Nigerian activists said on Sunday that they had sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, urging him to refer the alleged grass-cutting scandal to anti-corruption agencies and publish a preliminary investigation conducted by the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urged Mr. Buhari “to urgently refer the allegations of corruption against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for further investigation, and if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, for him to face prosecution.”
The organisation also urged President Buhari to “urgently publish the outcome of the investigation conducted on the matter by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN, and to ask Mr Malami to hand over the file to both the EFCC and ICPC.”
In the letter dated 27 January 2017 and signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization said, “We are concerned that the failure to suspend Mr Lawal from his position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation pending the investigation by Mr Malami, and the perceived lack of transparency in the outcome of that investigation may have created the impression that your government is treating Mr Lawal as a sacred cow.”
The letter copied to the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbayo reads in part: “SERAP believes that Mr Lawal’s case presents your Administration with a real opportunity to reassure a lot of Nigerians who may be worried about the direction of travel of your anti-corruption agenda. Rather than assuming a defensive posture to the matter, we advise you to use this case to show to Nigerians that there will be no two standards of justice in your Administration’s fight against corruption.”
“SERAP also believes the recommended approach would help to address the growing public suspicion and pessimism about your government’s ability to fight high-level official corruption to a standstill, and to avoid any collateral consequences. It is absolutely important that the public should have complete confidence and trust in your Administration’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and the impunity of perpetrators.”
“It is true that Mr Lawal enjoys a constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to a fair trial, which includes the right to be presumed innocent unless and until proved guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. But we believe that the right to presumption of innocence is one that should have personally be raised by Mr Lawal and not your government, especially given his position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation. SERAP believes that the guilt or innocence of Mr Lawal is for the court to decide, following a due process of law.”