Suspended government secretary absent at hearing

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

The suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Engr. Babachir Lawal, on Thursday failed to appear before the investigative public hearing organized by the Senate Ad hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East.

Senate’s invitation of the SGF was to allow him another opportunity to defend all allegations leveled against him with regards to the award and execution of contracts in the North East geo-political zone.

Mr. Lawal was severally invited by the Committee to appear and give clarifications on his alleged fraudulent role in the award and execution of contracts targeted at alleviating the sufferings of the Internally Displaced Persons in the boko haram devastated region but failed to show up.

Senate had last December, in an interim report indicted Mr. Lawal for allegedly contravening the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007, and the Federal Government Financial Rules and Regulations on the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on North-East.

The SGF, who was suspended recently, is also being investigated by a Presidential Committee on the allegation, headed by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

The Senate ad-hoc committee investigating the allegations wrote a letter inviting the suspended SGF to its investigative public hearing in continuation of the investigation.

The invitation letter to Mr. Lawal which was signed by the clerk to the ad-hoc committee, Mr. Barau Bungudu, asked the embattled SGF to appear at a fresh public hearing scheduled for Thursday by 10 am but just like in the previous invitations, he failed to honour it.

The Chairman of the committee, Senator Shehu Sani, expressed disappointment that the suspended SGF did not show up, neither did he communicate to the lawmakers on why he failed to attend the session.

Senator Sani also confirmed that Mr. Lawal’s absence from the hearing notwithstanding, the committee would go ahead to compile its report and submit same to the Senate on Tuesday next week.

“The last time the committee invited him, the suspended SGF said we should give him more time because he was engaged in other official engagements, and we thought that now that he is under suspension, he would have enough time to be here.

“We sent letters to his former office, and his house but the one for his house could not be delivered because the men at the gate turned back our messenger. Now we are here since 10am waiting for him and its now 12 noon. It is clear to us that he is not appearing. As you can see, he is not here.

 “We see this as deliberate choice to be absent from this hearing; and we believe that the general public has seen how we all tried to give the man opportunity to defend himself publicly. This is a public hearing, and we insisted that it should be open to all Nigerians to come and hear his own side of the story,” Senator Sani explained.

Another member of the committee Senator Ben Murray Bruce said that more incriminating information had been acquired by the committee against the SGF which he was invited to defend.

Confirming the development, Senator Sani said that it was the reason the committee would want to give him fair hearing before the public.

Confidence O