SGF Suspension: How Threat To Withhold $1:2bn EU Aid Forced Buhari’s Hand

President Muham­madu Buhari’s hands were forced by west­ern countries and do­nor agencies when he moved swiftly last week to revive his waning war against corruption by suspending David Babachir Lawal as the Secretary to the Federal Government (SFG).

Indications have emerged that the European Union coun­tries, the United Nations and the other major international agencies forced President Bu­hari to act to clean up the Au­gean stable soiled by some of the key principal officers of his government.

The choice for the President was clear: sack Lawal or forget donor countries’ funds for the reconstruction of the North East, devastated by the Boko Haram insurgency.

Norway, Germany, the United Nations and Nigeria had, between February 23rd and 24th, 2017, co- hosted the 1st Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region. The conference took place in Oslo, Norway. Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey On­yeama represented Nigeria.

Sources confirmed to The AUTHORITY that the message was “eloquently delivered to Pres­ident Buhari” by Representatives of the European Union, who had “watched in amusement” the han­dling of the scandal.
The malnutrition crisis, sex for food and other challenges in the camps of internally displaced persons forced the EU into action. Many Nigerians do not know that the threat by the EU and other do­nors was what actually forced the President Buhari to act on the La­wal matter.
The World Bank Board has approved 200 million United States dollars credit to assuage the acute humanitarian crisis.

“Up to 5 million USD of the approved funds will help farm­ing families combat food secu­rity crisis in the region,” said the World Bank, while the European Union released Nine Million Eu­ros (about N4 billion) to Nigeria.
“The additional emergency assistance will help vulnerable populations in the Lake Chad re­gion. 9 million Euro will be pro­vided to support Nigeria, 2 mil­lion Euro in Cameroon and 1.5 million Euro in Niger”, said the European Union.

For European Union and oth­er funding agencies like Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, re­porting is key in the disbursement of funds. The North East Initia­tive hadn’t met reporting stand­ards – outright diversion of funds, lack of priorities as in the case of the N250 million grass clearing contract that the SGF allegedly awarded to himself.

The AUTHORITY reliably gathered that this is not the first time the Buhari administration has been confronted by some for­eign powers on its policies. Under the Obama administration, the president was told in clear terms, once during the General Assem­bly, to “up his game”. The message was reportedly delivered by an of­ficial of the State Department.

The Americans had played open and key behind the scene roles in ensuring the defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan. They in fact provided security for Prof. Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of the Independent National Elec­toral Commission.

The sources confirmed that President Buhari was “scared stiff” considering his experience with the Americans during his first coming. The Americans had warned him about the direction of his government and shortly af­terwards, he was overthrown by General Ibrahim Babangida.

The discovery of the Osborne loot proved “convenient” in eas­ing out the SGF, who had become a liability. Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina had in the last few days been making strident ef­forts denying that the president had issued the SGF a clean bill of health. The albatross is the four months’ time lag before the pres­ident acted.

Of the 1.5 billion dollars pledged by the European Un­ion, Norway pledged one -third of the 1.5 billion United States dollars amounting to $192 mil­lion towards assisting in the re­construction of the North East. The United States, which was in a transition, made no pledge, due to the change in administration.

“Sack Lawal or forget our as­sistance” was the message to Bu­hari, who, before his medical trip, had written to the Senate and ve­hemently defended Lawal. In his 17th January 2017 letter to the Senate, Buhari had noted that only three of the nine members of the ad-hoc committee signed the report.

The president further ac­cused the Senate of denying La­wal fair hearing even when evi­dence abounded that he defiantly refused to appear before the com­mittee. It was also claimed that there were not enough grounds to act as the Senate Report was an interim report – claims that Senator Shehu Sani has emphati­cally denied.

The former National Secu­rity Adviser Col. Sambo Dasuki is currently being tried based on the interim report generated by the Ode Arms Deal Committee.
The Senate had on December 14, 2016, called for the resignation and prosecution of Lawal, follow­ing proven complicity in the di­version of North East humani­tarian funds. The Senator Shehu Sani led Ad hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crises in the North-East, in an interim report, severely indicted Lawal for awarding contracts to his compa­ny under the Presidential Initia­tive on the North-East (PINE).

