Grass-Cutting Scandal: Senate Panel Writes CBN, Demands SGF Firm’s BVNs

The Senate has requested for the Bank Verification Numbers of some companies linked to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal,
who were contracted for various projects on the rehabilitation of the Internally Displaced Persons.

The Senate Ad Hoc Committee on the Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East set up by the Senate to probe the alleged mismanagement of funds meant for the IDPs may also re-invite Lawal for questioning, it was also learnt on Tuesday.

Speaking to one of our correspondents on the level of the probe and the final report on Tuesday, an official of the Senate, who is conversant with the inner workings of the committee, said the panel did not want to rely only on the statements of account of the companies.

The source said, “Apart from the statements of accounts submitted to us during the investigative hearings, we have also requested for the Bank Verification Numbers of the companies to authenticate the details of transactions provided to us and for us to know the operators of the accounts.”

The source also told one of our correspondents that the contractors engaged for various projects on the rehabilitation of the IDPs would also be summoned by the panel.

It was reliably learnt on Tuesday that the companies to be invited for questioning have been linked with the SGF.

The companies include Rholavision Engineering Limited, Josmond Technology Limited, Medina International Global Limited, Muby Ventures Nigeria Limited and JMT.

The interim report of the committee had indicted Lawal and the Presidential Initiative on the North-East being superintended by the Office of the SGF.

Based on the interim report of the committee, the Senate had on December 14, 2016, called for the resignation, probe and prosecution of the SGF over alleged mismanagement of funds meant for the North-East rehabilitation under his watch.

The lawmakers specifically called on security and anti-graft agencies to arrest and prosecute Lawal, who is overseeing the presidential initiative, for allegedly owning one of the companies awarded contracts in the rehabilitation of the North-East.

Lawal was alleged to have resigned his directorship of the company after becoming the SGF and after the company had executed the contract.

The SGF had denied the allegation, saying what the Senate said was “balderdash.” He said it was an attempt by the senators to malign him.

The source, who also dismissed Lawal’s claim, showed our correspondent letters from the Office of the SGF confirming the receipt of invitations from the Senate panel

One of such letters was signed by the Permanent Secretary (“SSO”), Mr. Aminu Nabegu, and dated November 28, 2016.

It was further learnt that the Senate was fast-tracking work on the final report.

The chairman of the committee, Shehu Sani, also told our correspondent that the final report would be released once all stakeholders had given their accounts on the management of the funds.

He said, “We are still inviting more companies, contractors and more public officials. What we submitted was an interim report. We are going to issue a conclusive report after the budget process.”

Sani has also said that nobody will prevent the Senate from continuing with the investigation of Lawal.

Sani said the committee was investigating ‘massive misappropriation of funds in the North-East’ which would be pursed to a logical conclusion.

He said while the party was not opposed to the ongoing probe, its leadership was concerned with his choice of words at the Senate when the matter was discussed.

Sani made the comment while speaking with journalists shortly after a meeting with the members of the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress led by the Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, in Abuja on Tuesday.

Sani said he was at the national secretariat of the party to honour a summon by the APC leadership over his use of words at the Senate where he said that the President was deploying deodorant to fight corrupt elements in his cabinet and insecticides against others.

He said, “First, I wanted clarification from them whether the party is opposed to the probe of the looting of the funds of the Presidential Initiative on the Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East. They said the party is not opposed to it. I also ask them if the party is opposed to my interim report and they said no and so, I ask what their issues were.”

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