Nigeria’s top civil servant sacked after corruption probe

By on 14/11/2017
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari

Nigeria’s highest-ranking civil servant has been sacked following a Senate investigation into alleged corruption in humanitarian aid projects for areas ravaged by terrorist group Boko Haram.

President Muhammadu Buhari fired David Babachir Lawal as secretary to the government of the federation (SGF) at the end of last month, after a panel of lawmakers alleged that he diverted aid money away from relief programmes in north-eastern Nigeria for private gain.

Lawal, who denies the allegations, had been suspended from his post since April, when the Senate investigation was launched. One of Buhari’s first appointments, he was replaced by Boss Gida Mustapha, managing director of the National Inland Waterways Authority.

Ayodele Oke, director general of the National Intelligence Agency, was also sacked after more than US$43m in foreign and local currencies was found by the financial crimes agency in a Lagos house.

The presidency announced in April that Oke would be investigated by the same panel as Lawal, and described the cash haul as a “related development” without giving further details.

The Lawal investigation centred on contracts awarded under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE), set up to coordinate the government’s response to the humanitarian crisis in the region.

Some 20,000 people have been killed and more than two million displaced from their homes in an Islamist insurgency led by Boko Haram, which was ranked as the world’s deadliest terrorist group in the 2015 Global Terrorism Index.

The panel said the kick-back scheme involved inflating the value of contracts issued under PINE to enrich the secretary and his associates, Reuters reported.

Companies that received contracts from a government body overseen by Lawal had transferred a total of 500m naira (US$2.2m) to a firm that he set up, the panel’s report concluded.

It recommended that Lawal be prosecuted for allegedly flouting procurement rules and breaking the oaths of office.

Human rights groups have called on Buhari to act on the recommendation.

“This is a positive development in the fight against grand corruption, although this decision is coming rather late, said Timothy Adewale, deputy director of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), as reported by Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper.

“Buhari now has to go a step further by making sure that both Lawal and Oke are promptly brought to justice in fair trials.”

Buhari was elected in May 2015 on a pledge to end endemic corruption in Nigeria, but there have been no major convictions to date. Over the past year, the president has spent more than 150 days receiving treatment in London for an undisclosed illness.

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London, who specialises in international news. She worked on daily newspapers for 16 years, reporting extensively on both general news and education. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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