The Nigerian Senate on December 14, 2016, asked SGF Babachir Lawal to resign from office, following a recommendation of its ad hoc committee.
The committee on the humanitarian crisis in the north-east, had investigated the management of funds for internally displaced persons in the region by the Presidential Initiative on the North-East (PINE), which was under the SGF.
President Buhari however defended Lawal. He wrote to the senate, saying he would not sack the SGF, because he was not a given a fair hearing.
The allegation leveled against the SGF was that he had awarded contracts to companies belonging to cronies and relatives of top government officials. This was championed by the chairman of the ad hoc committee, Senator Shehu Sani.
Sani also explained that the committee found out that Rholavision Engineering Limited, a company, with Lawal as director, for instance, was awarded a consultancy contract.
Also, he alleged that all the procurement activities by PINE, violated the laid-down rules and most of the contracts awarded had no positive impact on the IDPs.
Eventually, on April 19, 2017, President Buhari capitulated and removed Babachir from office and according to The Cable, it is no doubt that these three recommendations of the committee, led to the removal:
1. Prosecution of guilty public officials
The committee, headed by Sani, recommended that any public officer who went against any of the provisions of the procurement act, 2007 and the federal government financial rules and regulations pertaining to the award of contracts, should be duly prosecuted.
2. Inability of PINE to produce detailed reports of contract
The committee had also requested PINE to forward a detailed report of all contracts awarded by it to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), as requested by section 43 (iv) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007, which PINE failed to do.
3. Contractors asked to refund
The senate panel also demanded that contracts partially executed but fully paid for must be completed by the concerned contractors, or asked to refund the equivalent money of outstanding jobs to the government treasury.
How did Lawal respond to these recommendations? He denied it all and instead lashed out at the Senate.
“Who is investigating? The senate? These are also part of the issues of separation of powers that people abuse. I do know that I don’t have immunity to accuse you without proof but the members of the national assembly can say anything on the floor and are immune to prosecution but people are abusing it and in this case people are maliciously abusing and wickedly abused their privileges in the national assembly.
“PINE, Presidential Initiative on the North East, was set up by President Jonathan – thank God for him. It used to be run under the finance ministry, under the minister of state.
“When I took over, we were wondering who was running the north-east programme until one day, the national assembly members from the north-east paid me a courtesy call thinking that it was being run by my office. I told them it wasn’t my office so I telephoned the vice-president and asked ‘Oga, who is running PINE?’, he said ‘I think it is your office’.
“When it got to budget period, I asked the minister of budget the same question about PINE, no he said it is your office or the NSA’s office. What I discovered was that there was a consultant, senior special assistant to the former NSA who was in charge of PINE.
“The man who was claiming to be leading the PINE was an adviser to the former NSA and such a person’s tenure lapses with the other principal officer.
“So I said you can no longer run PINE. At that time in 2015, there was N2.5 billion for the programme. The money was just thee doing nothing but paying consultants.
“I understand that at one time they were using it to buy pre-fabricated schools. The principle of PINE is this and there is a permanent secretary who runs PINE. There are 23 of such agencies in this office.
“We now said for people to return to their homes, we must guarantee that they are able to engage in productive work before they were pushed out, which means rebuild the schools that were burnt, rebuild the police stations and barracks so people can returns part of confidence-building. That’s just it,” he said.