Nigerians to Buhari: Sacking Babachir Lawal, Oke not enough, prosecution them now

Prominent Nigerians and civil society groups have demanded the prosecution of the sacked Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and ex-DG of the National Intelligence Agency, Mr. Ayodele Oke.

President Buhari sacked the public officers on Monday. Before their sack, the President set up a panel headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to investigate allegations of some serious financial impropriety levelled against the two.

The panel submitted its findings and recommendations about six months ago but the President despite public criticisms failed to act on the report.

He, however, did on Monday by announcing their disengagement from service reportedly in line with the recommendations made by the panel, whose report has yet to be made public.

Reacting to the President’s action on Monday, notable Nigerians and groups said the sack was not enough, demanding more actions against the two.

SANS call for prosecution 
Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Emeka Ngige and Yusuf Ali, who spoke to one of our correspondents in separate telephone interviews in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, argued that the two should be prosecuted if the Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo-led panel made such a recommendation. They argued that doing so would give the Buhari-led administration’s fight against corruption the required boost.

Ali said, “If there is any issue of corruption or criminality, they should be prosecuted.”

Speaking in a similar vein, Ngige said, “If the VP’s panel recommended that they should be prosecuted, nobody is above the law. If there is a recommendation for prosecution, they should be prosecuted. That is the only way the President can assure the country and the international community that nobody is above the law and it is not business as usual.”

Also reacting via the telephone, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption Prof. Itse Sagay, said the sack was long overdue.

He said, “I think there has been a consensus on this, that it was overdue; there has been too much delay. Although I will like to put a caveat that government usually have a lot more information than the rest of us as the delay might have been discretionary due to the information they had. I was patient and I definitely endorse the final decision that has been taken.”

Citing examples of corruption cases that were treated with levity by the Buhari administration, the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, said indicted Babachir Lawal and Ayodele Oke and others still in Buhari’s government should be handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for investigation and prosecution.

He spoke through his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, saying, “Enough of using probe panels to shield people accused of corruption in Buhari’s government; rather, they should be arrested, detained and prosecuted by the EFCC as being done to others perceived as the President’s enemies.”

Similarly, the President of the Ijaw Youth Congress Worldwide, Mr. Perotubo Oweilaemi, said, “I urge Mr. President to go beyond sacking them. They should be prosecuted in a competent court of law.”

Impeach President, PDP tells N’Assembly 
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party has called on the National Assembly to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari over the way he handled the cases involving the removal of Lawal and Oke.

The party accused the President of double standard.

The spokesperson for the party, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, stated the party’s position in a statement in Abuja on Monday.

He said, “The statement on the sacking of Babachir Lawal, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Ayo Oke, the former Director General of Nigerian Intelligence Agency is a slap on the face of Nigerians.

“It is an insult on the collective intelligence of our people who have waited patiently for the President’s reaction on the humongous act of corruption by two of his principal aides and this is totally unacceptable.”

Adeyeye said that the party had earlier disagreed with the setting up of the panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to look into the corruption allegations against the two government officials.

He said such cases were better handled by either the EFCC or the ICPC.

He said, “First and foremost, we had disagreed with the President last year when he decided to set up the panel headed by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to investigate the matter because we thought that was the wrong course of action to take.

Social media was also agog with Nigerians calling for the prosecution of the duo. 

A Nigeria, by the user name Oracle, stated that, “Sacking is a step in the right direction. The next step is prosecution; anything outside this is not acceptable.”

Another commentator, Kalu9909, said it was not enough to terminate their appointments. “He decided to sack them as a result of the public outcry against his administration and the scandal that has rocked him lately. They must be arrested and prosecuted for the heinous offences they committed against Nigeria.”

A Punch reader, Evidence, also wrote, “They should be arrested and prosecuted. This belated firing does not cut it.”

Another commentator, Real, said,“These two men must face the music for what they did and if they are guilty, they need to be massively punished.”

Civil society groups call for more action 
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project hailed the President for sacking Lawal and Oke, but urged him to “urgently hand over” the two officials to the EFCC and ICPC for further investigation.

SERAP, in a statement in Lagos, on Monday, signed by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, said, “Buhari also has to move swiftly to publish report of investigation into the secret reinstatement of fugitive former civil servant, Abdulrasheed Maina, and without delay, identify and bring to justice anyone suspected to be involved.”

“This government now has a real opportunity to reassure a lot of Nigerians, who may be worried about the direction of travel of the President’s anti-corruption agenda that there will be no sacred cow as far as the fight against corruption is concerned.”

Two other civil society organisations namely Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights intensified the call for further action.

The CACOL Director, Debo Adeniran, said, “What is also needful is that those officials who have been relieved of their jobs must be handed over to the relevant agencies for diligent prosecution. We also urge the judiciary to ensure that justice is served and everyone sees it. The anti-corruption war has just been reinvigorated. The agencies and anti-corruption organisations must intensify their activities.”

The Human Rights Writers Association, in its response, called for the prosecution of the sacked officials without further delay. The association said only their prosecution after they had been relieved of their appointments would send the right signals. This was contained in a statement signed by its national coordinator, Mr. Emmanuel Onwubiko.

The CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said, “It is not enough that they were removed but they must also be lined up for prosecution.”

EFCC, ICPC free to go after them – Presidency 
Meanwhile, the Presidency has said the nation’s anti-graft agencies are free to go after both men.