…Committee to invite public, private individuals
…Inquiry to be held behind closed doors
Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor, & Levinus Nwabughiogu
Indications emerged last night that the Federal Government might have tightened surveillance around the panelists probing the two suspended very senior officials of this administration, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engineer David Babachir Lawal, and the Director General, National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke, over money-related issues now generating heat in the polity and giving the country an image problem.
The three-man probe panel, which is headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a professor of law, with Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and the National Security Adviser, NSA, Major General Babagana Munguno (rtfd), was empaneled by President Muhammadu Buhari last week, just as he unceremoniously suspended the two top officials from their exalted offices.
While Engineer Lawal was suspended for allegedly awarding a N200 million grass-cutting job to firms linked to him, the President showed Ambassador Oke, the door in connection with the N13 billion fresh mint currencies hauled from an Ikoyi apartment.
A top source confirmed to Sunday Vanguard last night that the Federal Government was keenly monitoring the activities of the panel to ensure that there was no compromise on any side.
“The government does not want any infiltration or undue influence over the probe panel having learnt some bitter lessons from the Presidential Arms Probe Panel which was set up in 2015 last year.
“The implication is that everything is being monitored and nothing is being left to chance this time around,” the official said.
Although the official did not disclose the nature of the surveillance being mounted on the members, it was learnt that phone-monitoring of conversations relating to the two issues under probe could not be ruled out.
Apparently, in line with the high expectations of the Federal Government on the panelists, the Osinbajo panel, yesterday, announced it would conduct its enquiry behind closed doors to avoid speculations and to allow for full disclosure by those summoned.
A statement by Laolu Akande, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the Vice President, indicated that the panel would soon summon both public and private individuals connected to the two cases being investigated.
“The Presidential Committee ordered earlier this week by President Muhammadu Buhari to probe certain allegations against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engineer Babachir Lawal, and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Mr. Ayo Oke has commenced its work in earnest.
Akande said, “President Buhari on Wednesday established the 3-man panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, with Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, and National Security Adviser, Rtd Major General Babagana Munguno as members, to investigate allegations of legal and due process violations made against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF and the discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in a residential apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos.
“In the discharge of its work, the panel is expected to invite all relevant officials and private individuals who may be connected to both cases.
“It will also obtain and scrutinize documents that may throw some light on the issues raised in both cases.
“All its proceedings will however be in closed sessions to avoid speculations, allow for full disclosure and enhance the pace of proceedings.
“The panel which is expected to submit its report to the President at the expiration of the 14-day deadline, will conduct it’s work with utmost diligence and without fear or favour”, the statement concluded.
The panel, which officially commenced sitting on Thursday has already quizzed the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu whose agency made the discoveries of the N13billion.