â€¢ Presidency promises not to interfere in probe, aftermath
â€¢ APC, Oshiomhole laud Buhari over Boss Mustaphaâ€™s appointment
Tobi Soniyi, Chiemelie Ezeobi in Lagos, Omololu Ogunmade and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed Boss Gida Mustapha as the new Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and approved the sack of the former SGF, Babachir David Lawal, along with the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke, and ordered them to face investigative agencies for possible prosecution.
The president also assured Nigerians that he would not interfere in their independent investigation and its aftermath.
A statement by the presidentâ€™s media aide, Malam Garba Shehu, said whereas the sack of the two former officers by Buhari was a mere administrative action, further actions would be taken against the duo by both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
â€œThe president has taken the administrative action. All other actions will be taken by the relevant government agencies. The position of the president therefore is that investigation agencies which have already commenced the investigation of the two officers removed from office will go on with their work of investigation without any interference or hindrance.
â€œThe president who is fully conversant with the provisions of the constitution will not stop the investigation of anyone because he has no such power under our laws.
â€œThis is a decision of the Supreme Court. The president under our laws can through the Attorney-General enter a nolle prosequi (unwillingness to prosecute) to stop an ongoing trial. He may upon conviction, order a pardon.
â€œBeyond these, the president cannot order investigation agencies not to investigate anyone and does not intend to do in this, or any other circumstance.
â€œBased on his wish and desire for strict observance of the law, the president expects the EFCC, ICPC and such agencies to proceed with ongoing investigations.
â€œWhen and where they have reasonable grounds to charge former or serving officers to court under our laws, they do not require the permission of the president to do so,â€ the statement said.
The statement from the presidency came just as fresh facts came to light on why Buhari took his time sacking Lawal, six months after the latterâ€™s suspension from office and two months after receiving the report of the probe committee led by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
Buhari Monday sacked Lawal from his post and replaced him with Mr. Boss Gida Mustapha. The president also terminated Okeâ€™s appointment as the NIA boss after the latter claimed that the $43.3 million discovered by the EFCC last March in an apartment in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, belonged to the intelligence agency. But the president did not announce Okeâ€™s replacement.
Despite their sack, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) joined a leading civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), and several Nigerians to demand that Lawal and Oke should be handed over to the EFCC or ICPC for prosecution.
The PDP also called on the National Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against the president for failing to uphold his oath of office to defend the Nigerian Constitution and for displaying bias in his handling of corruption cases in the country.
However, a source close to the presidency informed THISDAY that the delay in announcing Lawal’s sack arose from the fact that the president wanted to replace him with a Christian from the North-east, since the former SGF is also a Christian from the same geopolitical zone.
The source said it was imperative for Buhari to replace Lawal with another Christian from the North-east, in order to allay concerns that most of his appointments have been dominated by Hausa-Fulani Muslims, with very few appointments going to minorities in Northern Nigeria.
The sack of Lawal and Oke and the consequent appointment of the new SGF were announced by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, via a tweet immediately the decision was taken.
â€œPMB terminates the appointment of Babachir Lawal, suspended SGF and Ambassador Ayo Oke, former DG, NIA. Mr. Mustapha Boss is new SGF,â€ Adesina had tweeted.
A statement issued later by Adesina said the sack of Lawal and Oke was in compliance with the recommendations of the three-man panel headed by the vice-president, which had investigated allegations of financial impropriety against Lawal, as well as the NIAâ€™s claim of ownership of the $43.3 million made by Oke.
It added that the appointment of Mustapha as SGF was with immediate effect.
â€œThe president accepted the recommendation of the panel to terminate the appointment of Mr. Lawal and has appointed Mr. Boss Mustapha as the new Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The appointment takes immediate effect.
â€œPresident Buhari also approved the recommendation to terminate the appointment of Ambassador Oke and has further approved the setting up of a three-member panel to, among other things, look into the operational, technical and administrative structure of the agency and make appropriate recommendations.
â€œThe three-man panel headed by Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo had been mandated by the president to investigate allegations of financial impropriety levelled against Lawal and the earlier discovery of $43.3 million by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos. Oke had claimed that the money belonged to NIA,â€ Adesina stated.
Buhari had constituted the Osinbajo-led committee on April 19, 2017, following the suspension of Lawal and Oke by the president.
Other members of the committee that recommended Lawal and Okeâ€™s sack were the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno.
