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Buhari stumbled on the Babachir Lawal question yesterday – why it matters

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Buhari stumbled on the Babachir Lawal question yesterday – why it matters

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the reason he is yet to prosecute the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, is because there has been no strong evidence against him, concerning the fraud allegations that led to his ouster.

Backstory: Speaking during a town hall event hosted by Kadaria Ahmed on Wednesday, Buhari challenged anyone with evidence against Lawal to come forward.

“I don’t think that anybody that is being booted out is corrupt. I have to be careful. If there are strong allegations, people should come out with strong evidence like names of companies looted, contracts awarded, then, we take them before the court and ICPC and we have to trust the system and allow them to complete their investigation,” he said.

The President stated that the democratic system does not allow for just arresting people over allegations. “We did that in the military system, democracy is a multi-party system that does not approve that. So, if there is a strong allegation, the government may ask people to go like the former secretary.”

It took the intervention of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who was also on stage with the president to state that the government has not let Lawal off. He said investigations are on, and no one would be spared.

Why it matters: The Babachir Lawal saga is one of the clearest cases which highlights the double standards of the Buhari/Osinbajo government in the fight against corruption. Lawal continues to be close to the president despite the allegations that he defrauded Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). It has been almost two years since the incident and no further action has been taken. Recall that it took intense pressure from civil society organizations before Buhari was prevailed upon to fire Lawal in the first place. To put things in context: It took the government less than a week to move from allegations against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, to charging him to the Code of Conduct Tribunal, and then freezing his accounts. It is hard to agree that the president is fighting an honest war against corruption on this evidence alone.

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