SGF, Nigerian senate and faulty steps – By Okanga Agila

In its customary and baseless umbrage, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has indicted the Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr. Babachir David Lawal over alleged contract scams. Flowing from this, the Red Chamber has also issued a matching order in a resolution calling on his resignation or suspension.

Precisely, the indictment of the SGF is over alleged contract infractions from the Presidential Initiative on the Northeast (PINE) on Internally Displayed persons (IDPs) camps. The Senate also directed President Muhammedu Buhari (PMB) to ensure his prosecution for contravening Nigeria’s code of conduct for public officials as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.

Nigerians need no soothsayer to remind them of the absence of a Senate, which can proudly lay claim to the status of truly venerated parliamentarians of Nigeria.  It has been the unfortunate situation since the return of democracy in 1999.

It explains former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s (OBJ) constant criticisms of the National Assembly. He adamantly and consistently describes them in derogative terms as crooks and unarmed robbers. Weeks ago, OBJ at the Akintola William Annul Lecture series in Lagos renewed the bellicose in these words;

“The National Assembly cabal of today is worse than any cabal that anybody may find anywhere in our national governance system at any time. Members of the National Assembly pay themselves allowances for staff and offices they do not have or maintain. Once you are a member, you are co-opted and your mouth is stuffed with rottenness and corruption…the National Assembly is a den of corruption by a gang of unarmed robbers.”

Like OBJ’s vexations, what is however novel today is the realization of the current Senate headed by Senator Bokula Saraki, as incomparably worse than preceding Senates. Many a times, they are seen indulging in responsibilities which at best seek to usurp the duties of other arms of government, while their cardinal job of legislation suffers neglect.

There is nearly nothing this senate has set out to do that it has done cleanly to the applause of all. It is famed in scandals and the blackmail of the executive.

When some Senators queued up to pressurize the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) against prosecuting Senator Saraki for alleged violation of assets declaration laws for public officers, it gave an inkling into their mindset. The egoistic refusal to consider President Muhammedu Buhari’s (PMB) about $39 billion loan request to salvage Nigeria or Sen.  Dino Maleye’s verbal assaults to Senator Remi Tinubu have cleansed the Senate of any vestige of integrity.

The Senate’s grudge against Babachir is his alleged fraudulent handling of the contract awards emanating from PINE, an initiative domiciled in  the SGF’s office for supervision.

The Senate’s ad-hoc committee chaired by Senator Shehu Sani  which conducted an inquest into the mounting humanitarian crisis in the Northeast affecting IDPs claimed its findings suggest Babachir awarded fake and inflated contracts to his company,    Global Vision Ltd. The Senate report alleged the SGF awarded the N200 million contract to clear ‘invasive plant specie’ in Yobe State to his company, where he presided as a director until last September, while holding the position of SGF.

It also accused PINE of exploiting the critical and deplorable conditions in IDPs in camps in the Northeast to allegedly award fraudulent contracts, as realities on ground in the camps showed a chasm between spent funds and remedied problems.

The Senate marketed their pre-conceived intentions on PMB through Senator Isah Misau who called for SGF’s suspension and prosecution. Misau claimed Buhari administration have difficulties with performance delivery “because of people like the SGF,”   noting that “Without the prosecution of the SGF, this anti-corruption fight will go nowhere.”

In Babachir’s reaction to the Senate’s altercation with him, he described the lawmakers as people infested with the pull-him-down syndrome which they unleash on the best people unjustifiably, insisting that the Senate resolution was gibberish. Reminding Nigerians of the familiar imprints and antecedents of the Nigerian Senate, Babachir insisted that the Senate resolution is balderdash insofar as the committee never deemed it necessary to accord him the opportunity to defend himself over the allegations before nailing him in court of public opinion, after concocting outright blatant lies.

His words, “It is therefore, surprising that they devoted a whole session of today (yesterday) at maligning me, claiming what is not true without even giving me the chance to come and put my own case before them.”

The SGF made a valid point at this juncture.  The validity of his submissions can be gleaned from the fact that as lawmakers, Senators are privy to the stipulations of law which demands fair hearing from all parties to a dispute before a verdict of condemnation is issued. But since today’s Nigerian senate is increasingly turning towards the absurd, extending such luxury to the SGF, who is perhaps, their arch-enemy, is unthinkable. So, they rushed like ravenous wolves in all directions to devour him with a verdict of guilt.

Anyway, Babachir is a man who is not given to the niceties of groveling before arrant rubbish, bluntly told the Senate “I will not resign.” The scenario brings to the fore for the umpteenth time, the Senate’s obstinate nude dances in the market place.  It is a chamber that has so far stripped itself of any modicum of integrity and respect in public estimation.

It is a Senate that allegedly forges House Standing rules; it is a Senate whose leader, Senator President Saraki has engaged tricks to evade trial for his alleged false assets declaration and it is a Senate with the least consideration of the feelings and the pains of the masses; they preach patriotism but settle for foreign official cars, worth millions,   in the time of the country’s economic recession.

Sometimes, without any scruples, they anoint themselves with the wigs and robes of members of the Bar and the Bench, by conducting investigations into everything, everywhere to pass damnable verdicts. But sensitive bills affecting the lives of Nigerians gather dust on the shelves.

It is the proclivity to pursue the mundane, instead of the germane that the PIB has survived many sessions of the Senate untouched; the bill for the establishment of the National Poverty Eradication Commission is still at its virgin stage and for sure, a bill for the establishment of Special anti-graft and other related offences, as contemplated by PMB would be stalled and frustrated, because it would speedy the trial and conviction of the corrupt ones among them.

But when they resolved to protect Saraki from prosecution or whittle down the powers of Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), amendment to clauses in the enabling Act received expeditious attention and passed overnight. The 2017 Appropriation Bill is likely to be passed mid next year again, as they would devote more time to chase the SGF. Can these Senators excuse Nigeria from their profane tendencies?

Okanga writes from Agila, Benue State.

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