The stand-off between the Senate and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF), Babachir Lawal, resurfaced yesterday as the Senate Committee on Federal Character suspended the defence of the 2017 budget proposal from his office.
At a time, heads of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) make it a priority to appear before relevant committees to defend their proposed budgets, Lawal opted to send the Permanent Secretary, General Services in the Office of the SGF, Mohammed Bukar, to represent him.
Lawal’s absence angered members of the Senator Tijjani Kaura-led committee, who refused to attend to Bukar. The Permanent Secretary informed the committee of the absence of the SGF minutes before commencement of the meeting.
The SGF, it was learnt, was attending a meeting, hence he could not appear before the senate.
But members of the committee insisted that the permanent secretary will not be allowed to represent the SGF.
They frowned at “the failure of the SGF to inform the committee in writing about his inability to be available for the budget defence.”
Lawal is already locked in a battle with the senate over accusations that he diverted funds meant for Internally Displaced Persons in the North East. The senate asked President Buhari to fire him but the president opted to stand by Lawal.
On Thursday, the lawmakers put off the budget defence and proceeded to brief Senate President Bukola Saraki on why it became necessary for the meeting to be postponed.
It was learnt last night that the SGF had indicated that he would be willing to appear before the committee at the next date.
A member of the committee told reporters: “Much as we try to protect the SGF as a brother, there are limits to what he should do. What he ought to do was to seek the understanding of the committee to reschedule the meeting, which is a normal thing.
“As far as the committee is concerned, courtesy demands that he should call the chairman. He did not appear and he did not show concern. Since he is not here and not ready, he should make contact with the committee to reschedule.
“Why he is not here is not cogent enough. He said he went to condole with a family over the loss of a loved one, but here we have a colleague, a senator for that matter, who is also supposed to attend the funeral of a loved one staying back to attend the budget defence.
“As far as we are concerned, the excuse he gave of going for the burial of a loved one is not a good one at all.”