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.