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