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Between the Senate and Babachir Lawal

DAY after day, the National Assembly appears to be proving many anti-corruption crusaders right that the Bukola Saraki-led National Assembly is not, and can’t be on the same page with President Muhammadu Buhari in the  ongoing war against corruption.

The fear has always been that with many suspicious characters populating the institution, the National Assembly, which is naturally expected to provide the supporting laws or acts that will fast-track the battle against corrupt practices, Buhari might just  labour in vain in his present war.

There is near agreement by the vast majority of the ordinary people that corruption has permeated and infused every department of our life, and they have fully supported the determination by the present government to stamp it out completely. But, not many right-thinking people believe that Buhari may not go far.

The reason being that those who have milked our national treasury and common wealth, and who ought to be in different jails by now, are the same people designing the framework for fighting corruption; they are the same people over-sighting the institutions that have been put in place to fight malpractice. And no one is surprised that at any time these anti-corruption institutions or person associated with these bodies cross their way or threaten their ill-gotten wealth, they will surely fight back.

These same people, many of whom are in the National Assembly, had recently blackmailed virtually all the anti-corruption agencies: the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Commission, ICPC, the Nigeria Police Force, the Code of Conduct Tribunal and others—-all because these institutions had attempted to question their unlawful wealth.

For example, when the chairman of the National Assembly and Senate President, Dr. Saraki, was dragged before the Code of Conduct Tribunal to answer many questions about his past financial deals, he reportedly accused the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, of activating the tribunal against him for political reason. In several attempts to evade trial, he was said to have sent many delegations to the SGF, pleading with him to save his political career. But Mr. Lawal was said to have rebuffed him, saying he had no power to interfere in a clear case of crime. That was a few months ago.

For many who understand the several secret plots by the Saraki-led Senate to intimidate or blackmail every institution and person he perceived to be after him, the Senate Committee’s report, which was said to have indicted the SGF, was purposefully pull together, cooked and served the public with Babachir as the target .

The Senator Shehu Sani-led Senate Committee in its interim report submitted recently, had claimed that the SGF received a N233 million contract to clear invasive plant species (removal of weeds) in Yobe State through his company, Rholavision Nigeria Limited. The Senate also claimed that he had remained a director of the company till September 2016, over a year after his appointment, in purported breach of Nigeria’s code of conduct for public officials as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution. The report also contains other unimaginable claims.

However, in quick but robust response to the purported indictment, the SGF honestly admitted setting up Rholavision in 1990 to carry out information and communications technology services; but denied any wrongdoing, telling journalists in Abuja that the Senate was only victimising him and trying to rubbish his personality for political reason.

However, apparently to further cement the political agenda of the committee’s report, credible information abound how immediately the report was released, the Senate’s spin-doctors invaded both the traditional and social media to mislead the naïve public over its faulty claims. And from the media bliss on the matter, it appears it is a deliberate and sustained effort on the part of Saraki’s media men, employing what experts in argument usually refer to as Ad Populum (Latin), making an appeal to the prejudices of the people.

True, in spite of the Senate’s pointless findings, there are many claims in the report without sound evidence to back them. The promoters of the Senate report have deliberately but wrongly assumed that their claim can be adequately defended without support if they continue to emphasise a belief or attitude that the naïve audience shares with them. And their fable over and over again, has always been that ‘’if President Muhammadu Buhari wants to truly fight corruption, he must then fire the SGF.’’

Like we all know, one common form of ad populum is an appeal to ‘’patriotism’’, which allow people to overlook evidence that the audience needs for accurate assessment of the claim. The Senate Committee knows that its purported indictment of the SGF cannot stand if it passes through an unbiased anti-corruption agency, and that may be why the promoters of the report have chosen to misinform the general public.

To be sure, the Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, in his recent interview with journalists, in a way confirmed that the report was deliberately crafted to rubbish one of their perceived political enemies. Many Nigerians, including President Buhari believe the report lacks credibility, that may have informed the decision by the

President to ask the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation to take a second look at the issues raised by the Senate Committee in the report.

Fellow Nigerians, for an institution that lacks credibility as a result of its many past dirty deals, this kind of report is not enough for members of the Senate to convince the public that they are on the same page with Buhari in the fight against corruption. In fact, their achievement in convincing Nigerians cannot be separated from their credibility or their trustworthiness.

On this report, it will be near impossible for the Senate to persuade Nigerians and the international community that the Senate Committee is truthful in the presentation of its evidence because the source of the  report is morally cleaned out and not dependable.

Deji Sanni a public policy analyst, writes from Abuja


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