Who Needs a Consultant to Clear Grass?

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Saturday Polscope

with Eddy Odivwri; eddy.odivwri@thisdaylive.com; 08053069356

It was Malcom X, the Black American activist who once asked: “Why do otherwise wise men become foolish when they join government?”

I have followed, with good interest, the grass cutting saga involving the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr David  Babachir Lawal. The latest exposé on it is the final report of the senate ad hoc committee which investigated the humanitarian crisis in the north east.

If Nigerians were shocked that the sum of N270 million was used to clear grass in a certain IDP camp in Yobe State, they are now perplexed hearing now that indeed, the sum of N450 million was paid into the Eco Bank account of Lawal’s Rholavision Engineering Ltd, by five different companies which got grass cutting contracts from the suspended SGF.

What’s more, N200 million had to be separately  paid to Lawal’s company, Rholavision Engineering Ltd, as consultancy fee for the grass cutting contract. Yes, N200 million! And I ask: what kind of consultancy service does a grass cutter need? Is it to teach and guide the grass cutter on how to position the blade of the mower? I scarcely can understand why a grass cutter needs a consultant.

It was further revealed that Josmon Technologies, which got the first grass cutting contract, eventually got another one. And that between March 29, 2016 and April 20, 2016,  Josmon Technologies transferred the sum of N317 million to Rholavision Engineering (Lawal’s company) after clinching grass cutting contracts worth N530.6 million.

Whoever knew that grasscutting is even more lucrative than oil and gas exploration!

The only thing that probably explains the oddity of this contract bureaucracy is that there is intent to defraud the federal government.

It is remarkable that Mr Lawal, an engineer, again shunned the invitation of the senate committee to come defend himself, before the final report was written. I therefore cannot wait to hear what Lawal’s defence will be on the greasy details of the grass cutting scandal.

It is also stunning to see the figure of N18 million transferred to Rholavision bank account  by Messrs Adamawa Boreholes Ltd after collecting contract of N54.8 million said to have been used to “renovate” seven classrooms in Yeskule Girls Secondary School, Michika, in Adamawa State. Gosh! If that much can be used to RENOVATE seven classrooms, how much will be required to build a new school altogether?

Yet one JMT Global Technology Ltd was also said to have kicked-back the sum of N30 million (from its Zenith Bank account number 114357188) to Rholavision Eng Ltd, for the “rehabilitation/renovation” of Adamawa at the cost of N199.4 million.

Yet again, another company which got a contract of N145 million, transferred N71 million to Rholavision account and also transferred another N13 million to Lawal’s private account at Diamond Bank (account number 0003004417).

One thing clear from all these kick-backs is that the Due Process office is not working. Is it not clear that the contracts are so mindlessly over-inflated? Or else how and where will those contractors find as much as they refunded to Lawal and his company?

And that is one bane of government. Money enough to do seven kilometers of road is often used to do just one, that is if the one kilometer gets done at all.

And just as an aside, why is there no federal character applied to the beneficiaries of government contracts? How come no company from the south got any of the Lawal’s bonanza, sorry, contract? At least in Dasuki’s “ATM regime”, it was spread round the entire country.

Did you notice that while just N2 million was spent on the welfare (food and clothing) of the IDPs, N200 million was spent on grass cutting consultancy? Pray, which one is more important to the dying IDPs:  a grass-free surrounding or food? Did we not hear that many of the IDP  children were dying out of hunger and malnutrition? Yet a man called David (!) chose to consult on grass cutting for the hungry, not offering them food and water.

The Senator Shehu Sani-led committee had revealed further that apart from the sordid grass cutting deal, Lawal had used his office to commit several breaches, using his 13 bank accounts to run the deals. We must thank the “technology” of Bank Verification Number (BVN) for unearthing the owners of those 13 bank accounts.

I am sure that a little more forensic audit of the activities of Mr Lawal while in office would reveal a few more abuses.

The alleged despicable acts of Lawal puts a huge question on the choices President Muhammadu Buhari made in constituting the members of  his government.  As Shakespeare puts it, “No man’s construction can be found on his face…” Nobody expected him to pick angels, because there are none among humans, but hey, not one with such odious tendencies, especially for a government that made the fight against corruption a cardinal prism.  Was it that Lawal has been so clever all along to shield his fraudulent tendency from Buhari while they remained friends? Or was it Buhari that was just care-free?

Was it the office that corrupted Lawal or was he patently and fundamentally corrupt before he was appointed? Ordinarily, one would have thought that the first set of appointees of Buhari (which included Lawal) will or should be people of unimpeachable character.

It is perhaps true that President Buhari is a loner in the much-talked about fight against corruption.

