•Sends EFCC, ICPC after them; appoints Mustapha as new SGF;
•Sets up 3-man panel to review NIA operational structure
•PDP, Sagay, Oshiomhole, Osuntokun, Afenifere, others speak
•No immunity for Babachir, Oke: Garba Shehu
By Adekunle Aliyu, Online Editor; Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu, Omeiza Ajayi, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Daud Olatunji & Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA—SIX months after their suspension, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, sacked the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir David Lawal, and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke.
President Buhari also appointed the boss of the Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, Boss Mustapha, as the new SGF.
Mr Mustapha, a 1979 law graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, is also from Adamawa State as Lawal.
The President also approved the setting up of a three-man panel to look into the technical and operational structure of the NIA.
President Buhari suspended the former SGF on April 19, 2017, over graft and alleged involvement in the N200 million grass-cutting contract of Presidential Initiative in the North East, PINE.
The NIA DG was suspended over the discovery of N13 billion in an Ikoyi apartment, said to belong to NIA and a committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was set up to investigate them.
The sack of the two was contained in a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina.
The sacking of Babachir, Oke
The statement read: “President Muhammadu Buhari has studied the report of the panel headed by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, which investigated allegations against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir David Lawal, and the Director General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke.
“The President accepted the recommendation of the panel to terminate the appointment of Mr Lawal, and has appointed Mr Boss Mustapha as the new Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The appointment takes immediate effect.
“President Buhari also approved the recommendation to terminate the appointment of Ambassador Oke, and has further approved the setting up of a three-member panel to, among other things, look into the operational, technical and administrative structure of the Agency and make appropriate recommendations.”
Babachir Lawal and Oke’s sack was announced after President Buhari held a closed-door meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly and the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun alongside the Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, Abdulaziz Yari.
The new SGF Mustapha
Mr. Boss Gida Mustapha is a lawyer, management consultant, politician, businessman and boardroom guru of considerable repute.
The former Managing Director/CEO of the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, was born in Adamawa State.
He attended Hong Secondary School, in Hong, Adamawa and North East College of Arts and Sciences, Maiduguri, Borno State, and bagged his WASC and later HSC in 1976.
Thereafter, he proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he earned his Bachelor of Law (LL.B) degree in 1979 and was called to the Bar in 1980.
Mustapha did the compulsory National Youth Service Corps, NYSC at the Directorate of Legal Services at the Army Headquarters and was in charge of review of Court Marshall Proceedings from 1980 to 1981.
After the NYSC, he joined Sotesa Nigeria Limited, an Italian consultancy firm, as an executive director in charge of Administration. He left in 1983 to join the law firm of Messrs Onagoruwa & Co in Lagos.
He later established his own practice as Principal Counsel in the firm Messrs Mustapha & Associates.
In 2000, the Obasanjo administration appointed him a member of Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the defunct Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF). He returned to legal practice in 2007 as Principal Partner of the law firm, Adroit Lex.
As a politician, he was a member the Constituent Assembly (1988-1989), Chairman People’s Solidarity Party-Gongola State (1989-1990), Gongola State chairman, Social Democratic Party, SDP (1990-1991); and Adamawa State governorship candidate of the SDP, 1991.
He was also the Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN from 2010 to 2013.
In 2007, he again played a key role, serving as the deputy director general of the party’s presidential campaign organization. He was one of those who joined forces to form the APC and became secretary, APC Presidential Campaign Organization Mobilization (2015); member, APC Transition Committee (2015) and member, APC Board of Trustees.
Until his new appointment, yesterday, the man called Boss, was the Managing Director/CEO of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).
Like Babachir Lawal, Boss is a Christian and he is the National Vice President, Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International Nigeria.
The sack of Babachir Lawal and Ayo Oke elicited mixed reactions in the polity, yesterday, with some eminent Nigerians calling for the prosecution of the duo and publication of the findings of the VP’s panel.
APC says it’s vindicated, as Sagay hails Buhari
Reacting to the development, the APC said it has been vindicated, adding that President Buhari has done the needful.
APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said: “A few days ago when the President directed the dismissal of Abdulrasheed Maina, some people said that is right but what about the suspended SGF, Babachir Lawal?
