The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari over what it termed ‘grass-cutting’ allegations against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Lawal Babachir.
The agency has urged him to use his good office and leadership position to “urgently refer the allegations of corruption against Mr Lawal to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for further investigation.
They have also asked that “if any relevant and admissible evidence is found, he should be made to face prosecution.”
In addition to that, the organization has asked President Buhari to “urgently publish the outcome of the investigation conducted on the matter by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, (SAN), and to ask Mr Malami to hand over the file to both the EFCC and ICPC.
No Double Standards
In a statement signed by the SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization said, “We are concerned that the failure to suspend Mr Lawal from his position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, pending the investigation by Mr Malami.
“The perceived lack of transparency in the outcome of that investigation may have created the impression that your government is treating Mr Lawal as a sacred cow.”
The letter, sent to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbayo reads in part:
“SERAP believes that Mr Lawal’s case presents your administration with a real opportunity to reassure a lot of Nigerians who may be worried about the direction of travel of your anti-corruption agenda.
“Rather than assuming a defensive posture to the matter, we advise you to use this case to show to Nigerians that there will be no two standards of justice in your Administration’s fight against corruption.
“SERAP also believes the recommended approach would help to address the growing public suspicion and pessimism about your government’s ability to fight high-level official corruption to a standstill, and to avoid any collateral consequences.
“It is absolutely important that the public should have complete confidence and trust in your administration’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and the impunity of perpetrators.
“It is true that Mr Lawal enjoys a constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to a fair trial, which includes the right to be presumed innocent unless and until proved guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.
“But we believe that the right to presumption of innocence is one that should have personally been raised by Mr Lawal and not your government, especially given his position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
“SERAP believes that the guilt or innocence of Mr Lawal is for the court to decide, following a due process of law.”
To assist the government in achieving public confidence and trust and effectively spread the gospel of anti-corruption, the agency made the following recommendations:
- “Urgently refer the allegations against Mr Lawal to both the EFCC and ICPC for further investigations, and if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, for him to face prosecution.
- “Pending the referral to the EFCC and ICPC, suspend Mr Lawal from his position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, pending the outcome of any investigation by the EFCC and ICPC.
- “Promptly and widely publish the outcome of investigation carried out by Mr Malami and instruct that any files relating to that investigation be handed over to the EFCC and ICPC to assist in their follow-up investigation.”
According to SERAP, the President had instructed Mr Malami to carry out further investigation into the alleged breach of Nigeria’s law in handling contracts awarded by the Presidential Initiative for the North East, (PINE).
“Among other allegations contained in the Senate’s report is that Mr Lawal’s company, Global Vision Ltd, benefited from inflated contracts of over 200 million Naira to clear ‘Invasive Plant Specie’ in Yobe State.
“According to the report, Mr Lawal was still the Director of Global Vision as of the time the contract was awarded in March 2016, and remains the signatory to the company’s account.”
“SERAP further notes your instruction to Mr Malami to carry out further investigation into the allegations, as well as your recent letter to the Senate effectively raising some technical and procedural concerns about the report which indicted Mr Lawal.”