“If David Lawal had messed up with Nigerian resources, the possibilities are that he would still have been in office. The do­nor nations blackmailed the pres­ident into taking this decision,” said several sources.

Analysts point out that Buha­ri has a weakness of not sacking anyone close to him. His circle is limited and closed. For instance, his Chief of Staff has been accused of collecting kick back for influ­encing a reduction in the fine im­posed on the MTN. MTN had cashed in on the relationship be­tween Abba Kyari and Amina Oyagbola, then Executive Direc­tor, from their days at the Unit­ed Bank of Africa. She reported­ly facilitated the multi million deal that led to a drastic reduction of the fine. While she has since been asked to resign by MTN, in a clas­sic case of “use and dump,”
Buhari is yet to take action on Abba Kyari.

On 15th February 2017, the representatives of the 12 donor countries and agencies visited Borno State on a three day mis­sion to “increase understanding of the complex challenges” the insurgency has created, especial­ly on the lives of the victims of the Boko Haram violence. Their re­port formed part of the input for the Oslo conference.

The intrigues that brought Lawal to the Presidential Initia­tive on the North East were said to have been precipitated by La­wal and some members of the ca­bal. General T. Y. Danjuma, the Chairman, had, due to age, ex­pressly requested for a young­er man as Vice Chairman of the Committee – a request the pres­ident obliged.
A former Secretary to Borno State Government, Ambassador Baba Ahmed Jidda, was nom­inated by Governor Shettima Bukur of Borno State, the worst affected state. Jidda was howev­er schemed out by the cabal who had their sights on the huge funds for the reconstruction of the re­gion. Alhaji Tijani M. Tumsah was to eventually replace Jidda. This was the beginning of the plot to oust David Lawal, who on his appointment had ruffled feathers.

The details of the payment for the contract were leaked to the governor of an interested state, by a staff of Ecobank, where Lawal had maintained accounts. The account is domiciled in Lev­entis Building branch of the bank in Kaduna.

The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, a loyal member of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu po­litical family, had used the win­dow as acting president to for­ward the name of Ibrahim Magu to the Senate for confirmation as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commis­sion (EFCC). But in the Lawal case, said sources, the VP is “ut­terly helpless” because the West­ern Countries are watching de­velopments closely.
Magu, as head of the Eco­nomic Governance Team, had cleared Bola Ahmed Tinubu of corruption. Osinbajo sending his name to the Senate for confirma­tion was an IOU repaid. This ex­plains why the Vice President, a law professor and a Senior Advo­cate of Nigeria (SAN), has con­tinued to put up spirited defence for Magu.

Bola Tinubu was said to have influenced the appointment of Lawal. But due to lack of trust, the powers of the SGF office were stripped and domiciled in the of­fice of the Chief of Staff. The Are­wa Consultative Forum had re­peatedly asked the president to fire Lawal and Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff, due to lack of ca­pacity.

The Kaduna State Governor Nasir El Rufai, in his memo that was leaked, had equally asked that both men be fired. To “cov­er” their repeatedly attacked lev­el of competence, both men hired tested hands. Abba Kyari hired Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, who is acting as his Personal As­sistant while David got Alhaji Bu­kar posted to his office as Perma­nent Secretary GOS.
For the EU, the situation in the north east is a humanitari­an crisis which the internation­al community is duty bound to support “voluntary and sustaina­ble returns.” Its assessment is that the overall situation remains flu­id, especially as the military cam­paign continues to open pre­viously stranded areas. This “creates new humanitarian chal­lenges”, the EU report stressed.

It further noted that with­out immediate investment in education, Borno State risks the radicalisation of a new genera­tion. The report notes that more than 1,200 schools have been de­stroyed and welcomed the estab­lishment of emergency schools and child-friendly spaces in IDP settlements.

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