by Dolapo Adelana
The senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, Malam Garba Shehu has said President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive ordering the suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal was a clear warning to all.
Speaking in an interview with Television Continental, Shehu said the president never told the Senate that he cleared Lawal of the allegations levelled against him.
The president’s media aide dismissed Lawal’s claim that he was unaware of his suspension.
“The communication that the president sent to the National Assembly concerning the Secretary to the Government, Babachir Lawal, was misconstrued by many people. At no point did the president say he had cleared the SGF. What the president wrote in that leader was that he had been informed by Mr. Babachir Lawal that he hadn’t received a fair hearing from the Senate committee and that the SGF deserved a fair hearing, and I guess that’s why the Senate accepted to provide the SGF the chance to be heard.
“Well, you know that the Senate had appointed a date for him to make an appearance, there was some confusion concerning all of that and they said that they had postponed the hearing and they would appoint a new date for him. As we speak now the Senate has not called back Mr. Babachir Lawal to speak on that issue.”
On Lawal’s stance that he was yet to be informed of his suspension, Shehu replied saying, “Again our idea is not to engage in back and forth on this matter. Again, let me just give you this account, the tradition of President Muhammadu Buhari in dealing with all of the removals, including those of the military and so in, he has instituted a practice by which nobody hears of their own removal from office on the radio or television. He insists that each individual must be informed beforehand, so that they will let members of their family and staff know, and I am aware that the statement did nit go out as early as it was issued because all of the parties needed to be contacted before it was issued, and it didn’t go out until exactly 1pm.
He added, “What has happened has happened, we will not engage the SGF in any exchanges except to say that the president has set a very strong and a strict record since he came to office. Nobody will be fired on radio or changed from their position via the mass media, they must be informed, and I am aware that as early as 1o o’clock this statement was ready but it never was issued until 1pm but the idea was that all of them must be reached, informed that this had happened.
“On the contrary, it is a testimony to the president’s strict adherence to the due process of the law, to fairness and equity, because if the president was in a haste and he felt under pressure, he would have removed or sent the SGF on suspension on the basis of the interim report. But having seen that this report was an interim one, the Senate, they knew that they owed it to the president to prove it, to put before him a final report, which as I speak to you hasn’t come in as at now. I’m not blaming them for the delay in this action, but if the president had received that final report earlier than now he would have acted on it. However, it would seem to me that the president is now determined to get his own report and on the basis of which he now asked the Vice President to go and investigate and report back to him.”
Speaking on how far the presidency was ready to go in its corruption fight, Shehu said the SGF’s suspension was a clear warning.
He said, “This is the highest it can get to. People who harboured doubt in their own minds they no longer have that justification. In the pecking order of the presidency, you know that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation is the third highest ranking official in the executive arm of the government. If the president would do this, as an act of courage really it sends out that message that no one henceforth is beyond the reach of the war against corruption and they better not indulge in it.”