A three-man presidential panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo investigated the allegations against him and submitted a report of its investigation to the President before he was fired.
He, however, insists the allegations against him are false. Consequently, he is happy with the EFCC investigation and expects it to prove his innocence.
Mr Lawal was on suspension for six months before being fired. President Buhari suspended him on April 19, 2017, to make way for an investigation after repeated calls for his ouster based on the corruption allegations.
He was suspended along with the then Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Mr Ayo Oke, who got caught in the eye of a storm after the EFCC recovered funds belonging to the NIA from an apartment in Ikoyi.
On October 30, 2017, two months after receiving the report of the presidential panel, President Buhari fired Lawal and Oke.
A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir Lawal, has explained the reason for a controversial question he asked journalists while being investigated by the Presidency over allegations of corruption against him.
Shortly after his suspension in April 2017, journalists had asked him how he felt about the decision by the presidency to suspend him.
He responded with a question. “Who is the presidency?”
The question sparked controversy as critics questioned the President’s war against corruption and claimed there were ‘sacred cows’ who were being spared.
More than a year later, Mr Lawal who was fired as SGF in October 2017, has rejected claims that the question was disrespectful.
In an exclusive interview with Channels Television’s Hard Copy on Friday, he said, “I asked that question because the president has a specific routine.
“If you are going to be removed from office, the president insists that you be told personally, first of all, so that your people don’t hear it on the television.
“It’s your duty to notify them that I’m going to be removed from office or I’ve been removed from office – so you’re not watching TV and they see the news.
“The president doesn’t like it. So that was the context in which I was asking this question,” he explained.
President Muhammadu Buhari had suspended the SGF on April 19 and fired him six months later on October 30, 2017, after he was investigated for the diversion of funds meant for crisis relief in the northeast.
He was immediately replaced by Boss Gidahyelda Mustpha, a lawyer, businessman, and management consultant.
For the full programme, watch Hard Copy on Channels Television at 8:30 pm today (Friday).
A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir Lawal, says he is happy with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s investigations into allegations of corruption against him.
Mr Lawal said this during an exclusive interview with Channels Television’s Hard Copy.“I like it (the investigation).
In fact, I had always wanted the EFCC to be involved because the EFCC has the capacity both in terms of equipment and personnel to get to the truth,” he said.
Mr Lawal, who was fired as SGF by President Muhammadu Buhari on October 30, 2017 after being indicted and investigated for corruption, does not expect his relationship with the President to affect the investigation.
He said, “If the President were to be my brother, does it mean we cease to be brothers because I am being investigated by the EFCC? A relationship breaks because of a false accusation against an innocent man.”
President Buhari fired Mr Lawal, more than two months after he received the report of the probe panel he set up and after heavy criticism of how he handles graft allegations against his allies.
Vice President Osinbajo who headed the committee that probed Mr Lawal had submitted the report to the President on August 23
.Before being fired, Mr Lawal was on suspension for more than three months to allow for the investigation.
He was suspended in April for allegedly violating the law and due process in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
In suspending him, the President set up a three-man panel headed by the Vice President.
Attorney-General of the Federation and the National Security Adviser were the two other members of the panel.
The committee was given 14 days to complete its investigation and submit its report to the President.
It was, however, unable to submit the report on schedule as the President travelled to London on May 7 for medical attention, a trip that kept him away from the country for more than three months
Watch the full interview on Hard Copy at 8:30 pm only on Channels Television.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it is still investigating the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Babachir Lawal, and will act based on the outcome of the probe.
Spokesperson of the agency, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, said this on Tuesday during the Channels Forum which brought together experts and policymakers to discuss key issues in the country.
This comes amid questions about the fate of the former SGF who was fired after being indicted for corruption and investigated for the same.
Critics of President Muhammadu Buhari have argued that the failure to prosecute Mr Lawal and other people close to his administration or in his party, the APC, hurts his much-talked-about anti-corruption war.
At the forum, a former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Mr Chidi Odinkalu, brought up the issue, while explaining why he believes the fight against corruption has been discredited.
“If the [now former] Secretary to the Government of the Federation has been investigated by the vice president, the national security adviser and the attorney-general of the federation on the basis of which the President has fired him and you are telling me that that is not authoritative enough to send him to court, there is a problem.”
The EFCC spokesperson who confirmed that “the case involving the former secretary to the government of the federation has been investigated by at least two panels before now”, explained that it had not been forgotten.
