Corruption and Underdevelopment

N544m Fraud: I was framed – Babachir Lawal

By Paul Michael, Abuja

Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, has said he was framed in an alleged N544 million corruption scandal against him.

Lawal spoke on Thursday during an interview with Channels Television.

Recall that in December 2016, a senate ad hoc committee on “mounting humanitarian crisis in the north-east” indicted the former SGF of fraud in a contract awarded for the clearing of “invasive plant species” in Yobe state, through the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE).

PINE, which was under Lawal, was at the time unable to account for N2.5 billion allocated for poverty alleviation for IDPs. The Senate ad hoc committee accused the former SGF of using N544 million to cut grasses.

Subsequently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Lawal and others over alleged fraud.

President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2017 sacked Lawal and according to the presidency, the decision was in line with the recommendation of the probe panel.

When asked during the interview on Thursday if he felt the allegation affected his public image, Lawal said the scandal has “enlarged” his profile.

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He said, “On the contrary, it has enlarged my profile. The thing is in court and I have pleaded not guilty and I believe I’m not guilty. A lot of Nigerians, everywhere I go, know it was a set-up. It was very clear.

“I know some people set me up. I won’t tell you. I know and they know that I know some of them have confessed.”
Asked if it is right for someone who is in government to influence a contract to a company in which he is a beneficiary, the former SGF said he had resigned from the company before his appointment into public office.

“I was a member of the board for 16 companies at that time (2015). I was managing director for one. I wrote letters of resignation to those companies.

“I instructed my lawyers to disengage me from the Corporate Affairs Commission, documented, written, and even the fee paid for.

“We had the board resolution sent to the banks delisting me as a signatory to all the accounts. All these are documented for everyone to see.

“In politics, nobody was interested in all these things. What happened, therefore, was that the company of which I was a managing director, unknown to me, got a contract as a consultant to supervise a project which was called grass cutting. It wasn’t grass cutting.”

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