The president had ordered the committee to investigate allegations of violation of due process by Lawal in the award of contracts in the North-east in his capacity as Chairman of Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
PINE had been set up by the president with the mandate to spearhead the rehabilitation of the North-east destroyed by the Boko Haram insurgency.
The sacked SGF was also accused of awarding contracts for grass cutting in the crisis-ridden North-east to his company, Rholavision.
He was also accused of awarding contracts to Josmo Technologies to the tune of N272 million, only for Josmo to allegedly pay back the sum into Rholavisionâ€™s Ecobank account some days later.
New â€˜Bossâ€™ Unveiled
Lawal’s replacement, Mustapha, is a lawyer, management consultant, politician, businessman, and boardroom guru of considerable repute.
His appointment as the SGF has been well received, thanks to his vast public sector experience, legal background, extensive travels and contacts in both government and business.
Until his appointment, Mustapha who hails from Hong Local Government Area in Adamawa State, was the Managing Director of National Inland Water Ways Authority (NIWA).
He was also a stalwart of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) prior to its dissolution into the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013 during the political realignment that preceded the 2015 elections.
Born in Adamawa State, Mustapha attended Hong Secondary School and North-east College of Arts and Sciences, Maiduguri Borno State, crowning it with his WASC and HSC results in 1976.
He obtained his Bachelor of Law (LL.B) degree from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in 1979 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1980.
From 1980 to 1981, Mustapha did the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) at the Directorate of Legal Services at the Army headquarters and was in charge of review of court martial proceedings.
After his national service, he joined Sotesa Nigeria Limited, an Italian consultancy firm, as an Executive Director in charge of Administration, leaving in 1983 to join the prestigious law firm of Messrs Onagoruwa & Co. in Lagos.
With his law practice having fully taken off, the new SGF was appointed Principal Counsel in the firm of Messrs Mustapha & Associates.
His legal interests and expertise cut across privatisation, commercialisation and liberalisation of public companies/corporate and government parastatals.
He has also been involved in commercial law transactions ranging from debentures, guarantees, mortgages, bonds and loan syndications.
One of Mustaphaâ€™s career highlights was his appointment as a member of Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the defunct Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), serving meritoriously from 2000 to 2007. At the PTF, he was responsible for production of an up-to-date comprehensive project and programme report, including location, coverage and whether performed, performing or abandoned projects and the production of the final report of assets and liabilities, examination of the administrative structure and cost effectiveness of PTF projects and services, among other duties.
Mustapha also played key leadership roles at the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), serving as Social Secretary and Chairman of the Yola branch.
After his stint at the PTF in 2007, Mustapha was appointed Principal Partner of the law firm, Adroit Lex. His law practice and the burning desire to serve the larger society conspired to attract the SGF into politics.
At various times, he was a member of the Constituent Assembly (1988-1989); Chairman Peoples Solidarity Party, Gongola State (1989-1990); state Chairman of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), Gongola State (1990-1991); and was a gubernatorial candidate of the SDP in Adamawa State in 1991.
He was also the Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) from 2010 to 2013. In 2007, he again played a prominent role, serving as the Deputy Director-General of the partyâ€™s Presidential Campaign Organisation.
His services remained in high demand after the ACN joined forces with other parties to form the APC.
He was a member of NCC and Secretary APC Presidential Campaign Organisation Mobilisation (2015) and member of the APC Transition Committee (2015). He is also a member of the APC Board of Trustees.
In addition to the NBA, the SGF is a member of various professional bodies including the African Bar Association (ABA), Commonwealth Lawyers Association, International Bar Association (IBA) and Human Rights Institute (HRI).
Mustaphaâ€™s accomplishments go beyond politics and the bar as he is a respected boardroom veteran, having been appointed to the boards of several companies in the manufacturing and financial services sectors, as well as the oil and gas sector.
He is the National Vice-President, Full Gospel Business Menâ€™s Fellowship International, Nigeria (FGBMFI) and has travelled extensively, visiting no fewer than 30 countries, and always taken an interest in how assets are managed in those countries.
He stresses teamwork and the need to focus on the nationâ€™s vision and mission. He also is fond of saying: â€œJust call me Boss, I donâ€™t have nicknames.â€
Mustapha, who is married with children, enjoys golf, lawn tennis, travelling, documentary films, charity work and meeting people.
PDP, SERAP, Others Demand Prosecution
But before the presidency announced that Lawal and Okeâ€™s cases had been handed over to the law enforcement agencies for investigation, the PDP Monday called on the National Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against the president for exhibiting double standards in the handling of alleged corruption scandals involving the former SGF and ex-NIA DG.