If the allegations against Lawal are established, it would have proven that indeed, there is a Judas among every twelve. Worse still, many Nigerians believe that there is a Lawal in almost all government officials; many of whom are seeking the slightest opportunity to undo government for their own selfish benefits. So, how many Lawals are yet lounging around in government offices and cabinets? Will their day ever come?

With the likes of Lawal permeating every sector of the economy—private and public, it is not difficult to understand why Nigeria is still where it is. With just one fellow netting over N500 million from one government project (PINE), how can a nation grow and develop?

Those who have spoken eloquently about the strengthening of institutions will now begin to understand that such so-called institutions are also prone to insider abuses, implying therefore that the human element in every institution cannot be discounted or ignored. Put differently, the institutions do not exist in a vacuum. They are as virile and strong-willed as the human operators allow them to be. How else can an institution be, if not the very engine room of government: the secretariat of the federal government! But a cankerworm gets into such an institution and begins to disable the very system it is meant to build and protect.

Nigerians are awaiting the report of the Prof Yemi Osinbajo-led committee which investigated the allegations leveled against Lawal, leading to his suspension.

What the government does or fails to do with the Lawal’s case will define the difference between the APC and the ousted PDP.

Except the Osinbajo committee finds something redeeming of Lawal and his office, then the Adamawa-born fellow might be heading for prosecution and possible jail, if the government’s avowed fight against corruption will neither defer to friends nor foes. Nigerians are waiting and watching.

Let Buhari Go Treat Himself

I am not one of those who will so quickly call for President Buhari’s resignation on account of his health because I know that everybody and anybody is susceptible to falling ill. Those who have been clamouring for Mr President to step down do so either out of mischief or because of our Yar’Adua experience.

Yes, the president is sick, but I believe he can and will get well again to continue his service to the country.

I do not believe the presidency has however been transparent enough about the health of the president. As a public votary, the issues of the health of a president is or should not be such a classified information. Nigerians, for instance, do not know what the president is suffering from? What is he sick of? Apart from the first medical trip he had when he complained of ear pain, we do not know the present ailment which has remained pretty serious.

In managing the information about the president’s health, Nigerians do not have to be lied to. There is nothing wrong with telling Nigerians the status of the president’s health.

Until he admitted, upon his return from the last trip that he had never been as sick all his life, most of the government’s publicists had regaled us with the claim of  “our president is hale and hearty”.

The absence of the right and true information in the public domain, fuels rumours and conjectures.

I am sure Mr President hastily returned from the last trip even when he had not fully recovered, apparently to satisfy the pressure for him to return and take over the mantle of leadership.

He had rightly transmitted power to his deputy who filled in the gap most brilliantly for the 49 days that Mr President was away. It is said that the ubiquitous “cabal” wanted Buhari return at all cost so he can reclaim his power. This must have been for the selfish interest of the members of the cabal. Were it not so, do they not know that the health and well being of the president is of paramount importance than his hold on power?

 Since March 10 when the president returned from medical trip to the UK, he had hinted that he would soon be back for a medical follow-up. This is almost two months after. Why has he not returned? Perhaps it wouldn’t have been necessary if Mr President had shown signs of full and perfect recovery. But he has not. In fact, he has had only measured public appearances since then. For three full weeks now, he has failed to preside over the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting. Two weeks ago, we were told, he’d henceforth work from him as he had been told to “slow down”.

Yes, he may slow down, but the affairs of this nation cannot either slow down or be held down on account of Mr President’s health. He should hand over properly to his deputy again and go and take care of his health without demur.

If, as it appears, he cannot get appropriate medical treatment in Nigeria, he should go to wherever he can find it, even Cuba, and get well.

He should ignore the scheming of his acolytes who want him stay put here so they can exercise the privileges of power.

The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, had shown competence and capacity when he held the forte last February and March. He not only demonstrated knowledge of what to do, he also showed loyalty to his boss. In fact, the Nigerian economy received a breather while he called the shots. Being an active VP is not the same as being an acting president. The power matrix in both cases are different. He can be trusted again to do even greater works. Buhari and his handlers must put national interest above narrow selfish interest and let Mr President go and treat himself.

I watched a video clip yesterday on WhatsApp where former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Abdulsami Abubakar were lifting Buhari (dressed in Super Eagles kit and clutching a football), in a stretcher, out of the field of play, with Buhari assuring them that “ I assure you guys that I can finish this Game”. Yes, I believe, with him that he will complete this tenure and possibly another, if God so wishes. But he has to do what he ought and timeously too. He should go treat himself. His office will be waiting but the tasks of governance cannot wait a second.