The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has urged the Federal Government to constitute an independent body to investigate corruption allegations against suspended Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal.
The party made the call in a statement signed by Mr Dayo Adeyeye, the Publicity Secretary of its National Caretaker Committee, on Thursday in Abuja.
It said that panel should comprise eminent Nigerians with proven records of integrity, independence and competence.
It explained that an independent investigation of the allegations against Lawal and the Director- General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Amb. Ayo Oke, also suspended, would ensure transparency.
“This is the only way by which we can have confidence that a thorough and impartial investigation will be conducted.
“It is a way by which President Muhammadu Buhari also can reassure the general public that there are no sacred cows in his government for whom there are different set of rules,’’ the party stated.
The Presidency had on Wednesday announced the suspension of both men and constituted a committee headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to investigate the allegations against them.
The PDP recalled that the Senate had in 2016 set up an ad hoc committee headed by Sen. Shehu Sani, the senator representing Kaduna Central, to investigate the expenditures and activities of the Presidential Initiative for North-East (PINE).
The committee also investigated the alarming rate of humanitarian crisis in the North-East occasioned by the diversion of grains and other food supplies meant for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in that region.
The PDP said that at the end of its assignment, the ad hoc committee indicted Lawal of mismanagement of PINE funds and award of multi-million naira grass-cutting contract to one of his companies, Rholavision Engineering Limited.
The party said that contrary to expectations, the presidency, in a letter of Jan. 17, 2017 to the Senate, discredited the committee’s recommendations and refused to sack or prosecute Lawal, clearing him of all wrong doing instead.
According to it, instead of arresting and detaining Lawal as being doing to PDP members, there is a double standard of suspending him to be investigated by a committee.
“We are at a loss as to why the president would set up a panel comprising members of his cabinet to investigate other very senior powerful members of the same executive.
“Where is the transparency in that? This is not that we doubt the integrity of the Vice President, who we have the utmost respect, and other members of the committee,
“But, it appears the matter is being settled within the Government Closet without the transparency, independence and impartiality necessary in a situation like this.’’
The party also recalled that recently the president directed the Attorney-General of the Federation to investigate the SGF’s involvement in the PINE’s contracts.
“That investigation cleared the SGF of all wrong doings in the grass-cutting scandal as stated above.
“It is amazing that the president who swiftly accepted the recommendations of the Attorney-General would now suddenly set up another panel, including the same Attorney-General, to investigate the matter again.
Meanwhile, National Vice-Chairman (South-South) of the PDP, Mr Emmanuel Ogidi, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to also suspend and investigate members of his cabinet accused of corruption.
Ogidi, who commended the president for exerting the will to suspend the SGF and the NIA boss, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that suspension was not late as being insinuated in some circles.
“Before, Buhari’s fight against corruption has been selective, directed against PDP members but now I am happy that he has changed.
“But, I hope this will not just end at investigation; it should continue to prosecution level if they are found wanting.
“I also hope that there will also not be any cover up for anybody in the investigation as there have not been any cover up for PDP members alleged to be involved in corruption cases,’’ Ogidi said.
He called for transparency in the Vice President’s committee’s job, saying that Nigerians were watching “knowing that the members of the committee and those being investigated are of the ruling party’’.