SUSPENDED Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayodele Oke, wept on Wednesday, after attempts by him to get access to both the president and vice president’s offices were rebuffed.
This came after the announcement of his suspension as the agency’s boss in a release by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina.
Also suspended was the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Babachir Lawal, over the controversy surrounding the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North-East (PINE).
Oke’s suspension was in connection with the foreign and local currencies recently recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at a flat on Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State.
Announcing the suspension, Adesina said President Muhammadu Buhari had set up a three-man committee, headed by Vice- President Yemi Osinbajo, to investigate the cases involving the duo.
The committee, according to the statement, had two weeks to submit its report, while both Lawal and Oke would remain suspended pending the outcome of the investigation by the committee.
The most senior officers in their offices were, in the statement, asked to take charge of their affairs.
“President Buhari has ordered an investigation into the allegations of violations of law and due process made against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr David Babachir Lawal, in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
“The President has also directed the suspension of the SGF from office pending the outcome of the investigations.
“In a related development, the president has ordered a full-scale investigation into the discovery of large amount of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, over which the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has made a claim.
“The investigation is also to enquire into the circumstances in which the NIA came in possession of the funds, 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.
“The president has also directed the suspension of the Director-General of the NIA, Ambassador Oke, pending the outcome of the investigation.
“A three-man committee comprising the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and the National Security Adviser, headed by the Vice President, is to conduct both investigations.
“The committee is to submit its report to the president within 14 days.
“The most senior permanent secretary in the SGF’s office and the most senior officer in the NIA are to act, respectively, during the period of investigation,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, the suspended SGF said, on Wednesday, he was unaware of his suspension, as he emerged from the office of the Vice President moments after the development was announced.
Approached by State House correspondents after his meeting with Vice President Osinbajo, he said he had not heard of the suspension.
Below is his exchange with reporters:
Your suspension has just been announced. How will you react to the development?
Who announced it?
Then ask them. Why are you asking me? Who is the Presidency?
Have you been informed of the suspension?
By who? About what? What about you? Have you been informed?
By the Presidency sir.
I have not seen it. I should have been given… I have not seen the press release so I cannot comment on it.
It is currently trending. Are you doubting the authenticity of the statement?
I have not seen it.
Tell us the outcome of your meeting with the Vice President sir.
I am always here. I always meet the Vice President. I used to come here even before I was made SGF.
The entry of the suspended NIA DG, Oke, was dramatic, as he was not able to see either President Buhari or Vice-President Osinbajo.
It was not clear why he could not enter the vice president’s office through the Administration Entrance used by staff and visitors, as he attempted to go through the back gate reserved for the vice president.
Oke, who was seen shedding tears, was denied the use of the gate, causing his convoy of two Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) to turn towards the Service Chiefs Gate, ostensibly in an attempt to see the president.
Again, he was denied entry.
Oke, thereafter, turned the vehicles around and drove out of the Villa under the full glare of television cameras.
About 30 minutes later, Adesina ordered journalists out of the Administration Gate to enable the suspended NIA DG to return to see Osinbajo without prying eyes.
Senators hail suspension
A number of senators, on Wednesday, hailed the decision of President Buhari to suspend Lawal and Oke.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, who is also the chairman, ad hoc committee on the mounting humanitarian crisis in the North-East, Senator Shehu Sani, whose committee indicted the SGF, said the decision was commendable.
“We received the report of President Buhari’s action on the Senate committee report investigating activities of the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
“It is commendable that the president has taken the Senate recommendations seriously. The sword of truth is not just casted and sharpened for the neck of foes but also for those of friends. Moral gallows is not just meant for a belligerent foe but for a perfidious friend.
“It is commendable for the president to heed the call to fumigate the throne of lice and bugs with the same ability he goes after rodents afar. The Senate and the committee have nothing personal against the SGF or any person affected, but we simply did our job in conformity with our constitutional responsibilities and the moral calling of our conscience,” he said.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Power, Metallurgy and Steel Development, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, while commending the development, said “I think the action of President Muhammadu Buhari is long overdue. That is my take. Once there is an allegation of impropriety at that level, there was no point making it linger for such a long time.”
Former spokesman of the Senate Unity Forum (SUF) and chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Senator Kabiru Marafa, also described the suspension as a step in the right direction, adding that the decision would boost the confidence of Nigerians in the anti-corruption war of the president.
“The SGF had to step aside for him to be investigated. Nobody is saying that the SGF is guilty. But in the principle of fairness, he had to step aside for a proper investigation to be carried out,” he said.
It’s an afterthought —Fayose
Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, said the suspension and the setting-up of a presidential committee to probe the duo of Lawal and Oke was “diversionary, afterthought and a prelude to official cover-up of the original owners of the money.”
Fayose, in a statement on Wednesday, said the president would not have set up a probe panel if the scam was linked to members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Speaking through his Personal Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, the governor said “there appears to be many presidencies within the presidency and this is the reason for the confusion everywhere.”
Development a good riddance —Ozekhome
Constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome, described the suspension as good riddance to bad rubish.
The Lagos-based lawyer said he is now sure the government was beginning to listen to his critical but patriotic voice.
“We cannot continue to be a laughing stock in the international arena. The anti-corruption ‘fight’ has so far been a case of defending corruption within the government’s inner circle and it’s very kitchen cabinet, decorating it with powerful sweet-smelling sasarobia perfume, while fighting that of perceived enemies and critics with powerful insecticides, pesticides and herbicides.
“The chicken is finally coming home to roost. I congratulate President Buhari on this move, even if belated. But there are still more tonnes of petitions existing against some serving ministers and other key figures of this government, pending before the anti-graft agencies but which have so been carefully swept under the carpet.
“Let the music play on. Let the real anti-corruption fight begin,” the learned silk said.
ADP wants Buhari to overhaul govt
The leadership of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), on Wednesday, advised President Buhari to, as a matter of urgency, overhaul his government.
In a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja by its national publicity secretary, Mr Jimoh Akeem, the party described the suspension of Lawal and Oke as belated.
“The president needs to overhaul his cabinet because they are full of unclean and incompetent hands. This is not the change Nigerians voted for,” the statement read.
Edo PDP, APC react
Edo State chapter of the PDP, in a statement in Benin City, on Wednesday and signed by the state publicity secretary, Mr Chris Nehikhare, said “what is surprising and worrisome is the three-man presidential committee set up to investigate the allegations.”
It lamented that if the allegation involved members of the opposition and members of the judiciary, they would have been investigated by the Department of State Service (DSS), EFCC and the police.
Also, the state publicity secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Godwin Erhahon, said the development demonstrated the fact that President Buhari had nothing to hide.
“This has shown that he is committed to the anti-corruption fight. The fact that they were suspended does not mean that they are guilty.
“The president wants to be seen to be transparent and impartial and Nigerians should see that he is not impartial as has been alleged. It is a good step in the right direction,” he said.