Grass-Cutting Scandal: Why SGF Lawal, Rholavision boss won’t appear before Senate

Babachir Lawal

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, has told the Senate that he will not appear before its ad-hoc committee on ‘mounting crisis in the North East’ on Thursday, saying the subject of his invitation is already a matter in court.

The News Agency of Nigeria, Wednesday evening, reported Mr. Lawal’s decision to shun the hearing slated for Thursday. However, the chairman of the committee, Shehu Sani, and its clerk, told PREMIUM TIMES they were yet to receive any such notice from Mr. Lawal.

In the interim report of the committee presented to the Senate last December, Mr. Lawal was accused of corruption and of breaching the country’s law in the handling of a “grass-cutting” contract and other ones awarded by the Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE), an agency under his supervision.

Following the indictment, the Senate then asked President Muhammadu Buhari to sack and prosecute Mr. Lawal, who, in a reaction, said the lawmakers were talking “balderdash.”

In his response to the lawmakers, Mr. Buhari, in a letter to the Senate, defended Mr. Lawal saying he was not given fair hearing, thus necessitating the new summons.

However, Mr. Lawal went to court, challenging his summon, and indicated he would not appear on Thursday.

Similarly, Mr. Sani told PREMIUM TIMES the committee received a letter from Rholavision Ltd., that its “Managing Director” would not be available for Thursday’s hearing because he/she could not be reached.

Rholavision was incorporated as an IT firm by Mr. Lawal in 1990, he confirmed. But it was found by the Senate to have handled a N233 million bush-clearing contract in the north-east in 2016.

The Senate alleged that as at the time the contract was awarded in March 2016, Mr. Lawal was still a director in the company and that he only resigned in September of that year.

Even so, as at the time of presenting the interim report, the Senate said Mr. Lawal “is the signatory to the company’s account.”

Mr. Lawal’s directorship of Rholavision while being a public official contravened Nigeria’s code of conduct for public officials as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, the Senate said.

In the Rholavision letter seen by PREMIUM TIMES, a manager at its Abuja office wrote, “As of the time we received your letter, our managing director (MD), who lives at our head office in Kaduna, had travelled to his village for a burial of a relation and could not be reached up till today, Tuesday, 21 March, 2017.

“In view of the above, kindly avail the company another suitable date for the committee to enable our MD to appear.”

Mr. Lawal insisted he resigned from Rholavision after he was appointed SGF in 2015, before the company got involved in the controversial north-east contract.


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