“The matter is on the table of the EFCC,” he said. “We are currently doing our investigation and at the end of our investigation, if we have credible evidence to take him to court, we will take him to court.”
Mr Lawal regained his freedom after spending about 48 hours in the custody of the anti-graft agency in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
The EFCC had said the former SGF was cooperating with investigators and making useful statements while in its custody.
Lawal was accused of violating the due process in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
He was consequently suspended in April 2017 (alongside the former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke) by President Muhammadu Buhari who set up a three-man panel to investigate the allegations of corruption against both men.
After considering the report of the panel, the President sacked the former SFG and the former NIA DG in October 2017 and appointed Mr Boss Mustapha to replace Lawal.
A source in the anti-graft agency had told Channels Television in November 2017 that the team would examine all details relating to the N200m contract awarded for the cutting of grass in the North East linked to Lawal.
Mr Amaddin said the former SGF is cooperating with investigators and has been making useful statements.
He added that his interview with the anti-corruption agency would continue on Thursday.
Mr Lawal’s interrogation comes about three months after he was sacked by President Muhammadu Buhari for allegedly violating the due process in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
Although the former SGF was earlier suspended on April 20, 2017, the President had appointed Mr Boss Mustapha on October 30, 2017, to replace Lawal.
The Presidency had, however, been hit with heavy criticism that the former SGF must be investigated after being sacked.
On its part, the EFCC had informed Channels Television three days after Lawal was sacked that it had set up a crack team to probe the fraud allegations levelled against him.
A source in the anti-graft agency had said the team, made up of special investigators from the EFCC, would examine all the details relating to the N200m contract for the cutting of grass in the North East linked to the former SGF.
In a phone interview with Seun Okinbaloye for Channels Television’s Politics Today on Friday, the spokesperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, spoke about the delay in commencing a full criminal investigation of the allegations against Mr Babachir Lawal and Mr Ayodele Oke, among other things.
There are allegations that you haven’t handled the case (of the sacked Secretary to the Government of the Federation Mr Babachir Lawal and fired National Intelligence Agency Director General Mr Ayodele Oke) in a balanced manner. What can you tell us about that?
I think it’s premature for anybody to be talking about not handling the case properly. The (investigating) team was set up just yesterday (Thursday) and they are rearing to go. People should give the commission the benefit of the doubt. This investigation is just commencing, bearing in mind that what we have had in the past was an administrative panel looking at the allegations. Now, we are doing what you will call a law enforcement investigation which is the criminal investigation aspect of this whole matter. And I think those who are making insinuations are simply jumping the gun. They should give the commission the benefit of the doubt to do its work.
Do we know the ownership of the $43m cash recovered by your operatives in Lagos sometime in April this year?
The ownership is a subject of investigation and that will be made known by the time we conclude our investigation, but I can tell you that substantial work has been done in that regard. What we are simply doing now is putting finishing touches to that investigation. We, more or less, stopped the investigation because of the administrative enquiry ordered by the Presidency. But now that that is out of the way, the commission has reopened that investigation and in a few weeks’ time, Nigerians will get to know the truth and people will not be disappointed because a lot of thorough work as far as that investigation is concerned.
Tell us, do you need a crack team to investigate the former SGF? That is one man, and you have the report of the Senate…
You know that the media likes to use language. What we have is a team that will investigate the former SGF, but people in the newsroom have coined the word ‘crack’. For me, it doesn’t really make any difference whether it’s ‘crack’ or not ‘crack’. A team has been set up by the commission because we are aware of the issues surrounding that investigation. It has generated so much controversy, nationally. So, we are determined to get it right as far as the investigation is concerned and ensure that justice is done at the end of the day.
Do you have the report from the (panel headed by the) Vice President?
The investigation is just commencing, and I know that once we get on the issues, all material evidence relevant to the investigation will be available to us and we will do justice to it.
The question is who do you have the report from the Vice President?
I can’t come on television to tell you what document we have and what we don’t have but I can assure you that every material evidence will be made available to us and those ones that don’t have to come from official sources, we will on our own source those evidence to make sure that we have a complete case by the time we head to court.
Is Mr Ayo Oke, and his wife, in custody?
At the moment, they are not but we’ve extended an invitation to them and I am sure they will honour that investigation.
They’ve never appeared before the EFCC?
