Presidential media ambush Lawal in surprise interrogation
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja The suspension of Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, came as a rude shock to him. Lawal’s removal was announced while he was in a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Aso Rock. Emerging from the meeting, State House correspondents swooped on him and sought to get his reaction to the suspension. There was palpable look of shock in his face. By his reaction it was almost clear that he had no idea what had happened while he was in the meeting with the Vice President. Earlier, a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina had announced the suspension of the SGF on the allegations of violations of law and due process made by a Senate Adhoc committee, over the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) and ordered a full-scale investigation. The statement had also announced the suspension of the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Ayo Oke. The investigation is also to enquire into the circumstances in which the NIA came into possession of money found in a home in Ikoyi, Lagos, how and by whose or which authority the funds were made available to the NIA, and to establish whether or not there has been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds. While the investigation is ongoing, the president ordered the suspension of both officials from office pending the outcome of the investigations. Both investigations are to be conducted by a three-man Committee chaired by the Vice President with the Attorney-General of the federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno as members. The Committee is to submit its report to the President within 14 days. Emerging from the VP’s office an exchange between Babachir and reporters at the State House went thus. Press: Your suspension has just been announced. How will you react to the development? Lawal with expression of shock asked “Who announced it? Press: The presidency. Lawal: “Then ask them. Why are you asking me? Who is the presidency? Press: Have you been informed of the suspension? Lawal: By who? About what? What about you? Have you been informed? Press: Yes sir. Lawal: By who? Press: By the presidency sir. Lawal: “I have not seen it. I should have been given… I have not seen the press release so I cannot comment on it”. Press: It is currently trending online. Do you doubt the authenticity of the statement? Lawal: I have not seen it. Press: Tell us the outcome of your meeting with the Vice-President sir. Lawal: I am always here. I always meet the Vice-President. I used to come here even before I was made SGF. Shortly after the SGF left the Presidential Villa, the DG of the NIA showed up and was headed to the Vice President’s office, but turned to look for another entrance to avoid the waiting cameras of journalists. Oke was driven to the gate mostly used by Service Chiefs but was denied access. His convoy drove off. Later journalists were asked to clear from the entrance to allow him to return for his meeting with the Vice President. At the time of filing this report, Oke was already in the Vice President’s office for the meeting. The NSA who is a member of the investigation committee was also in the Vice President’s office.