Barely 24 hours after its constitution, the Presidential Investigative Committee on alleged infractions by two senior government officials got cracking yesterday.
The committee, headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, is probing suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal and National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Director-General Ayo Oke.
Lawal is alleged to have awarded a N200million contract to a company, Global Vision Limited, linked with him by the Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE) for the clearing of “invasive plant species” (weeds) in Yobe State.
Oke is being investigated over the $43.4million “covert operations” cash, which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) found in an apartment in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Contrary to the popular thinking that the NIA hid the $43.4million away from President Muhammadu Buhari, sources in the agency said yesterday that a brief was submitted to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) detailing the cash at hand as part of a comprehensive report for the President. But it was not clear last night whether the President actually got the report.
The Vice President and committee members met yesterday on their two-week mandate. A source said: “The VP and members of the panel met to set up the structure for their investigation and list those who are likely to be interrogated.
“Members also got copies of the Interim Report which was submitted to the Presidency by the Acting Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu and briefs from Engr. Babachir Lawal and Amb. Ayo Oke.
“The collation of issues to determine was ongoing as at press time .Once it is done, what is left is to isolate others who will appear before the panel, apart from Magu, the SGF and DG NIA. It is a big assignment with the right foundation laid by different memos/briefs already submitted to the Presidency.”
The committee is also expecting details of the operation in Osborne Towers from the EFCC, whose Acting Chairman Magu returned to Abuja yesterday.
Another source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The committee will certainly interact with all those involved in the request and approval of the funds; the remittance of the cash and those in charge of the management of Osborne Towers.
Some lawyers may represent the embattled SGF, the NIA DG, companies and others who are to appear before the committee. But, it could not be immediately ascertained if the committee will be disposed to the engagement of lawyers.
A source said: “This investigation is about the reputation of some individuals and companies who have decided to engage lawyers to be on their defence team.
“Those affected do not want to appear before the committee and get locked in any technicality which may lead to their dismissal or prosecution.
“Their argument is that it is also the standard practice all over the world to get counsel to come along with those being investigated.”
NIA sources insisted last night that the agency did not hide the $43.4million from President Buhari. A source said: “Contrary to what is being said, the NIA actually did not hide the $43.4million from President Muhammadu Buhari. This will imply that the agency has an ulterior motive.
“What actually happened was that the agency’s brief was submitted to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) detailing the cash at hand, including the $43.4m, as part of a comprehensive report for the President.
“We have all the memos written to ONSA. It is also a good development that the NSA, Gen. Babagana Monguno, is a member of Osinbajo’s committee. We hope that at the appropriate time, he will step aside to either corroborate or deny these memos.”
Apart from the Vice President and Monguno, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (AGF), is also a member of the committee.
The three-man committee is expected to:
enquire into the circumstances in which the NIA came into possession of the funds; find out 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.
There were indications last night that the EFCC has ended its search and combing operations in Osborne Towers in Lagos in respect of the $43.4million haul.
The operatives drafted for the assignment have returned to Abuja. But a skeletal surveillance was left in the controversial Apartment 7B.
Also, it was learnt that the anti-graft commission has obtained some vital documents from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on the company used to acquire the apartment by the National Intelligence Agency (CAC).
It was gathered that one of the documents provided a fresh insight into the acquisition of the apartment with EFCC putting another company in Ikeja under watch.
A reliable source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The EFCC has ended its search and combing of apartments in Osborne Towers. Those who went for the operation in Lagos are back to Abuja.
“There is however a surveillance still being out in place in Apartment 7B where over $43.4million was recovered.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “We have also obtained vital documents from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) implicating another company in Ikeja. The company is now under EFCC watch including the profiling of its accounts.