CITAD Asks Buhari to Sack SGF Immediately
The fear that President Buhari has made the most mistake by trying to save his aides in relation to their perceived corruption appear to be catching on as a major civil society organisation at the heart of the reconstruction of the North East has asked President Buhari to suspend Babachir Lawal, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, from office forthwith so as to face thorough investigation. It has also called on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to hand over the file to both the EFCC and ICPC and implore Babachir himself to honorably resign until he has been cleared by competent agencies. The Kano based Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) told a press conference in Kano that President Buhari is acting out of character in the handling of the SGF’s case and called on him to rethink his handling of the particular case. Otherwise, said CITAD, it would be a self-indictment as far as the president’s words at his inauguration that “he belongs to no one” is concerned. “The indication now is that he belongs to some people who, by his action, can be shielded from consequence of their corrupt acts”, said CITAD which is running an observatory on the plight of IDPs and the reconstruction process of the north east.
CITAD is justifying its stand on how misplaced cutting grasses in the face of thousands of IDPs starving to death for lack of food was. Two, it says there is no difference between the misappropriation involved and that of the former NSA who allegedly diverted money meant for buying arms to fight Boko Haram insurgency to buying votes the second term bid of former President Goodluck Jonathan. “We think this alone is enough for a regime of probity and commitment to the reconstruction of the North East to show the SGF the way out”, insisted CITAD at the press conference addressed by Malam Yunusa Y’au, its Executive Director.
Beyond the comparison, the NGO listed the magnitude of money involved when compared to the purported work done and said a case of inflation of figure could be established that makes the SGF to, in its view, be involved in corruption proper. It, therefore, regrets that the president whose name has been associated with probity is shielding the SGF from prosecution, indeed rewarding him by retaining him at the office of the SGF.
Hanging its case on the above points, CITAD said any option other than asking Babachir to step down and wait until investigations cleared him sends a very strong wrong signal that the anti-corruption agenda of the regime is politically motivated rather than on national interests. Though leaving no one in doubt of its firm support for the anti-corruption war, it demands treatment of all corruption cases the same way. Contrasting the treatment of the SGF to the arrest, detention, interrogation and investigation by the EFCC of many people suspected of corrupt acts, it wondered why the President has simply opted not to do allow the same in this case. Arguing that the fact of the contract has been well established by the Senate Adhoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East, CITAD interrogated the president’s reasons why he could not go along with the Senate, saying that Babachir was not only given fair hearing, the report of the Senate Committee was signed by adequate number of persons. “It is curious that the same presidency that ordered the invasion of the houses of Judges suspected of corruption who were never given any hearing could now deploy the argument of fair hearing to protect Babachir”, it thundered.
In a retrospective insight, CITAD alleged that, for whatever reasons that became known only later, the SGF had stalled the inauguration of Presidential Committee on North East Initiative (PCNE) and instead the office took it upon itself to directly run the humanitarian programmes that PCNE should do, using the money left by the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE). It further claimed that the Office of the SGF decided to go into a spending spree in order to exhaust the money available when pressure on the need to inaugurate PCNE mounted, saying that was when award of contracts described as frivolous started. “One of these was the over N200 million to clear ‘invasive plant specie’ in Yobe State to company belonging to the SGF, Lawal D. Babachir”, CITAD stated.
Going further, the NGO pointed out how it is now an understatement to say that a major humanitarian crisis has befallen the management of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Locating the assertion in the number of reports it says have surfaced in the last couple of weeks detailing the range of “calamitous starvation thousands of IDPS dying for lack of food”, the organisation traces what it calls avoidable calamity to three related factors: First, the country was ill prepared to handle a disaster of that magnitude, lacking in the necessary institutions and structures to attend to IDPs need. Second is the inhuman diversion of food and other humanitarian needs of IDPs by callow government officials. Third is the mega corruption in the massive stealing of money meant for addressing the needs of IDPs”. It, therefore, thinks that if corruption is not properly addressed, they whole Buhari Plan for the rebuilding of the north east would come to nothing.
Reactions to the clearance of Babachir by Presidential fiat would have shown the president that any perception of coloration of the anti-corruption war by politics or by double standard will ruin both the Buhari Presidency as well as the anti-corruption war. The world watches and waits for the next turn in the dynamics of the echoes of a war foretold