PDP said that rather than just ordering the sack of Lawal and Oke, the president should have directed the EFCC to arrest and prosecute the two men for corruption charges.
PDP said when juxtaposed against cases of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, and others who have been in EFCC detention for over two years, the handling of the corruption allegations against Lawal and Oke amounted to applying double standards.
In a statement by its spokesman, Dayo Adeyeye, PDP said the action of Buhari was tantamount to a breach of his oath of office when he swore to defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to be fair and just to all Nigerians without any discrimination whatsoever.
â€œThe action of the president is a gross violation of his constitutional oath and therefore constitutes veritable grounds for impeachment. Using and applying different laws to different people in the country is a direct assault on the constitution and the rule of law.
â€œConsequently, we call on the National Assembly to begin the processes to impeach the president for breach of the constitution and fragrant disobedient to the laws of Nigeria,â€ it said.
While describing the presidentâ€™s action as totally unacceptable, the main opposition party added that the action was a slap on the face of Nigerians.
â€œIt is an insult on the collective intelligence of our people who have waited patiently for the presidentâ€™s reaction on the humongous act of corruption by two of his principal aides and this is totally unacceptable.
â€œFirst and foremost, we had disagreed with the president last year when he decided to set up the panel headed by the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to investigate the matter because we thought that was the wrong course of action to take.
â€œOrdinarily, cases of corruption or alleged cases of misappropriation of funds are supposed to be referred to institutions that are saddled with the responsibility to investigate and prosecute such matters which is the ICPC and the EFCC, if there is any prima facie case against them.
â€œBut it appears not all animals are equal under the Buhari APC administration. Some people are treated with kidâ€™s gloves while others particularly those in opposition are subjected to all manner of harrowing experiences.
â€œOne of the senators of the APC, Senator Shehu Sani of Kaduna State succinctly described the matter when he said that this administration uses deodorant to fight corruption when it comes to some APC members and President Buhariâ€™s kitchen cabinet and insecticides when it involves members of the opposition and those in the National Assembly,â€ the party charged.
PDP said that it took Buhari almost one year to attend to the SGF/NIA matter while the culprits were having a field day at home and enjoying themselves, whereas in the case of the opposition they will be visited with multiple harassment and intimidation for months and weeks without proper trial even on flimsy allegations.
â€œWe cite the case of Sambo Dasuki who has been in detention for two years and running, even when many courts in Nigeria and the ECOWAS Court have ordered his release.
â€œBut the president has fragrantly disobeyed these court orders which again are a violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
â€œThis is an impeachable offence. So the President cannot just sack Ayo Oke and Babachir Lawal and expects us to be clapping for him.
â€œWe believe that we are operating under a democracy and a constitution that governs our affairs. To have subjected these people to different sets of rules and treatment is totally unacceptable.
â€œNigerians are the same under the law and Babachir Lawal and Ayo Oke should not be tried by the presidency while others are hounded by the EFCC and ICPC.
â€œWe totally reject these actions and the law should follow its full course on the issues of these officers. In other words, their cases should be referred to the EFCC for proper investigation and trial, more so when the president had not told us what the report of the findings was.
â€œNigerians are entitled to know the findings of the panel headed by the vice-president. The report should be made public since it is the peopleâ€™s money that is involved.
â€œThe president has by his actions taken Nigeria to the level of a banana republic. We are not in a banana republic, this is the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
â€œThree successive governments of the PDP did not act in the manner President Buhari is acting.
â€œThere is no doubt that the sudden sack of the SGF and the DG of NIA is just a consequence of the backlash on the Abdulrasheed Maina saga.
â€œUp till now thereâ€™s no answer to the pertinent questions we have asked on the Maina saga. The government cares less about the feelings and opinions of Nigerians. This kind of arrogance is unprecedented in the history of this county.
â€œWe again call for the arrest and investigation of the two ministers involved in the return of Maina into the civil service, that is, the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami,â€ it said.
Similarly, a civil society group, SERAP, while welcoming the decision by Buhari to sack Lawal and Oke, called on the president to urgently hand them over to the EFCC and ICPC for further investigation, adding that if there was relevant and sufficient admissible evidence against them, they should face prosecution.
In a statement Monday by SERAPâ€™s deputy director Timothy Adewale the organisation said: â€œThis is a positive development in the fight against grand corruption, although this decision is coming rather late.
