•Malami visits villa, keeps mum
The leadership of the Nigerian Senate has said that they has not indicted the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir Lawal, who was accused of siphoning money meant for projects in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camps in the North East, through his company.
The Senate Leader, Mohammed Ndume, made this clarification on Monday, while responding to questions from the State House Correspondents on the position of the duo after consultation with President Buhari.
Ndume also noted that the legislative upper chamber never rejected the nomination of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
He explained that even though Lawal was recommended for the sack, the Senate was not giving a directive to the Executive, while on Magu, the Senate only demanded some clarifications from President Muhammadu Buhari following a report received from the Department of State Service (DSS).
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The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu had on Sunday night issued a statement saying that the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami has been directed by President Buhari to investigate the involvement of any top government officials accused of any wrong-doing, assuring that no one liable will escape prosecution.
The Senate had last week while deliberating on report of the ad-hoc committee of the Senate on “mounting humanitarian crisis in the North East” indicted the SGF for allegedly awarding a contract of N233 million to clear invasive plant species in Yobe State to Rholavision Nigeria Limited, a company which is linked to him.
The Senate which considered report of the Shehu Sani led Committee, had asked President Buhari to suspend Lawal and ensure his prosecution over alleged breach of Nigerian laws in handling contracts awarded by the Presidential Initiative for the North East, (PINE).
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, had last Thursday declared that ” the world is watching President Muhammadu Buhari on how he would handle the Senate’s Wednesday’s resolution calling for the sack of the SGF”.
But Ndume on Senate recommendation for the sack of the Lawal, said “It’s not an order we are giving. The Senate resolution is a recommendation, it’s not a law. What the Senate considered is work in progress because it was an interim report.
“It is the same public that are interested and worried to know what have we done as a Senate about those allegations. The committee issued an interim report and the interim report seemed to indict the SGF, the consequences of that indictment is what they recommended but we are not there yet because the report itself is interim. Ok, we take the interim report, we give the public until the whole investigation is concluded.
“I hear, coming from the SGF that he has not been given a fair hearing, so the hearing has not finished. We can give him an ample of time to go before the committee and clear himself.”
On the rejection of Magu, Ndume said “No, no no. Let me say categorically that the Senate did not reject Ibrahim Magu as the chairman. What happened was that when we selected his confirmation for Thursday, then we had an issue or a letter from the Department of State Security (DSS) that could not allow us to continue with the confirmation without further clarifications.
So, we now concluded that since we have a letter that we cannot ignore, we cannot do the confirmation. So, it was not that we sat down to take a decision that we have rejected Ibrahim Magu. So, I want that to come out clearly.
“We specifically asked the chairman on media to issue a statement. What we said was that on that Thursday the Senate could not go ahead with the confirmation of Mr. Ibrahim Magu and that we are in possession of a letter from the Department of State Service which requires clarification from Mr. President, who is the head of the government. That was what happened.
“Even if the rejection is going to come, it is not going to come from the Senate because we have not done anything anyway.”
When reminded that the Senate Spokesman, Senator Aliyu Abdullai Sabi, said the Senate rejected Magu, Ndume said “I hope we are not arguing. I listened and I still listened because of this controversy that can come out. I’m part of the persons that wrote the short press statement which states that the Senate cannot continue with the confirmation. It is different from saying that the Senate has rejected. In fact we have referred the other four to the committee.”
The Senate had declined to confirm the appointment of Magu as substantive chair of EFCC last Thursday, based on a security report forwarded to it by the SSS.
“The Senate wishes to inform the public that based on available security report, the Senate cannot proceed with the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,” the spokesperson for the Senate, Aliyu Abdullahi, said in a statement read to journalists.
“The nomination of Ibrahim Magu is hereby rejected and has been returned to the President for further action,” Mr. Abdullahi said.
Asked the purpose of his visit to the Villa, the Senate Leader said “Let me say that my meeting with Mr. President is not a new thing in that you have been seeing me here in and out for two reasons: one I’m the Senate leader by the grace of God and two, Gen. Buhari, the President is one of my mentors and we have been relating since 2002. So, we normally come intermittently to compare notes on issues so that’s my reason for coming here.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Justice, Malami who was sighted at the Presidential Villa, refused to speak with journalists over the directives to investigate the allegations, when approached to do so.