‘’But we, as a party, said, ‘look, the President is the only person who has all the information. All of us can only have one side of the story or the other.’
“But the President by the virtue of the position he occupies is the only one who has all the information and he would do what is necessary at the right time. Now, we have been vindicated and it shows that the President has not in anyway wavered in his commitment not to tolerate corruption at any level no matter who is involved.”
On his part, Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, PACAC, Prof. Itse Sagay, SAN, told Vanguard on phone that the sack was overdue.
“I think there has been a consensus on this and that was over due. There has been too much delay. Although, I will like to put a caveat that government usually has a lot more information than the rest of us as the delay might have been discretionary due to the information they had.
‘’I was patient and I definitely endorse the final decision that has been taken. I don’t know why it was delayed for so long but it is better late than never,” he said.
On Mustapha’s appointment as SGF, Prof. Sagay said: “Boss Mustapha has a very long history of political activities and my impression of him is that, apart from being a lawyer with a very good reputation in terms of integrity, he has always been a consistent person in whatever cause he pursues. So, I think that we should look at it as a positive development.”
Make public details of findings—Afenifere
The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said though it welcomed the President’s action, there was need for details of the findings to be made public.
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin said: “We welcome the fact that action has been taken on the report. It would, however, be good for the public to know details of the findings. We hope also that taking action on this is not construed as a ward-off of public anger over the latest scandals.”
There’s need for prosecution – Osuntokun
On his part, Mr Akin Osuntokun, former political adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, called for the prosecution of those found culpable.
“It will be received as a first step in the right direction-the irreducible minimum of public accountability so to say. The question of course would then arise that if he (Lawal) is deemed culpable enough to be sacked, by the same logic, is he not liable to prosecution? The same submission equally applies to the NIA top official. The latter is a little bit more complicated and requires further clarification on the wherewithal of the huge public fund found in private custody. It raises the question: Could public funds be legitimately and legally held in private custody? And who are the others implicated in the malpractice?”
Handover Lawal, Oke to EFCC, ICPC, SERAP asks Buhari
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, welcomed the sack of the duo but called on Buhari to “urgently handover Lawal and Oke to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related offences Commission, ICPC, for further investigation, and if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, for them to face prosecution.”
In a statement by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, SERAP said the move “is a positive development in the fight against grand corruption, although this decision is coming rather late.
‘’Buhari now has to go a step further by making sure that both Lawal and Oke are promptly brought to justice in fair trials.”
The statement read in part: “Buhari also has to move swiftly to publish report of investigation into the secret reinstatement of fugitive former civil servant, Abdulrasheed Maina, and without delay identify and bring to justice anyone suspected to be involved.
“This government now has a real opportunity to reassure a lot of Nigerians, who may be worried about the direction of travel of the president’s anti-corruption agenda that there will be no sacred cow as far as the fight against corruption is concerned.
They should be prosecuted – Okunrounmu
Also, a chieftain of Afenifere, Senator Femi Okunrounmu, called for the prosecution of Lawal and Oke, arguing that their sack was not enough.
“This sack is only the first step. It should be followed by prosecution. Sack alone is not enough. If a person is corrupt, the first thing is to sack the person, then the logical thing is to prosecute the person and have the person convicted and sent to jail. If that is not done, then we are just making a joke of the war against corruption,” he said .
It’s an afterthought – Fayose
Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, described President Buhari’s sack of the former SGF and NIA DG as face-saving and an afterthought.
“The President only acted because of the outcry of Nigerians, especially over the fraudulent reinstatement of the former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Mr Abdullahi Maina,’’ he noted.
The governor, who said the indicted and sacked duo and others still in Buhari’s government should be handed over to the EFCC for thorough investigation and prosecution, added: “Enough of using probe panels to shield people accused of corruption in Buhari’s government.
‘’Rather, they should be arrested, detained and prosecuted by the EFCC as being done to others perceived as the President’s enemies.Oshiomhole congratulates new SGF
Meanwhile, immediate past Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has congratulated Mustapha, saying his experience would turn around the fortunes of the APC-led Administration.
