The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, appeared before the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs on Monday, days after he failed to honour the committee’s initial invitation to defend his office’s proposed budget for 2017.
The initial schedule for Mr. Lawal to defend his office’s proposed budget of N9.88 billion was last Thursday.
He was represented by the permanent secretary (general services), Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mohammaed Bukar, whose appearance was rejected by the committee which insisted that Mr. Lawal must appear in person.
On Monday when he eventually appeared, Mr. Lawal said his initial absence was a result of the death of the wife of the Sports Minister. But his absence fueled suspicions that he took the decision as a result of his ongoing row with the Senate.
The Senate had last year asked President Muhammadu Buhari to relieve Mr. Lawal of his position and get him prosecuted after the legislature accused him of breaching the country’s law and code of conduct for public officers in handling of a “grass cutting” contract awarded by the Presidential Initiative for the North East, PINE, under his office.
Mr. Babachir later dismissed the Senate as saying “balderdash” and accused the lawmakers of desperation to “pull him down”.
In January, the president replied the Senate, saying Mr. Lawal was not given fair hearing and that the report of the Senate committee that indicted Mr. Lawal was a minority report as it was allegedly signed by three of nine members of the committee led by Shehu Sani.
But, Mr. Sani lambasted the president and his anti-corruption campaign.
Then, the Senate vowed to release a full report and that it would prove the culpability of Mr. Lawal when it resumed later this month.
During his appearance before the Tijani Kaura-led committee on Monday, Mr. Lawal said that out of the N9.9 billion proposed for his office, N3.4 billion was proposed for personnel costs, while N3.8billion was proposed for overhead, representing a N2 billion increase from the 2016 provision.
He said the amount proposed for overhead was meant for activities and programmes of other offices headed by various permanent secretaries in his office, as well as funding of activities and programmes of political office holders such as the special advisers and senior special assistants to the president.
He added that N2.7 billion would go to capital projects.
He however decried the provision for his office as inadequate.
Following questions from the Senators, Mr. Lawal assured that funds to care of former leaders had been “sufficiently” budgeted.