The Senate on Tuesday backed President Muhammadu Buhari on the sacking of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his remarks on a point of order raised by the Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, at the plenary on Tuesday, hailed Buhari for “doing what is right on this matter.”
A probe by the Senate into the alleged mismanagement of funds under the Presidential Initiative on the North-East supervised by Lawal had indicted the former SGF.
Na’Allah, who recalled that the Senate initiated the probe that led to Lawal’s indictment and removal, said the lawmakers were also responsible for the sacking of ex-Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, who was recently reinstated into federal civil service in a controversial circumstance.
Na’Allah said, “We cannot claim not to know that between yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday) there has been official confirmation of the appointment of a new Secretary to the Government of the Federation and, of course, the termination of the appointment of the former occupier of that office.
“I find it necessary to say this because when I made the statement that if we religiously keep to the oath of office we took and our engagement with the Nigerian public, that those who have tried to bring down the institution of the Senate, God will vindicate us before their eyes.
“The issues surrounding the termination of the appointment of the former SGF emanated from this 8th Senate. Today, we have been vindicated. The issues surrounding Maina emanated from the Senate. Can we now not have the authority to shout a sound of vindication? We have.
“You will remember that when we resolved as a Senate to complement the efforts by the Federal Government in the fight against corruption, we said it here and vowed that we would do whatever that is humanly possible to live by the oath of office we have taken to defend this constitution.”
The Deputy Majority Leader cited Section 80(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution, which he stated as empowering the legislature to check the excesses and mismanagement in government.
He however condemned Nigerians as gullible for protesting against the constitutional duty of the lawmakers.
He said, “While it is necessary to make this statement, you will remember that when we started this crusade, so many things happened and let us not be quick to forget. These same people who we are fighting for – Nigerians – became gullible and were sponsored; toilets were provided for them to close the gate of the National Assembly in the name of ‘Occupy NASS.’ Every inconceivable thing has been done to bring down the 8th Senate, individually and collectively.”
Na’Allah urged other investigative panels to conduct thorough probes and present comprehensive reports to the chamber.
Saraki, in his remarks, said, “It has been a very tough journey in ensuring that we continue to defend the integrity of this institution. I want to commend the government and Mr. President for doing what is right on this matter. As you said, when we started, it was more of blackmail but the right thing has been done. We will continue to keep to our commitment to fighting corruption-non-selective – and we say to Nigerians, as part of our responsibilities, that any case, evidence or information brought before the Senate; we assure you that we will investigate and expose it.
“We don’t fear anybody when doing our work. We have made it clear and that should show you our commitment. Also on that note is the observation made by the deputy leader: there is a few investigations still going on. Committees, please ensure that your reports are submitted on time so that we can conclude those investigations. There is quite a few of them and we want to complete them promptly and do justice to them. We will be fair to everybody but we will do our work.”
Saraki, who noted that “a lot of youths are used by corrupt politicians,” urged them to begin to “see the right thing” and should not allow themselves to be used “in this kind of issues.”
Meanwhile, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan, has advised the Federal Government to recover the stolen funds from Lawal and the sacked Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayodele Oke.
He insisted that sacking the two men was not enough, adding that they should also be prosecuted for their crimes against the country.
The cleric said this in response to questions shortly after the Bicentenary Anniversary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, the Prophet and Founder of the Baha’i Faith, organised by the National Spiritual Assembly on Tuesday in Abuja.
He stated that President Buhari must go beyond Monday’s sacking of Lawal and Oke by prosecuting them according to the extant laws.
The Cardinal said failure to prosecute them might send the wrong signals to others and make them susceptible to the lure of corruption knowing they would merely be disengaged from their positions.
Onaiyekan said, “Nigerians should be patient with the government and President (Buhari) on this matter. Also, there should be further actions beyond their sacking.
“If nothing is done after that, others may think what can be meted to them as punishment for stealing millions is only sacking. They should also be made to refund the stolen money if they were found guilty and maybe we can forgive them.”
Onaiyekan used the occasion to preach religious tolerance in the country, saying it was the only way the nation could experience peace.