According to reports, the Presidential Investigative Panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday, grilled the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr. Babachir David Lawal.
Lawal’s interrogation at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, came a day after the three-man committee questioned the suspended Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayodele Oke, alongside other top officials of the nation’s spy police for over eight hours.
But unlike the session with Oke which lasted about eight hours, that of Lawal lasted only two and half hours.
Lawal was Wednesday last week suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari along with Oke who is being investigated over the discovery of $43.3 million, N23.3 million and $27,800 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, over which the NIA has made a claim.
The suspended SGF arrived the Vice President’s wing of the Presidential Villa, at about 1pm wearing a brown kaftan and immediately proceeded upstairs to answer questions. He departed at about 3:30pm.
It was the panel’s sixth day of sitting.
When he emerged from the meeting, Lawal was seen walking around the lobby upstairs at Osinbajo’s office, apparently in search of someone. He also pulled out his cell phone and made some calls.
Later, he returned to the office. Five minutes later, Lawal descended the stairs, fiddled with his phone with two aides- one policeman in uniform clutching a bulky file and the other in mufti- following behind.
About 30 minutes after the suspended SGF’s exit from the premises, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno were seen walking side-by-side at the lobby upstairs into another office.
It was not known whether they went back inside to review the files.
The panel began its meeting after Osinbajo received members of the Bangladesh military delegation at the State House, Abuja.
Among other things, the panel reportedly dug into several of the allegations levelled against Lawal, especially those that border on financial impropriety and violations of law and due process in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
It was gathered that the panel specifically questioned Lawal on how funds amounting to N210 million meant for the North East grass clearing projects allegedly got into an account of a company in which he is a signatory to.
A source close to the meeting also disclosed that Lawal was asked to provide explanation on why due process was not followed in the award of the PINE contract among other issues.
In December 2016, the Senate’s Ad-hoc committee on the Humanitarian crisis in the North East indicted him on handing out of fraudulent contracts in the IDP camps in Yobe State.
Chairman of the committee, Shehu Sani, while presenting the committee’s interim report, revealed that PINE approved contracts for projects that were not directly related to the plight of the IDPs.
Senator Sani noted that many millions of naira went into contracts that were not of any use to the IDPs. He also noted that many contracts were also inflated for inexplicable reasons.
The report indicted the PINE under Lawal’s leadership of profiting from the misery of the people displaced by Boko Haram insurgents.
The Senate had asked President Buhari to suspend and ensure prosecution of Lawal, over alleged breach of Nigeria’s law in handling contracts awarded by PINE.
Lawal’s company, Global Vision Ltd., was one of the companies indicted by the committee for allegedly benefiting from inflated and phantom contracts or ones not executed at all awarded by the PINE.
His firm was said to have been awarded contract to clear ‘invasive plant specie” in Yobe State.