Thursday 25 May 2017

Nigeria's Buhari suspends key aides over alleged graft

Nigeria's Buhari suspends key aides over alleged graft
(AFP 04/20/17)

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday suspended two key aides over an alleged contract scam and for keeping an unauthorised stash of cash in a private home, his office said.

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" in the north-east, the presidency said in a statement.

The Nigerian leader also directed that Lawal be suspended from office "pending the outcome of the investigations."

Last year, Lawal, a top-ranking member of the administration and a Buhari confidant, was alleged to have awarded contracts running into millions of naira to companies in which he had interests, within the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).

He denied the accusations.

The money was part of government funds meant to rehabilitate the victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast.

The Senate summoned Lawal to explain himself but he refused, prompting lawmakers to ask the president to remove him.

Buhari has also suspended Ayo Oke, the head of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), one of the country's spy bodies, pending an investigation into the discovery of a stash of cash in a private apartment in the upscale Ikoyi area of Lagos.

- Litmus test for Buhari -

Last week, the country's anti-graft agency EFCC seized over $43 million in cash during a raid on the apartment.

The money has been claimed by the NIA, prompting Buhari to order an investigation "to enquire into the circumstances in which the NIA came into possession of the funds, how and by whose or which authority the funds were made available to the NIA".

The probe will also establish whether or not there has been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds.

The investigators have 14 days to submit their report to the president.

The suspension of the two top aides is seen as a litmus test for Buhari who came to power in 2015 vowing to stop the plunder of state funds by corrupt politicians and public officials.

Critics have accused the no-nonsense former army general who first led a military regime in the 1980s as conducting a political witch-hunt because many of those arrested for graft are opposition party members or served in the previous administration.

But the government has dismissed the charges, insisting that anyone with proven case of graft would face the law.

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