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Cost and consequences of grass cutting

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By Rose Moses

Finally, something different happened. And that was after much public outcry! Indeed, after waiting patiently for President’s Muhammadu Buhari’s reaction on the humongous act of corruption by two of his principal aides; after being kept in the dark for months by a government said to be fighting corruption over serious corruption allegation around the necks of suspended Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, and director- general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke, the president, Monday, sacked the duo, a development received with mixed reactions.

Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Engineer David Babachir Lawal,

Until their sack, Lawal and Oke were suspended in April for alleged complicit in separate corrupt practices. While Lawal had questions to answer over N220 million meant for welfare of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in North-East, among others, Oke was suspended following discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in an apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos, for which NIA made a claim.

A Senate committee on the “mounting humanitarian crisis in the Northeast” had accused Lawal of holding directorship of a company, Rholavision, while serving as SGF, and using same company, said to have been originally registered for ICT services in 1990, to receive ‘grass- cutting’ consultancy contract from the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE).

And if you think that was just it for a very senior member of a government that rode on the back of integrity, just wait for this: ‘The committee also found out that Babachir Lawal’s company received the money but did not execute the contract.’

Specifically, the committee, headed by Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central) had recommended that the banks’ transactions of Rholavision Engineering Limited and the confirmation of Central Bank of Nigeria indicated that Babachir Lawal was still the signatory to Rholavision Engineering Limited accounts and 13 others, some with different names.

This obviously contravened provision of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended); Public Procurement Act 2007 and breached the Oaths of Office as SGF, said the committee, which recommended he be prosecuted by relevant authorities.

It also linked fresh suspicious payment to the tune of N500 million and recommended further investigation by relevant agencies of government on why contract-benefitting companies paid over N500 million into Rholavision Engineering Limited. Preliminary report was adopted by the Senate, which wrote the president to sack then SGF.

Elsewhere in the world, lots of people not so privileged and who do not smell the kind of money Lawal, who claims to be a pastor seats over, are contributing personal and hard earned money to help make life better for victims of disasters.

Sadly, what we witness this part is the ‘swallowing’ of monies meant for IDPs by already ‘overfed’ government officials like Lawal, who would arrogantly describe the allegations as ‘balderdash by lawmakers out to embarrass the government of Buhari.’

How wicked, greedy and heartless most Nigerian government officials can get! More annoying is that the presidency actually at one point cleared him of any wrongdoing, a development that naturally triggered backlash among opposition parties and a few vocal civil society groups left, all of who accused the Buhari government of bias in its anti-corruption campaign.

Now that the two men have been formally booted out of office following public outcry, the act of congratulating President Buhari by the ruling APC for being pressurized to sack the duo, to me, is the real balderdash. What responsible government carries such baggage?

As a matter of fact, the real price for cutting grass in an IDP camp where men, women and children die daily from hunger, poverty and disease with N220m is not yet paid by merely telling Oke and Lawal to go and enjoy their loot. If left at that, the whole thing only goes to fuel speculation that the anti-graft war of this government is partisan, targeting only political opponents.

Instead, the real price of this grass cutting fraud and warehousing of money in different currencies at a plush Ikoyi residence is to go further by referring the allegations to either the EFCC or the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for investigations.

And of course, a total cleansing of a government that rode on the back of integrity but gradually stinking like, if not worse than, those before it. In other words, in addition to prosecuting the sacked officials, Nigerians need to know full details of the report on foreign currencies and naira notes to the tune of $43.4m, £27,800 and N23.2m uncovered at an Ikoyi residence. Report of the investigation headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo should be made public.

Nigerians need to know also what happened to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Ibe Kachikwu’s allegation on award of $25 billion contracts without due process against the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru.

Unless and until then, the widely held view remains that the sudden sack of the SGF and the DG of NIA is just a consequence of the backlash on the Abdulrasheed Maina saga that blew open recently.

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