir Lawal from facing the wrath of the law, because, he is highly due for prosecution as recommended by the Nigerian Senate. The President need to quickly conclude this case not by shifting the duty of the EFCC to a 3-man committee, but, by charging the EFCC to investigate and prosecute him so as for the matter to be laid to rest.
The President must as a matter of exigency and urgency consider the Security reports and recommendations of the Senate against Ibrahim Magu so as not to repeat the error that he committed on the issue of Babachir Lawal. It must be stated that the Senate did not originate the report on Magu. Though, he can be a very amiable character that some sees him, but, if we go into the authenticity of the report that was received by the Senate, we would realise that it was not originated by the Senate. And, If truly the President has zero tolerance for corruption, then, he needs not to retain for a minute officials with integrity deficit.
We must remember that this is not just a minor accusation by some petitioner, it is a result of a report that a lofty institution as the Senate had to work on before giving its recommendation. In any case, this country is not at all short of qualified, patriotic, and selfless persons who can serve in the capacity of those that have corruption allegations hanging on their neck.
SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (opinions)