Senate seeks resignation, trial of SGF over IDPs funds
A report presented to the Senate yesterday accused the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir Lawal of complicity in the alleged misappropriation of funds donated to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North East.
Consequently, the lawmakers asked Lawal to immediately resign his office and face prosecution for alleged abuse of office and inflation of contracts.
The Senate took the decision after adopting the interim report of its adhoc committee, headed by Shehu Sani, which investigated the mounting humanitarian crisis in the North East caused by hunger, disease, squalor, deprivation and want amongst the lDPs.
Presenting the report, Sani disclosed that “the committee discovered that all contracts from the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE) were awarded under the principle of emergency situation as stipulated in Section 43 (i) & (ii) but with absolute disregard to subsection (iii) & (iv) of the same Section 43 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.”
According to him, the Act stipulates: “All procurements made under emergencies shall be handled with explanation but along principles of accountability, due consideration being given to the gravity of each emergency; and immediately after the cessation of the situation warranting any emergency procurement, the procuring entity shall file a detailed report thereof with the bureau which shall verify same and issue a certificate of ‘No Objection.’
Sani told the Senate that “the entire procurement activities carried out by the PINE contravened the Federal Government’s Financial Rules and Regulations number 2948.’’
The committee quoted the rules as saying that “under emergency situation, a procuring entity may engage in direct or single source procurement of goods, works, or services; that further to sub-section (i), procurement shall be made expeditiously, without losing sight of the principles of accountability and transparency; and that on cessation of emergency situation warranting procurement under this method, the procuring entity shall file records of procurement proceeding with a view to obtaining Certificate of ‘No Objection’ if necessary from Bureau of Public Procurement.”
Sani told the Upper Chamber that “most of the contracts awarded by PINE have no direct bearing/impact on the lives of the displaced persons apparently languishing in hunger/starvation, disease, squalor and other deplorable conditions in all the IDPs camps.”
The report listed the contracts under reference as PINE’s contributions to two conferences on rebuilding the North East and the “purported payment of over N223 million for the removal of invasive plant species in Komadugu, Yobe water channels.
“The PINE took undue advantage of the provision of emergency situation contract award in the Public Procurement Act, 2007 to over inflate contracts.
“Contracts were awarded to companies belonging to top government officials’ cronies, family members and close associates. For example, Rholavision Engineering Limited incorporated in 1990 with RC No. 159855 at the Corporate Affairs Commission, Abuja to carry out information and communication technology services, anchored by Babachir Lawal, the current Secretary to the Government of the Federation was awarded consultancy contract for the removal of the invasive plant species in Yobe State on 8th March, 2016. Although, Babachir resigned the directorship of the said company in September 2016, it is on record that he is still the signatory to accounts of the company,” the panel chairman said.
According to the committee, “95% to 100% payments of all contracts awarded by PINE have been paid even as some contracts are yet to be fully executed. An example is payment of N108 million for the supply of 1100 units of temporary tarpaulin carbines at N302,000.00 per unit made to Dantex Nigeria Limited despite the fact that 125 units valued at N37.7m were yet to be supplied.”
After an exhaustive debate on the report, the Senate adopted the recommendation that the SGF should resign and be prosecuted.