Grass-cutting scandal: Trouble as Senate panel indicts suspended SGF, recommends prosecution

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The Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East has indicted the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, for mismanagement.

The investigative panel specifically asked relevant agencies to prosecute the suspended SGF for allegedly awarding contracts worth N500m, through the Presidential Initiative on North-East, a rehabilitation programme under his office, to a company in which he had interests.

This was part of the recommendations in the final report by the panel, which was laid before the Senate by its Chairman, Senator Shehu Sani, at the plenary on Wednesday.

The report was later sighted by our correspondent.

In the final report, the panel recommended that “all resources that have been misapplied or stolen by public officials should be retrieved and anybody found culpable of contravening any of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act 2007 and the Federal Government Financial Rules and Regulations, pertaining to the award of these contracts, should be duly prosecuted by the relevant authorities.

“That the banks transactions of Rholavision Engineering Limited and the confirmation by (the) Central Bank of Nigeria that the Bank Verification Number of  Babachir David Lawal is still the signatory to Rholavision Engineering Limited accounts and 13 other accounts, some with different names. The committee is of the opinion that Babachir David Lawal has contravened the provision of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (As amended); the Public Procurement Act 2007 and breach the Oaths of Office as Secretary to the Government of the Federation and should be prosecuted by the relevant authorities; and

“That the committee also recommends further investigation by relevant agencies of government on why contract-benefitting companies paid over N500m into Rholavision Engineering Limited, a company in which Babachir David Lawal has interest.”

The panel also stated that since all the contracts awarded by PINE were done under the principle of emergency situation, PINE should forward a detailed report of all contracts awarded by it to the Bureau of Public Procurement in accordance with Section 43 (iv) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

It added that since it was observed that there was no bill of quantities on most of the contracts awarded by PINE under the emergency situation, the BPP should undertake a revaluation of all such contracts to recover any proceeds from over-inflated contracts.

The panel further recommended that the relevant agencies should ensure that contracts, partially executed but fully paid for, must be completed by the concerned contractors or be asked to refund the equivalent money of outstanding jobs to the government treasury.

The Senate had earlier called for Lawal’s resignation, probe and prosecution based on the interim report by the committee, which was released on December 14, 2016.

The lawmakers specifically called on security and anti-graft agencies to arrest and prosecute Lawal for allegedly owning and being a signatory to one of the companies awarded contracts in the rehabilitation of the North-East.

Lawal had last Thursday failed to appear before the committee on his third invitation.

The lawmakers had said the non-appearance of the former SGF would not stop the committee from presenting its final report on its probe into the alleged mismanagement of funds meant for the rehabilitation of the geopolitical zone.

The former SGF had been re-invited by the committee to answer questions on his role in the alleged mismanagement of funds by the PINE under his watch.

Lawal, who was suspended over his indictment by the interim report of the Senate panel two weeks ago, had asked the lawmakers, on the second invitation to him, to fix another date for his appearance before the committee.

The embattled SGF, however, failed to show up on Thursday, a development that angered members of the panel.Punch

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