President Muhammadu Buhari has been urged to sack some Federal Government officers who have been on suspension as a result of corruption, in order to save his anti-graft war.
They include the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf, and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke.
The call was made in separate interviews with Saturday Punch, by Chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in some states of the federation against the backdrop of several probe reports submitted to the Presidency, which they said appeared to have indicted the affected top government officials of corrupt practices.
If the President failed to act on the reports of the panels that investigated the trio, the APC chieftains warned that his (Buhari’s) integrity could be eroded, his government would be brought down and his anti-corruption campaign would be killed.
An APC chieftain in Adamawa State, Mark Wosi, who called for the sacking of the indicted government officials, said from all indications, Buhari was stalling on the issues because the men involved were his loyalists.
“You can’t keep telling us you are fighting corruption while there are corruption allegations against people around you and yet you can’t do anything about it. This only means you are the father of corruption.
“The integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari is now in doubt with all these fraud cases under his nose.”
On Wednesday, August 23, 2017, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo submitted to the Presidency the report of the committee that investigated allegations of corruption against Lawal and Oke.
In the same vein, a committee set up by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, had discovered that frauds to the tune of N919 million allegedly took place under Yusuf, who had spent less than a year at the NHIS. The report was then sent to the President on September 4.
Although Oke was supposed to have proceeded on pre-retirement leave from August as his tenure ends in November, there has been no official decision by President Buhari on allegations against him.
In view of this, the Chairman, House of Representatives’ Committee on Justice, Mr. Razaq Atunwa, called on the President to sack and prosecute the affected government officials.
Speaking on the matter, Atunwa, who is representing Asa/Ilorin West Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, said Buhari’s delay in taking action was depicting his government in bad light, adding that the reports on the top government officials must not be swept under the carpet.
He said, “If someone has committed a financial crime or fraud, he must not only be dismissed from office but be made to face the music. It is for the court to decide if the person is guilty of that offence or not.”
According to an APC chieftain in Ogun State, Chief Bode Mustapha, if the report of the findings indicted the SGF, he would expect the President to immediately act on it.
Mustapha said beyond pronouncements, there was a need to strengthen the anti-corruption institutions.
“We don’t need this kind of suspense now. It is capable of bringing President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration into disrepute.
“He (Buhari) is allowing the Peoples Democratic Party to have a field day in accusing the APC of shielding corrupt people, whether rightly or wrongly. This is a big shame.”
“It is high time the President took the bull by horns. Since he has made pronouncements in the case of the Abdulrasheed Maina (a former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reform) by sacking him, he should also do the same thing on Lawal, Yusuf and others.”
The factional Chairman of the APC in Ebonyi State, Mr. Ben Nwaobasi, said sacking the affected government officials would lend credence to the anti-graft campaign of the Federal Government.
“Nobody should be condoned; any person who runs afoul of the law and indulges in corrupt practices should be made to face the full weight of the law. All those who have a hand in any corrupt practice should be punished”, he said.
Meanwhile, an APC leader in Osun State, Amitolu Shitu, also asked the President to sack Lawal and Yusuf over the allegations of corruption levelled against them.
Mr. Shitu, who is also the coordinator of DeRaufs (a pro-Governor Rauf Aregbesola group), said the anti-corruption war of this administration had failed and that the President had disappointed many Nigerians who voted for him to purge the nation of corruption.
“President Muhammadu Buhari was voted in because of his stance on corruption. He was seen as a man of integrity and a leader, who would fight corruption, which has prevented Nigeria and Nigerians from developing.
“Unfortunately, he has failed in his anti-corruption war. He failed, not because he is stealing money, but because he allowed corrupt politicians around him to hijack governance from him and run the affairs of the nation with impunity.
“It is not enough for the President to suspend the SGF and the NHIS boss, I believe he should sack them. And not only these two officials, there are others who were accused of corruption. Nothing has been done against them.
“Buhari’s campaign against corruption has failed and the rate of corruption now is so alarming.”
However, he stated that the President could resurrect the hope of Nigerians in him by sacking and prosecuting any of his close aides and allies accused of corruption.
In the same light, a chieftain of Buhari’s party in Ondo State, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being accused of an anti-party misdemeanour, condemned the President’s silence on the various allegations of fraud against some government officials.
The party chieftain alleged that a cabal in the Presidency had become uncontrollable by Buhari, saying most of the suspected fraud cases were, in one way or another, connected to some members of the cabal, “making it impossible for the President to act on the cases.”
According to him,
“I think the silence of Mr. President on those issues is deliberate because it involves some of his boys. But as a matter of fact, these matters are rubbishing our party. How could the President be silent on fraud cases in his government when we had told Nigerians that we wanted to fight corruption?
“The problem of Mr. President is that he is not in charge; it is the cabal that is controlling him and any matter that involves members of the cabal or their friends may not see the light of the day.
“If the President still wants Nigerians to respect him and his administration, he should do something about the fraud cases involving Lawal, Oke and others. Some of us in the party are also not happy about what is going on.”
Also speaking in support of the call for the sacking of Lawal and others, another APC chieftain in Edo State and a former House of Representatives member, Mr. Ehiogie West-Idahosa, said:
“As far as the SGF is concerned, we do know that there is a report which is pending, but nobody knows whether it will be presented at the end of the President’s tenure. I think the President is going to have a big albatross around his neck if he does not do away with the SGF.
“You can see how that suspension was celebrated. You could see the controversy associated with that person. And I think the safest bet for him (Buhari) is to renounce that appointment and get somebody else in order to save himself some credibility.”
West-Idahosa pointed out that it would be arguable if the President can be re-elected in case of an election today because people believed that he would fight corruption.
From the south-south region of the country, Chief Richard Kpodo, an APC chieftain in Bayelsa State, who is a former Interim Chairman of the party in the state, said Buhari should sack them if he found them culpable, adding that such would dispel insinuations that the anti-corruption war had been one-sided.
Kpodo, nevertheless, said, ‘’The President is a very busy man and I think he is taking his time to study the reports, but if he finds them guilty, he must not hesitate to sack them as he did Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina.’’
In Owerri, the Imo State capital, the former (Legal) Adviser to Governor Rochas Okorocha, Prof. Francis Dike, SAN, also noted that the President’s delay in taking decisions on sensitive issues like Lawal and Yusuf would make tongues to wag as well as affect the President’s mantra of zero tolerance for corruption.
In his opinion, however, another chieftain of the APC in Ondo State, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, advised that anti-corruption fight should not only be seen as Buhari’s responsibility but everybody’s.
But, Aba Alli, a childhood friend of the President, who is a former senator in the Second Republic, said the President would never joke with the issue of corruption. He described the allegations against Yusuf as an “internal matter between the minister and the NHIS boss.”
He said, “You and I don’t know what the report (on the SGF) contains. President Buhari is taking his time so that he would be fair to all concerned.”
All the same, the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who spoke at the Greater Nigeria Pastors Conference in Lagos, on Friday, October 27, noted that the President would soon address the SGF and the NIA DG’s cases.
“As for the SGF, DG of NIA matter, the president will decide on that soon. The SGF remains suspended and the president will speak on that very soon but I cannot tell when,” he stated.