The senate has asked Babachir Lawal, secretary to the government of the federation, to immediately resign from office.
The upper legislative chamber took this decision following the indictment of Lawal by a committee that investigated corruption in the management of funds for internally displaced persons in the northeast.
At a public hearing last week, Umar Gulani, secretary of the Presidential Initiative on the Northeast (PINE), an initiative which Lawal oversees, could not account for N2.5bn meant for internally displaced persons in the region.
Gulani had claimed that N203m out of the money was spent on clearing grass in Yobe state. But his claim was countered by Mohammed Liman, Yobe state information commissioner.
On Wednesday, a senate ad hoc committee on humanitarian crisis in the northeast chaired by Shehu Sani submitted it’s report, which indicted the initiative.
Presenting the report, Sani said some of the contracts were awarded to companies belonging to cronies and family members of top government officials.
He explained that the committee found out that Rholavision Engineering Limited, a company, with Lawal as director, for instance, was awarded consultancy contract.
The company’s major role, according to him, is the removal of invasive plant species in Yobe on March 8.
“Although, Lawal resigned the directorship of the said company in September 2016, it is on record that he is a signatory to the accounts of the company,’’ he said.
Sani added that aside Lawal’s complicity, PINE, which carried out the entire procurement activities, contravened laid down rules.
According to him, those that award contract takes undue advantage of the provision of emergency situation contract award in the procurement act to inflate figures.
He also said most of the contracts had no direct bearing or impact on the IDPs, who were living in deplorable conditions.
Sani said that in spite of the health challenges in the camps, there was absence of the federal ministry of health.
According to him, only the Nigerian Air force Medical Team has presence in the area with only little equipment at their disposal.
He explained that the committee equally noticed the presence of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and State Emergency Management Agency(SEMA), working with other agencies.
“Despite the claim by some federal government agencies, what is on ground as seen by the committee does not justify or reflect the claims,” he said.
“For example, over 70 per cent of displaced children both in camps and with host communities are out of school due to lack of infrastructure. Generally, there is acute shortage of food amongst the IDPs, as observed in one of the IDP camps visited.”
After a debate on the report, Baba Kaka Garbai moved a motion for the resignation of Lawal, who heads the initiative.
Supporting the call for Lawal’s resignation, Dino Melaye, chairman senate committee on federal capital territory (FCT), said the report showed that Lawal became SGF before his resignation as director of the company.
According to him, the action is not befitting of a man of his caliber.
“When this committee started looking at the books, SGF ran to the Corporate Affairs Commission and quickly withdrew his directorship of the company after the execution of the contract,” he said.
“ As I speak to you, he is still a signatory to the account of the company. This contract is not a constituency project.
“This is disgraceful, this is abominable, this is condemnable, this is unheard of and this is an embarrassment to we members of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Babachir Lawal has exhibited anti-Buhari tendencies. This is gross abuse of office, the truth is mightier than any currency and every lie has an expiry date.”
However, the Leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume, called the attention of the senate to the fact that since the report was an interim one, the decision to call for the SGF’s resignation was premature.
“ I am worried. The worry is the fact that this is an interim report,” he said.
“We have seen the content, discussed it, suggested way forward for completion but what decision do we take based on interim report.”
In his remarks, Senate President Bukola Saraki commended the chairman of the committee and all the members, saying: “The message clearly coming from the senate to all those in charge of these fund is that we cannot continue with business as usual.”