New Senate Report On Northeast Indicts Suspended SGF
A major part of Wednesday's plenary of the Senate was the presentation of the report of the Ad-hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East, which put forward more allegations against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal.
Lawal is currently on suspension and is being investigated by a committee set up by the presidency which is headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to look into earlier allegations against the SGF.
The chairman of the committee Senator Shehu Sani, told the Senate that the committee did a meticulous job and even visited the North East Region.
He spoke on how the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE) flagrantly flouted Procurement Laws in Contract Awards, pointing out that PINE awarded normal contracts as emergency ones and flouted clear bidding processes.
50 Million Naira Contract Scam
Senator Shehu pointed out that there were "inconsistencies in dates" and "contract award for invasive plant species in Yobe State which he said was shrouded in fraud.
"There is no document of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval of PINE contracts of more than 50 million Naira as required by Public Procurement Act
"PINE project and contracts had no direct bearing or effect on the people of the northeast nor IDPs (Internally displaced Persons) in North East Region.
"PINE contributed 50 million Naira to two different Humanitarian Conferences and less than 2 million Naira to IDPs themselves," Senator Sani told the lawmakers.
According to the report, a lot of PINE Contracts were awarded to friends and cronies of people in government, a claim the committee said it confirmed from BVN (Bank Verification Numbers) records at the Central Bank of Nigeria which showed that the suspended SGF was still signatory to one of the companies.
"Thirteen other accounts carrying the same BVN were also linked to the suspended SGF Babachir Lawal.
"The SGF breached his Oath of Office and should be disciplined immediately by relevant agencies," he further stated
Contributing to the debate, Senator Bala ibn Na'Allah stressed that the report was no longer 'balderdash' as claimed, demanding that every kobo wrongfully spent must be recovered.
Grain Of Trucks Diverted
Another Senator, George Sekibo, requested that the officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission "go into work immediately".
On what the Senate committee described as 'acute malnutrition, starvation and hunger amidst IDPs in North East Nigeria', Senator Sani said 40 tucks of grains meant for IDPs in the North East were also criminally diverted.
"The humanitarian issue in the North East is crisis to some and an industry for exploitation for others," Senator Sani highlighted, demanding for a probe into the activities of different agencies involved with IDPs in the North East.
After some other Senators made contributions which bordered on how the suspended SGF allegedly flouted the Procurement Act, the Senate recommended that "Mr Babachir Lawal be prosecuted, as he has abused his Oath of Office".
The Senate also recommended that out-of-school children in IDP Camps should be provided with educational facilities.
It also added that the Bureau of Public Procurement should evaluate all PINE inflated contracts and insist that all partially done contracts should be completed.
After the committee gave its report, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, certainly pleased with the findings, said he was "indeed proud of the Senate and the Ad-hoc Committee for the unbiased report despite enormous political pressures".
"The quality of the report gives no chance for debate," he said highlighting that "there is also the need to restore international confidence".
A committee headed by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, is investigating allegations against the suspended SGF and is expected to submit its report on Wednesday.