In the past, I think the wife was questioned when they started the investigation, but formal invitation has been extended to them following the government’s pronouncement regarding the status of the husband, the former DG of NIA, Mr Oke. Both the wife and husband have been formally invited because we need to ask them additional questions based on things that have unravelled since the last time the commission put a stop to the investigation.
On Mr (Abdulrasheed) Maina, do you know his whereabouts?
We are on his trail; we are not relenting. We have opened up channels of communication and we have linked up with several law enforcement agencies, both internally and outside the country, to ensure that we get. Wherever he is, he knows that he is a wanted man. I will also use this opportunity to appeal to Nigerians; anywhere, anybody that sees him has a responsibility as a citizen of this country to alert law enforcement. You can report to the nearest police station or any EFCC office that is closest to you. Maina is wanted and we are not relenting in our efforts to get him.
The Yoruba Socio-Cultural Group, Afenifere, has expressed worry over the manner with which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) appears to be handling the cases involving the former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr Ayodele Oke and the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir Lawal, who were recently sacked.
Speaking through its Spokesman, Mr Yinka Odumakin, the group on Friday expressed grievances over the fact that the EFCC had invited only Mr Oke for further investigation following their sack by the President, Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Odumakin explained in an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today that while the group is not against anybody being investigated, such cases must be handled on equal grounds.
“The reason why we are not happy is that we are not against anybody that has committed an offence being tried or investigated, infact one of our core values is probity and accountability in public office.
“If you hold public office you must account for your deeds but our worry was that the case of the former SGF was on, the Senate indicted him, there was all kinds of back and forth before the case of Oke; the two of them were suspended on the same day, they were investigated by the same panel, the report was submitted same day, and the President sacked the two on the same day but we were surprised when the EFCC came back to say that they have extended an invitation to Oke and they were silent on Babachir Lawal until we came out to say what is going on?
“It was after we came out that the EFCC said well, we have set up a crack team, what does that mean – You have invited one, why not invite the other,” he questioned.
“In fact, if there is any case where you have to handle with care, it is in Oke’s case because the NIA has to do with our national security architecture.
“We believe that if the EFCC invited Oke then they should have also invited Babachir Lawal because the President sacked the two on the same day.
“We don’t even know what the VP’s committee found against either of them but in the course of their investigation, they should not give the impression that there is a sacred cow and there is a vulnerable cow,” Odumakin asserted.
This is coming amid rising concerns that the government’s anti-graft war is in favour of select few and to the detriment of several others.
The termination of Mr Oke’s appointment follows the discovery of huge sums of cash in various currencies in a private apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos.
Mr Babachir Lawal’s sack on the other hand, was in connection with allegations of corruption levelled against him – specifically over the alleged misappropriation of funds meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and lack of due process in the Presidential Initiative North East (PINE).
President Muhammadu Buhari has sacked the suspended Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Babachir Lawal, and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr Ayodele Oke.
The President has appointed Mr Boss Mustapha as the new SGF.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said in a statement that the President Buhari took the decision after studying the report of the panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, which investigated allegations of corruption against both men.
“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,” the statement read in part.
“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.
PMB terminates appointments of Babachir Lawal, suspended SGF, and Amb Ayo Oke, former DG, NIA. Mr Boss Mustapha is new SGF.
Monday’s decision by President Buhari comes more than two months after he received the report of the probe panel.
Vice President Osinbajo who headed the committee that probed both officials had submitted the report to the President on August 23.
The President suspended Mr Lawal and Mr Oke in April after both of them were hit with corruption allegations.
Mr Lawal was suspended for allegedly violating the law and due process in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
On his part, Mr Oke was suspended after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) discovered a huge amount of foreign and local currencies in a residential apartment in the Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Days after the EFCC made the discovery, the NIA had claimed that the funds belonged to it and that it was meant for a covert operation. Meanwhile, the apartment in which it was found was later discovered to belong to Mr Oke’s wife.
In suspending both men, the President set up a three-man panel headed by the Vice President, with the Attorney-General of the Federation and the National Security Adviser as members, to investigate the allegations against both men.
The committee was given 14 days to complete its investigation and submit its report to the President.
It was, however, unable to submit the report on schedule as the President travelled to London on May 7 for medical attention, a trip that kept him away from the country for more than three months.
The delay in taking a decision on the fate of both men had attracted criticism for President Buhari and his administration’s anti-corruption war.