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The kind of clearance the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, received from the presidency will not only cast immense doubts on the sincerity of Buhari’s fight against corruption, it is likely to define the image of this government, especially with the new administration in the U.S.
It is not a question about the SGF’s innocence or culpability, but about how he was ‘’cleared’’ of other related allegations without convincing explanations.
And since the funds that were investigated by the senate have a lot to do with the rehabilitation of displaced citizens, who are suffering from the hardship created by Boko Haram, major international donors would certainly be watching, attentively.
This will certainly shape their opinion on Buhari’s presidency, especially the new government in America which is trying to understand how U.S taxpayers’ money is spent abroad.
For instance, Trump’s transition team recently asked the State Department why the US was bothering to fight Boko Haram and why the Chibok girls have not been found, according to a New York Times report.
Part of the tone of the four-page letter was this: “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our funding is stolen? Why should we spend these funds on Africa when we are suffering here in the U.S.?”
Here’s is one point foreign governments might underline: The President’s letter to the senate exonerating the SGF from allegations of corruption did not attempt to explain the reasons for the transfer of over N200 million naira to Rholavision, the SGF’s ‘former firm’.
TheCable newspaper had exclusively obtained Rholavision’s bank statements, with evidence of transfers from Josmon Technologies—a company which was awarded a grass clearing contract by the SGF’s office.
Even though the SGF claimed that he had written to his lawyers relinquishing his shares in Rholavision in August 2015, before the transfers from Josmon Technologies, there are evidence in the public domain that the letter written to CAC – the body which should have been the first to be put on notice – was in September, 2016, after about N200 million had been transferred.
Besides, the president’s letter would have tried to explain how Josmon Technologies obtained the N200 million it paid to the SGF’s former company. Such clarification could reinforce the SGF’s innocence.
Also, the questions about the missing funds allocated to the Presidential Initiative on the North-East, which is managed by the SGF’s office, has to be addressed convincingly. If this is done, the SGF’s innocence would be further established.
There are also issues of ‘due process’. Is it true, as it is reported, that the N248 million contract to Josmons required only N48 million to execute? The company seemed to have had extra N200 million to play around with.
Meanwhile, the president’ letter has provoked varied reactions, with Senator Sani challenging the president’s claim that the SGF was not given ample opportunities to clear his name. In fact, the senator, who is from the president’s party, re-echoed the mood of the populace: he questioned the genuineness of the current fight against corruption.
The manner with which the investigations on the SGF was conducted does not do this administration any good. It will not only reinforce the argument the opposition has been making concerning the current fight against corruption, it might also affect international funding to displaced people and the fight against Boko Haram.
America would not want humanitarian aids diverted. And if the president does not come up with clarifications on why he thinks the SGF is innocent, these aids might start dwindling.