By Tunde Adetunji, Abuja.
Any fear that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr. Babachir David Lawal, will come under the hammer of the Senate like Customs chief, Hameed Ali, was removed Thursday following the decision of the Upper House to postpone the Public Hearing on the Presidential Intervention in the North East (PINE).
The Senate went into closed session to consider two letters sent in by Babachir. In one he told a Senate Committee he would not honour its invitation because he had sued it.
In the second, rushed in after Ali was declared unfit for public office and advised to resign, the SGF changed his story and pleaded for a rescheduling of the Senate committee’s hearing for him to attend.
Sani told journalists later, “Now, we are set to invite all those persons. It was supposed to be today but, unfortunately, it could not happen.
“Meanwhile, you should understand that we are not investigating the SGF alone; we are investigating contracts that were awarded under the PINE. And over 20 companies were involved, but something very strange is the fact that some of these companies involved in these contracts, we cannot actually trace their addresses.
“We went there but they were not there. The option before us is to either report that they are ghost companies or we keep on searching until we find them. But it is most likely that it will be easier for the camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for us to find some of these names here.”
But apparently determined to sanitise perceived wrongs in the work of PINE, Senator Shehu Sami, who chairs the committee to conduct the hearing has promised on the floor of the Senate to “deworm, disinfect, and fumigate the northeastern part of Nigeria with the job which we are going to do.”
Sani’s comments may not be unconnected with a jab he took at President Muhammadu Buhari for giving Babachir a clean bill and refusing to discipline him for alleged financial malfeasance.
Yesterday, Sani explained the Senate decision further: “We were scheduled to hold a public hearing today to give a second opportunity to those persons who were either deliberately or conspicuously absent in the first sitting we had last year.
“Today, the newspapers were awashed with reports that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, has taken us to court, to restrain our committee from doing its work. Well, we are yet to receive any court order in that respect. But what we did receive is a letter from the secretary to the government of the federation of which with your permission I will read it.
“The senate committee is determined to do a very thorough job and we did submit before this senate the preliminary report which generated a lot of issues and we are committed to doing and going along the fullest and submitting the final report but we cannot do that without giving another opportunity for those who felt they were deliberately not given a fair hearing by the tone of the letter that was sent here by the presidency.
“Even though there are people who believe in the quote of Shakespeare which says the hell is empty all the devils are here but I will say it in another word, the same Shakespeare says there’s tide in the affairs of men” and I believe we should take this as a challenge.
“The Senate committee will give a new date for hearing…”
Updated: Babachir spared; Senate committee reschedules as probe begins on ghost jobbers
By Tunde Adetunji, Abuja.