In a congratulatory message, Oshiomhole extolled the qualities of the new SGF, saying “the appointment of Mr. Boss Mustapha has come at a very auspicious time when the party and government are making efforts to rejuvenate and retool the system for enhanced service delivery to the people.’’
PDP rejects Lawal’s sack, call for Buhari’s impeachment
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), however, faulted the sack of Babachir Lawal, and Ayo Oke.
In a statement by Dayo Adeyeye, spokesman of the opposition party, PDP, described the sack as a slap on the face of Nigerians.
The statement read: “First and foremost, we had disagreed with the President last year when he decided to set up the panel headed by the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to investigate the matter because we thought that was the wrong course of action to take.
“Ordinarily, cases of corruption or alleged cases of misappropriation of funds are supposed to be referred to institutions that are saddled with the responsibility to investigate and prosecute such matters which is the ICPC and the EFCC if there is any prima facie case against them.
“But it appears not all animals are equal under the Buhari APC administration. Some people are treated with kid gloves, while others particularly those in opposition are subjected to all manner of harrowing experiences. One of the senators of the APC, Senator Shehu Sani of Kaduna State succinctly put the matter when he said that this administration uses deodorant to fight corruption when it comes to some APC members and President Buhari’s kitchen cabinet and insecticides when it involves members of the opposition and those in the national assembly.
“We totally reject these actions and the law should follow its full course on the issues of these officers. In other words, their case should be referred to the EFCC for proper investigation and trial, more so when the President has not told us what the report of the findings was. Nigerians are entitled to know the findings of the panel headed by the Vice President. The report should be made public since it is the people’s money that is involved.”
It called on the national assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against the president.
“It took the president almost one year to attend to this matter while the culprits were having a field day at home and enjoying themselves. Whereas, in the case of the opposition especially the PDP members, even when the evidence is flimsy they will be visited with multiple harassment and intimidation for months and weeks without proper trial,” it said.
“We cite the case of Sambo Dasuki who has been in detention for over two years and running even when many courts in Nigeria and the ECOWAS Court have ordered for his release, but the President has fragrantly disobeyed these court orders which again is a violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is an impeachable offence. So the President cannot just sack Ayo Oke and Babachir Lawal and expect us to be clapping for him.
“We believe that we are operating under a democracy and a Constitution that governs our affairs. To have subjected these people to different sets of rules and treatment is totally unacceptable. Nigerians are the same under the law and Babachir Lawal and Ayo Oke should not be tried by the presidency while others are hounded by the EFCC and ICPC.
“These actions of Mr. President are therefore a breach of his oath of office which he swore to defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to be fair and just to all Nigerians without any discrimination whatsoever. The action of the President is a gross violation of his constitutional oath and therefore constitutes a veritable ground for impeachment.
“The President has by his actions taken Nigeria to the level of a banana republic. We are not in a banana republic, this is the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
EFCC, ICPC to probe Oke, Lawal
Meanwhile, The Presidency last night said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, will go ahead to investigate the sacked Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal and former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ambassador Wale Oke.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Shehu Garba in a statement last night said that President Buhari was committed to the rule of law and will not shield anyone from investigation.
Malam Shehu said that for those who had asked what next after Babachir and Oke were axed from their positions, that the President has taken the administrative action.
Shehu, said President Buhari had taken the necessary administrative action against the two officials.
The presidential aide said: “”The President has taken the administrative action. All other actions will be taken by relevant government agencies.
““The position of the President, therefore, is that investigative agencies, which have already commenced the investigation of the two officers removed from office, will go on with their work of investigation without any interference or hindrance.’’
According to Shehu, President Buhari is fully conversant with the provisions of the constitution and will not stop the investigation of anyone “because he has no such power under our laws, adding this is a decision of the Supreme Court.
“”The President under our laws can, through the Attorney General enter a nolle prosequi to stop an on-going trial. He may upon conviction, order a pardon.
“”Beyond these, the president cannot order investigation agencies to not investigate anyone and does not intend to do so in this, or any other circumstance.
”Based on his wish and desire for a strict observance of the law, the President expects the EFCC, ICPC and such agencies to proceed with ongoing investigations..
”When and where they have reasonable grounds to charge former or serving officers to court under our laws, they do not require the permission of the President to do so.’’