Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) chairman Prof Itse Sagay (SAN) said yesterday that suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir David Lawal violated the Code of Conduct for public officials by awarding a contract to a company he had an interest in.
He said it was a violation of the Constitution and public trust, therefore Lawal’s suspension was unavoidable.
“I think the suspensions are inevitable, and in my view they are a journey to total disengagement.
“The SGF is a top member of the administration. He should have known that for him to award a contract to his own company is absolutely prohibited by the Code of Conduct and the Constitution. What he was doing was illegal and unconstitutional.
“The worse is that he didn’t even award the contract for relevant activity such as for food, rather it was for grass cutting, which is totally unrelated to the needs of this people for very basic life saving materials.”
On the suspension of the NIA DG, Sagay said: “This one is even worse in my view. How can you hold over $40million of state money in a private apartment, without the knowledge of the head of state to whom you’re responsible?
“So they’ve turned themselves into a government of their own. They didn’t inform the present administration that they got this money from the Jonathan administration and this is what it was meant for and this is what is left.
“Once they didn’t do that, then they were all on a criminal conduct which should lead to what has happened now. It’s very clear that they intended to convert it to their private use. That’s why I said everything is inevitable.”
A former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) said the SGF should have resigned before being suspended.
“It’s a welcome and reassuring development. That of the SGF is long overdue anyway. As for the DG of the NIA, he should be afforded the full opportunity of his right to fair hearing by the panel headed by the Vice President.”
Activist-lawyer Chief Mike Ozekhome said (SAN) urged the President not to spare any member of the administration accused of corruption.
“The chicken is finally coming home to roost. I congratulate the President on this move, even if belated. But there are still more tons of petitions existing against some serving ministers and other key figures of this government, pending before the anti-graft agencies, but which have so been carefully swept under the carpet.out, or accountability of, recovered monies and attached properties, corruption today literally walks, not just on all fours, but even on its head and buttocks. Let the music play on. Let the real anti corruption fight begin,” Ozekhome said.
Others who spoke include Mallam Yusuf Alli (SAN), Prof Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), constitutional lawyer Ike Ofuokwu, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) First Vice President Mr Monday Ubani and NBA Lagos Branch Chairman Martin Ogunleye.
On the SGF’s suspension, Ali said: “All discerning Nigerians saw it coming. With the indictment of the SGF by the Senate Committee on IDPs, not only was the allegation that he was still running a company as SGF made, it was also alleged that he collected so much money on behalf of the company for grass cutting in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps.
“Given the sensitive nature of the IDPs’ situation, it raised a lot of moral issues. Many Nigerians had been expecting this to happen longer than now. But it doesn’t matter. At least the president listened to the voice of Nigerians. I think it’s salutary.“
Prof Akinseye-George said it was proper that government officials step aside while allegations of corruption against them are being investigated.
“There have been too many complaints about the SGF in particular, and he has become more of a liability to the administration.”
Akinseye-George said the NIA DG’s suspension was also in order, adding that people whose credibility is questioned should not wait to be suspended.
Ofuokwu said with the suspensions, the president has proved that he is in charge and that no official is untouchable.
His words: “To have done otherwise is to carry a moral burden which puts a big question mark on the integrity of the President and on his fight against corruption. Though they are yet to be proven guilty by any court or judicial body of competent jurisdiction, their suspension is a perfect step in the right direction.
To Ogunleye, there is the need to imbibe a culture of transparency in governance, even in matters that concern the President’s close associates.
He said the ideal scenario would have been for the officials to offer to step aside pending the conclusion of investigation.