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Published On: Mon, May 22nd, 2017

Where Is Osinbajo Probe Report?

Osinbajo

Osinbajo


LAGOS MAY 23RD (URHOBOTODAY)-Exactly a month ago on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation [SGF] Babachir David Lawal and Director General of the National Intelligence Agency [NIA] Ayodele Oke from office.
While Lawal was suspended due to a Senate finding of fraud in Presidential Initiative for the North East [PINE] contracts awards, Oke was suspended due to the discovery by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] of $40m in a private house in Lagos which NIA said belonged to it.
Buhari then appointed a three man investigative panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and told it to submit a report within two weeks. The other two panel members were National Security Adviser retired Major General Mohammed Monguno and Attorney General of the Federation [AGF] and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN. On the day it was to submit its report on May 3, Osinbajo said it will submit its report to Buhari on May 8. But President Buhari travelled out of the country on a medical trip on May 7.
Ordinarily the report should be submitted to the Acting President for action but since the chairman of the probe panel is also the Acting President, it is not neat at all that he should act on his report. It will amount to being the prosecutor and judge at the same time. The situation has therefore created a cul-de-sac for the Presidency in which case the fate of this report now hangs in the balance. The two top officials Lawal and Oke remain on suspension during this period of limbo. This is neither fair to the two persons involved nor is it fair for the country. Both posts are now held in acting capacity by the two men’s assistants, who are severely limited in their power and clout. Given the highly sensitive nature of the two offices, as the engine room of government and as the Nigerian state’s centre of international security functions respectively, this state of limbo should not be allowed to continue indefinitely.
From the beginning, we had expressed reservations about the Osinbajo panel’s composition. This was not because we anticipated the current impasse. With due respect to all three men’s integrity, we thought the appearance of justice was not served if the SGF was probed by three cabinet colleagues of his. The involvement of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) in the probe panel was also clumsy because Abubakar Malami, SAN had probed the SGF and the Acting EFCC chairman last December on Buhari’s direction. Even though government never made his report public, Buhari’s subsequent statement saying Lawal was not given fair hearing by the Senate sounded like the AGF report’s conclusion.
It is also recalled that when the Senate reacted to President Buhari’s stance and re-invited Lawal to appear before its Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crises in the North East, the AGF was seen trying to shield him by writing to the Senate and telling it to stay action on the matter since the SGF had gone to court. Similarly, the NIA leaked out information during the Osinbajo committee sittings that its suspended DG testified that NSA Monguno was briefed about the secret operations for which the $40m were kept in Osborne Towers. Given that information, the NSA should also not have served on that probe panel and should instead have been a witness.
That was why several stakeholders including us called instead for a judicial panel of inquiry into the cases of the two officers in order to confer on the process greater appearance of detachment and impartiality. One way or another however, the Presidency should now speak up and tell Nigerians what it intends to do with the Osinbajo report.
Daily Trust Editorial

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