â€œBuhari now has to go a step further by making sure that both Lawal and Oke are promptly brought to justice in fair trials.
â€œBuhari also has to move swiftly to publish the report of the investigation into the secret reinstatement of fugitive and former civil servant, Abdulrasheed Maina, and without delay identify and bring to justice anyone suspected to be involved.
â€œThis government now has a real opportunity to reassure a lot of Nigerians who may be worried about the direction of travel of the presidentâ€™s anti-corruption agenda that there will be no sacred cow as far as the fight against corruption is concerned.
â€œWhat the government needs at this time is a revolutionary approach to the fight against corruption if Buhari is to show his commitment to â€˜killâ€™ corruption before corruption â€˜killsâ€™ Nigeria.
â€œWithout effective prosecution of high-ranking public officials charged with corruption, this governmentâ€™s fight against corruption may sadly turn out to be all motion and no movement, and this will eventually undermine the legitimacy of the anticorruption efforts.â€
Also, Nigerians using social media platforms queried the sack of Oke and Lawal without any visible move to prosecute them.
Although all the comments were unanimous in their praise of their sack, they questioned the silence of the government on plans to prosecute the duo for alleged acts of corruption that they purportedly committed while in government.
Tweeting from his Twitter handle, Favour Onyeoziri asked: â€œSince we canâ€™t hear anything about his prosecution, does it mean that Babachir Lawal is free to go and enjoy the over N200m he stole?â€
Ibidumoye Daniel said: â€œThe FG was seriously shouting that he stole money but now they canâ€™t prosecute him. Is it that Babachir is bigger than FG or our government is not just fit?â€
Ade Banique wondered: â€œHas the FG handed over Babachir Lawalâ€™s case file to the EFCC for more work and prosecution? They need to clarify this? That sack isnâ€™t enough.â€
Concurring, Henry Okelue said: â€œIf Babachir Lawal was deemed guilty and fired from his job, then recommending him to law enforcement for prosecution should follow suit.â€
Igala Shore also noted: â€œAm I the only one who has noticed that there is no instruction for the security agencies to arrest and prosecute Babachir Lawal and Ayo Oke?â€
While commending the sack of the duo, Juliet Kego however said: â€œBabachir Lawal has been sacked! Good news. PMB got this right! About darned time. Next, EFCC prosecute with evidence, hopefully court convictions.
â€œBabachir Lawal must be prosecuted. No kidâ€™s gloves. Anyone who allegedly steals from internally displaced persons is the worst kind of corruption; zero moral compass!!
â€œLike Dasuki, like Babachir. Arms funds diversion=death of troops. IDP funds diversion= death/starvation/rape/bombing of IDPs. Prosecute him.â€
APC, Oshiomhole Hail Buhari
But the APC in its reaction commended Buhari for the appointment of Mustapha as the SGF. The ruling party in a statement issued by its spokesman, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said it believed that the president could not have made a better choice.
â€œMustapha is a competent, loyal and dedicated leader who over the years has demonstrated that he has a pan-Nigerian outlook.
â€œWith his appointment, the party is confident that Mustapha, being a strong party man, will provide the necessary linkage between the government and the party, and with the other arms of government, especially the National Assembly,â€ it said.
Joining the APC, a former governor of Edo State, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, also commended Buhari for the appointment of Mustapha as the new SGF, describing him as one of the eggheads of the APC during the 2015 presidential election.
In a signed statement made available to journalists in Benin City, the former governor and leader of the APC in Edo State, said the appointment of Mustapha came at a very auspicious time when the party and government were making efforts to rejuvenate and re-tool the system for enhanced service delivery to the people.
According to Oshiomhole, â€œMr. Boss Mustapha saw the entire processes of the formation of APC electioneering and management of all the factors that led to the victory of the party in the 2015 general election.
â€œHe is not just a seasoned party man who understands the dynamics of party management but is also very much abreast with governmental administration and responsibilities.
â€œAs a calm, collected and silent organiser, he is very much at home with all the critical elements of the party and knows how to coordinate effortlessly without carrying any air around him.â€
Oshiomhole also noted that the appointment of Mustapha will no doubt rekindle the strong determination of the APC government in delivering the dividends of democracy for the good of all.
â€œMr. Boss Mustapha is coming into this job with a lot of experience in administration and management. He will no doubt be a huge resource and engine room for the APC-led federal government. I wish to record my congratulations on his appointment which I consider as a square peg in a square hole,â€ Oshiomhole added.