Shehu Sani, the Senator heading the committee whose investigation led to the suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, has called for the dissolution of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, chaired by Itse Sagay.
Mr. Sani, APC-Kaduna, made the call on Thursday, saying the Sagay-led committee was incompetent, having allegedly defended Mr. Lawal as being without guilt.
“President Muhammadu Buhari should as a matter of urgency dissolve his Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption,” said Mr. Sani. “It is a moribund and irrelevant assemblage.”
“A Presidential Advisory Committee headed by a man who defended the SGF is without honour.
“The chairman of the committee attacked me for my report on Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE); now that the president has taken steps in the direction of the committee’s report, I hope the professor will muster the courage to also attack the president. The advisory committee was looking for corruption in Sokoto while it’s there in `shokoto’.
“It is sad that most of the mercenary forces hired to rubbish the integrity of the Senate committee and defend those indicted have suddenly lost their voices.”
‘Itse Sagay Hits Back…’Shehu Sani is bitter, frustrated’
However, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), on Thursday said Senator Shehu Sani’s call for dissolution of PACAC was borne out of “bitterness” and “frustration.”
He said the call was due to the Presidency’s refusal to remove the acting chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
The Senate refused to confirm Magu on two occasions, following which the Presidency, with PACAC’s support, backed the Acting EFCC chairman to remain in office.
Sagay said it was the Senators’ failed bid to truncate the anti-corruption war by removing Magu that has saddened the likes of Sani.
Mr. Sagay, professor of Law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said:
“My committee did not support the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. We didn’t have any official view on that.
“Personally,” he added, “I did not express an opinion” when the Senate first indicted Mr. Lawal.
He continued, “My view really is that he (Mr. Sani) is smarting on behalf of the Senate that we have sustained our support for Magu and as a result of that support Magu remains in office, and will continue to do his job of clearing corruption which the Senate is not happy about because they want the corruption to stay.
“And it sounds very ill for Senate to say that anybody has no integrity. They have no basis to say that because their own situation as far is integrity is concerned is the most deplorable in the country. It sounds bad in their mouth to say somebody has no integrity.”
Sagay also said: “I’m not surprised at Senator Sani’s effusions because they (Senators) are very, very frustrated by the manner in which we have insisted that Ibrahim Magu continue to head the EFCC.
“They had hoped that they would be able to run down the struggle against corruption and make it totally ineffective by removing Magu. We stood against it. We have succeeded, so they are angry.
“His response is one of bitterness that we have stood in the way of their attempt to run down the anti-corruption struggle.
“It is his frustration that he is expressing in that manner, so I’m not at all surprised.”
On the allegation by Sani that he had defended Lawal, Sagay says:
“I never did. That is a blatant lie. I never defended Lawal.
“He (Senator Sani) should stop limiting his whole commitment to democracy on his little job as a sub-committee man that investigated Lawal.
“He had a life before then and he’s going to have a life after that. He should not limit all his existence on that little report that he wrote. That is over now.
“We’ve gone beyond that and he has to move on,” the PACAC chairman concluded.
However, according to PremiumTimes fact-check, Mr. Sani made the call on false premise.
It reports that after President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Mr. Lawal over allegations of breach of law and due process in the contracts awarded by the Presidential Initiative on North East, PremiumTimes sought Mr. Sagay’s view.
“It is the correct thing to do,’ he replied.
“One does not need to express it publicly. My view has always been that he should resign or be sacked because the issues are so clear.”
He said one of the highest officials in the country awarded contracts to himself, which is contrary to the constitution.
“I know at the end of the day he will have to go.”
PREMIUM TIMES reviewed the claims by the senator and the septuagenarian lawyer, known for harsh views on the Nigerian Senate and reports:
“Our independent checks revealed Mr. Sani based his call for the dissolution of Mr. Sagay’s committee on false ground.
“Mr. Sagay did not express support for Mr. Lawal at any time, neither did he attack Mr. Sani for his report on Mr. Lawal nor the Senate for asking Mr. Buhari to sack and prosecute the now suspended SGF.
“Rather, Mr. Sagay slammed Mr. Sani for attacking and accusing Mr. Buhari of treating corruption in the executive arm with ‘deodorant’.
“Then, Mr. Sagay said Mr. Sani’s blistering remark on Mr. Buhari was based on politics.
“He in fact denied having much knowledge about the SGF.
‘I don’t know too much about the Secretary to the Federal Government, I must confess that. I don’t know much about that,” the professor said then.
‘But I know the case of Magu thoroughly. And the allegations are spurious. There is no reality in them. The whole thing was distorted to give a wrong impression about Magu’, said Mr. Sagay on January 26.