EFCC Moves to Pros­e­cute Babachir Lawal, Drafts Charges

Sub­mits in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port to AGF

THISDAY - - FRONT PAGE - Tobi Soniyi

The Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC) has fi­nally sub­mit­ted the re­port of its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into fraud al­le­ga­tions against a for­mer Sec­re­tary to the Gov­ern­ment of the Fed­er­a­tion, Babachir Lawal.

Lawal, while he was the SGF, was ac­cused of loot­ing the funds of the Pres­i­den­tial Ini­tia­tive on the North East (PINE) through front com­pa­nies. How­ever, he has con­sis­tently main­tained his in­no­cence and de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

But the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port sub­mit­ted to the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion and Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, by Act­ing Chair­man of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, found oth­er­wise. Mul­ti­ple sources at the Fed­eral Min­istry of Jus­tice con­firmed to THISDAY that Magu sub­mit­ted the re­port to Malami last week.

The re­port also in­cludes draft charges the EFCC con­sid­ered ap­pro­pri­ate for the ex-SGF to face in the event the fed­eral gov­ern­ment de­cides to give him the op­por­tu­nity to clear his name in the court of law.

Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari had on Oc­to­ber 30 last year ac­cepted the rec­om­men­da­tions of the re­port

of a panel, headed by Vice Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo, SAN, which in­ves­ti­gated al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion against Lawal and a for­mer Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral of the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Agency (NIA), Ay­o­dele Oke. Be­fore then, the Pres­i­dency had sus­pended Lawal, who, when told that he had been sus­pended, made the now fa­mous re­ac­tion, “who is the Pres­i­dency?”

The state­ment is­sued by the Pres­i­dency an­nounc­ing Lawal’s re­moval from of­fice had read, "Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari has stud­ied the re­port of the panel headed by the Vice Pres­i­dent, Prof Yemi Os­in­bajo (SAN), which in­ves­ti­gated al­le­ga­tions against the sus­pended Sec­re­tary to the Gov­ern­ment of the Fed­er­a­tion, Babachir Lawal, and the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral, Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Agency (NIA), Ay­o­dele Oke.

"The pres­i­dent ac­cepted the rec­om­men­da­tion of the panel to ter­mi­nate the ap­point­ment of Mr. Lawal, and has ap­pointed Boss Mustapha as the new Sec­re­tary to the Gov­ern­ment of the Fed­er­a­tion.

"The ap­point­ment takes im­me­di­ate ef­fect.

"Pres­i­dent Buhari also ap­proved the rec­om­men­da­tion to ter­mi­nate the ap­point­ment of Mr. 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."

Ac­cord­ing to the EFCC re­port, be­tween Novem­ber 2015 and Novem­ber 2017, PINE re­ceived about N16.9 bil­lion. Of this, at least 11.6 bil­lion was sup­pos­edly spent mostly through con­tracts to fronts.

The anti-cor­rup­tion agency found that many of the con­tracts breached due process. It also dis­cov­ered that many of the con­trac­tors were ei­ther fronts of Lawal or re­quired to pay kick­backs to com­pa­nies owned by him. The main com­pany that was al­legedly used for this scam was Rholav­i­sion. EFCC matched up the ex-SGF's Bank Ver­i­fi­ca­tion Num­ber (BVN) to the com­pany ac­count and found that he was the main sig­na­tory to the com­pany ac­count.

Over the two years, at least N566 mil­lion (about 5% of the to­tal ex­pen­di­ture of PINE) over the pe­riod went to the ac­count of Rholav­i­sion alone.

An­other com­pany was known as Bards Broth­ers.

The likely of­fences raised in the charges are breach of trust, con­spir­acy and steal­ing.

It took pres­sure from the pub­lic, through the me­dia, to per­suade the pres­i­dent to agree to in­ves­ti­gate Lawal.

Un­der Nige­rian laws, an ac­cused re­mains in­no­cent un­til his guilt has been proved be­yond rea­son­able doubt in a court of law.

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