Buhari Suspends SGF, NIA Boss Over Osborne Dollars
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday took a stagy step to manage the damaging image problems created for his anti-corruption crusade by suspending the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir Lawal, and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke.
The two senior officials of the government are to be investigated by a three-man committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo over allegations of corruption and breach of law and security procedures.
Other members of the committee are the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) and the National Security Adviser, Maj-Gen Babagana Monguno.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina yesterday, said the president directed the Osinbajo committee to investigate allegations of violations of law and due process made against Lawal in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE), running into millions of naira.
Also to be investigated, according to the presidential aide, is the recent recovery of N13.3 billion, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), from a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, over which the NIA has made a claim.
Both officers would remain on suspension until the outcome of the investigations expected within 14 days. Consequently, the most senior permanent secretary in the SGF’s office, and the most senior officer in the NIA respectively, are to act during the period of investigation.
Adesina said the investigative committee has the mandate to dig up how and by whose authority the Osborne Towers funds were made available to the NIA, and to establish whether or not there has been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining its custody and use.
There have been claims that the cache of funds discovered at Osborne Towers was part of the money approved for the NIA by the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration for arms procurement.
But the claims have several grey areas, which the Osinbajo committee would probably illuminate in the course of its investigation. The issues include whether the NIA briefed the President and the NSA about the money as well as why it was the wife of the intelligence agency’s boss and not its officials that kept it in the Ikoyi flat, that is now referred to as ‘safe house.’
The president had persistently been accused of shielding the SGF who had in December last year been accused by the Senate of awarding contracts for grass cutting in the crisis-ridden North-eastern part of Nigeria to his company, Rholavision. He was also accused of awarding contracts to Josmo Technologies to the tune of N272 million only for Josmo to allegedly pay back the sum into Rholavision’s Ecobank account some days later.
The Senate allegations followed the adoption of the report of its ad-hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in North-east.
But when the SGF visited the vice-president in his office yesterday and was accosted by State House correspondents, he feigned ignorance of his suspension.