by Alexander O. Onukwue
It’s been four weeks since the Osinbajo Panel was due to submit its report on investigations into suspended Secretary to the Federal Government, Babachir Lawal, and Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayo Oke.
A three-man panel instituted by President Buhari had a duty to assess the circumstances that surrounded the mismanagement of funds for the Presidential Initiative for the North East, where the SGF had been accused of using his companies to divert funds, and the details of over $43m found in a Bourdillon apartment, said to belong to the National Intelligence Agency.
The report of that panel was due to be submitted by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo on Monday, the 8th of May, 2017, before President Buhari embarked on his medical vacation on the 7th, a day before.
Since that time, little has come from the Acting President on the matter of the report. Presumably occupied by other national issues, the outcome of the Panel has taken the back seat, without any clarity or update on the dealings with which Mr Lawal and Ambassador Oke were said to be involved. Two visits to Katsina and Cross River states, the G7 Summit, three executive orders to ease doing business, and ongoing “consultations” on the 2017 Budget have apparently assumed top priority on Prof Osinbajo’s to-do list in the past four weeks.
However, for an administration whose main vehicle of Change was supposed to be through anti-corruption, there should be an urgency about the attention invested in making definite and conclusive statements on officials found wanting.
Perhaps the Acting President has not been as swift as he would have liked on Babachir Lawal, having to contend with the housekeeping duty of fixing the EFCC-DSS clash. Both, or at least one, of the agencies would be required to take up the case, if there is a case to be made from the report. With the EFCC’s controversial role in the NIA’s funds found in Ikoyi, it is probable that resolving the anti-graft decision to expose the money, though known to the Presidency, may be the drawback. It could also be the effect of the power-play and sizing up which has seen some questioning the powers of the Acting President as to what he can do or not do.
Whatever matters need to be cleared, it is in the administration’s interest to note that time is of the essence, and the longer Babachir Lawal stays suspended without a definite word on his fate, the easier it will become for a growing number of persons to lean towards an argument that there is no case against him.