ABUJA Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday ordered an investigation into corruption allegations against a senior civil servant related to the use of funds intended for handling a humanitarian crisis in the northeast of the country.
The director general of the National Intelligence Agency was also ordered to be suspended after the discovery of more than $43 million in an apartment complex in Lagos in what the presidency described as a “related development”.
Buhari suspended David Babachir Lawal, secretary to the Nigerian government, and ordered a probe into contracts awarded under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE), his spokesman said in a statement.
Reuters was not immediately able to reach Lawal – a Buhari appointee – for comment. PINE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
PINE was set up to coordinate the government’s response to the humanitarian crisis in the northeast where 4.7 million people, many of them refugees from the Islamist insurgency by Boko Haram, are on the brink of famine and survive on rations.
Alleged corruption and mismanagement have threatened to intensify the situation, one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises, say critics of the government’s handling of the northeast.
Analysts warned for years the insurgency – which has killed more than 20,000 people and forced 2 million to flee their homes since 2009 – would spill over, but critics say authorities and some aid agencies were slow to address humanitarian issues.
The presidency statement said it had also ordered an “investigation into the discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies” by the financial crimes agency in a residential property in commercial capital Lagos, in what it called a “related development”, without giving further details.
It said the National Intelligence Agency, Nigeria’s equivalent of the CIA, had said the money belonged to it. It said the investigation would inquire “whether or not there has been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds”.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said last week, on its official Facebook page, it had discovered $43.4 million, 27,800 pounds and 23.2 million naira in cash in the same Lagos apartment complex identified in the presidency statement.
The presidency statement said Buhari, who took office in May 2015 on promises to crack down on corruption, ordered the suspension of the director general of the NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Reuters could not immediately reach Oke for comment. The NIA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A three-man committee, headed by the vice president, is to conduct both investigations and submit its report to the president within 14 days.
(Reporting by Felix Onuah and Alexis Akwagyiram; Additional reporting by Paul Carsten; Editing by Alison Williams)
Osinbajo meets suspended SGF Lawal, NIA Director General evades journalists
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has met with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal, barely an hour after the announcement of Mr. Lawal’s suspension from office.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the closed-door meeting is connected with the work of the Presidential Committee set up to investigate allegations of misconduct against the SGF.
When accosted, Mr. Lawal refused to comment on the outcome of his meeting with the vice-president.
The Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ayo Oke, who was also suspended, was seen around the Vice President’s office immediately after the departure of the SGF.
The NIA boss, who noticed the presence of State House correspondents, however turned back and attempted to pass through Vice President’s exit gate.
He was prevented from going out through that point by security officials; the security also stopped Mr. Oke from passing through the service chief’s gate.
The NIA boss later left the Presidential Villa without seeing the Vice-President.
President Buhari on Wednesday ordered the immediate suspension of Messrs Lawal and Oke, pending the outcome of investigation of allegations levelled against them.
The presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, said the president ordered an investigation into the allegations of violations of law and due process made against Mr. Lawal in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East, PINE.
The President also ordered a full-scale investigation into the discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, over which the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, has made a claim.
“The investigation is also to enquire into the circumstances in which the NIA came into possession of the funds, how and by whose or which authority the funds were made available to the NIA, and to establish whether or not there has been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds.
“The President has also directed the suspension of the Director General of the NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke, pending the outcome of the investigation,” Mr. Adesina said.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the NIA claimed ownership of the over N13 billion after the EFCC announced the money was found at an apartment in Ikoyi based on a tip by a whistle blower.
A court has since ordered that the funds be temporarily forfeited to the Nigerian governemnt.
A three-person committee comprising the Attorney-General of the Federation, the National Security Adviser, and headed by Mr. Osinbajo is to investigate Mr. Lawal ad Mr. Oke.
The committee is to submit its report to the president within 14 days.