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Senate call for the prosecution of the suspended SGF Babachir Lawal

The Senate has called for prosecution of suspended Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal and others over alleged irregularities in Presidential Initiative on North-East (PINE) activities.

The call followed the adoption of the recommendations in the report of the Senate Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East.

Chairman of the committee, Senator Shehu Sani, who read the report during plenary on Wednesday, said the committee recommended the retrieval of all resources that seemed to have been misapplied or stolen by public officials.

The committee had accused Lawal of siphoning more than N270m under the guise of “removal of invasive plant species in Yobe”.

“Anybody found culpable of contravening any section of the Public Procurement Act 2007 and the Federal Government Financial Rules and Regulations pertaining to the awards of these contracts should be dully prosecuted by the relevant authorities.

Since all the contracts awarded by PINE were awarded under the principle of emergency situation, PINE should forward a detailed report of all contracts awarded by it to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).

This should be done in accordance with section 43(4) of the Public Procurement Act 2007.

Since it was observed that there was no Bill of Quantities on most of the contracts awarded by PINE under the emergency situation, the BPP should undertake re-evaluation of such contracts to recover any proceeds from the over-inflated contracts,” he said.

According to Sani, relevant agencies should ensure that contracts partially executed but fully paid for must be completed by the concerned contractors or equivalent money for outstanding jobs should be returned to the government treasury.

He said that bank transactions by Rholavision Limited and confirmation from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) showed {through Bank Verification Number (BVN)} that Babachir Lawal was signatory to the company’s account.

He further said that Lawal’s BVN also showed that he was signatory to 13 other accounts but with different names.

”The committee is of the opinion that Mr Lawal has contravened the provisions of part one of Fifth Schedule of 1999 Constitution, the Public Procurement Act 2007 and breached oath of office as SGF.

So, he should be disciplined by the relevant authority.

The committee also recommends further investigations by relevant agencies of government as to why contracts benefiting companies spread over 500 million naira into Rholavision Engineering account a company in which Mr Lawal has interest.”

Sani further said that with the evidence of malnutrition, hunger and starvation among Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), the Federal Government and states in the North-East should urgently provide food items, shelter and other essentials to the IDPs.

“The issue of out-of-school children among the IDPs is a sign that concerted efforts should be made by both the states and Federal Governments to provide atmosphere conducive for learning for the IDPs.”

“The committee condemn the failure by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons to appear before the committee in spite several invitations.”

He said that the committee also recommended that the newly-constituted Presidential Committee on the North-East Initiative (PCNI) should ensure that there was proper synergy and coordination among all humanitarian crisis managers in the IDPs’ camps.

“Government should ensure that PCNI be manned by people of high integrity and inclusive enough to accommodate the leaders of the various committees that are involved.”

In his remarks, President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, said that the investigation is beyond the content of the report.

“There is also a systemic issue here. One is the issue of humanitarian crisis. My concern is that going forward, some of these organisations might not give us the support we require anymore,’’ he said.

Saraki commended the committee, especially the chairman, for being firm to carry out his responsibility.

“The quality of the report leaves nothing to debate. The fact speaks for itself. I am proud to be part of a Senate that can produce this report. We need to build from this,” he said.

Saraki said that the statistics from the crisis in the North-East is alarming and that it will not get better if the lawmakers did nothing about it.

“This matter needs some serious action on our part. There is also need for greater oversight because of the kind of money being spent. There are people underneath him that made it comfortable for him to do this. It is an indictment if the people there are not the right people,” he said.

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