- Demands independent probe panel as Magu meets Osinbajo
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Citing double standards, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi has rejected the three-man investigative panel constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayo Oke, adding that both men should have been arrested by the law enforcement agencies.
Lawal and Oke were suspended by the president on Wednesday for the alleged mismanagement of the funds meant for humanitarian aid in the North-east and the discovery of N13.3 billion in an apartment in Ikoyi by the Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC), respectively.
The president also set up a panel to be headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, with the National Security Adviser, Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), as members to investigate both men.
Reacting, the opposition party said while Nigerians may see the action as signposting a new commitment by Buhari to fight corruption without fear or favour, the PDP sees it as “another ruse to deceive Nigerians and dress up the failed anti-corruption war in a new garb”.
In a statement issued by the spokesman of the caretaker committee, Dayo Adeyeye, the party said that it has no confidence in the three-man probe panel, because its members are in the same cabinet with the SGF and are most likely to be biased.
It said the present situation amounts to the government being a judge in its own case.
“We do not believe that justice can be served that way. We are at a loss why the president would set up a panel comprising members of his cabinet to investigate other senior, very powerful members of the same government. Where is the transparency in that?” PDP asked.
According to the party, the Senate had recommended the resignation of the SGF in December 2016, after its investigation into contract awards for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North-east and had asked Buhari to prosecute him.
“But in a swift reaction, President Buhari, in a letter dated January 17, 2017, discredited the Senate recommendations and refused to sack or prosecute Mr. Lawal and instead cleared him of all wrong doing.
“In this context, we are alarmed at the suspension of the SGF at a time that Nigerians and the international community are excitedly enjoying the theatre of the absurd playing out with the recovery of huge sums of money without owners.
“Now, the APC-led federal government has suddenly realised the corruption allegation levelled against the SGF; and instead of arresting and detaining him as the government has been doing to PDP members and other Nigerians, he was suspended and a committee set-up to investigate him. This is to say the least, double standards.
“Not that we doubt the integrity of the vice-president (for whom we have the utmost respect) and other panelists, but it appears the matter is being settled within the government closet without the transparency, independence and impartiality necessary in a situation like this.
“Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to have been done. This is especially important given the fact that we recently travelled down this road when the president asked the attorney general to investigate the SGF (on this same matter) and (Ibrahim) Magu, the acting Chairman of the EFCC.
“That investigation cleared the SGF of all wrong doing in the grass cutting scandal.
“It is amazing that the president who swiftly accepted the recommendations of the attorney general would now suddenly set up another panel comprising the same attorney general to investigate the matter again,” the party stated.
PDP said it was pertinent to know if the “president has now realised that the initial investigation by the attorney general was not thorough or a cover up to protect a fellow cabinet member.
“If that is the case, then the president needs to come clean with Nigerians by formally repudiating and rejecting the report. He must then tell Nigerians why the author of such a dastard, useless and worthless report should be included in the new panel.
“Against this backdrop, we are constrained to express our lack of confidence in the new panel headed by the vice-president.
“Instead, we demand an independent commission of inquiry comprising eminent Nigerians of proven records of integrity, independence and competence.
“This is the only way by which we can have confidence that a thorough and impartial investigation will be conducted and by which the president also can reassure the general public that there are no sacred cows in his government for whom there are different sets of rules.
“The present situation amounts to the government being the judge in its own case. We do not believe that justice can be served that way,” said the party.
As the PDP reacted to the investigative panel set up by the president, activities in the Office of the SGF ran smoothly yesterday despite Babachir’s absence.
However, Magu was seen at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, entering the vice-president’s office.
When he was asked by State House correspondents if he had come to brief the vice-president on the cash discovery in the Ikoyi apartment, he said he was there for the assets recovery meeting.
Meanwhile, the presidency thursday condemned news reports alleging that the suspended DG of the NIA had cried during his visit to the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Wednesday.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the president’s media aide, Mallam Garba Shehu, who spoke on what actually transpired, described the reports as “unfair and uncharitable”.
He stated that witnesses to Oke’s visit to the vice-president on the fateful day and his own personal account clearly indicated that the DG did not cry as widely reported in the social and some traditional media.
Shehu, who narrated how the incident happened, said: “The widespread reports that Oke of the National Intelligence Agency had cried are unfair and uncharitable.
“Witnesses to his visit to the vice-president and his own personal account, said that Oke arrived to a swarm of journalists which he wanted to avoid.
“He asked his driver to make a quick turn and instead, he headed to the Glass House, the headquarters of the Department of State Services (DSS).
“From there, he put a call to the Special Adviser to the President, Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, and requested that he help to clear the journalists so that he can make a quiet entry to the VP’s office and that is what happened.
“In an SUV with darkened windows, no one could have seen an occupant crying.”
Osinbajo on Wednesday had met separately with Lawal and Oke, barely an hour after the announcement of their suspension.
The closed-door meeting was in connection with the work of the panel set up to investigate allegations of misconduct against both of them.
The SGF refused to comment on the outcome of his meeting with the vice-president.