A familiar tremor of uncertainty is fluttering in the country over the implementation of the report of the three-man panel set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to probe suspended secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal and director-general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke.
With the president out of the country for medical check up in London, there is growing concern over who will receive and implement the report, since chairman of the probe panel, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, is now acting president.
The contention is that the chairman of the probe panel who is now acting president may likely not be in a position to receive and implement his own report.
Besides, it was not clear whether the probe committee actually submitted the report yesterday as it promised last week.
The senior special assistant to the Vice president on media and publicity, Laolu Akande, had said last Wednesday that the committee will submit its report yesterday.
Prominent lawyers in the country, including members of the inner bar, yesterday expressed divergent views about the implementation of report of the committee set up by President Buhari to look into allegations of fraud leveled against the two top government officials.
A senior advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN), told LEADERSHIP that since it is an administrative issue, the panel has to wait for the president to return from his trip.
According to him, Acting President Osinbajo cannot submit the report of the panel he headed to himself.
He said, “Since it is an administrative issue, he has to wait till the president returns. He can’t submit the report to himself. He has to consult the president on what to do with the report and if room for consultation is narrow, he has to tarry a while”.
But another senior advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Paul Erokoro (SAN), differed in his argument. He said the acting president does not necessarily have to submit the report to the president, who is abroad on medical treatment.
“He (Osinbajo) does not need to submit the report to President Muhammadu Buhari. He can however inform him about the findings of his panel and recommendations”, Erokoro said.
Also, a constitutional lawyer, Mahmud Magaji, expressed the same view with Erokoro.
According to Mahmud, it is the office that is receiving the report and not the person, saying the acting president can act on the recommendation of the panel in the report.
“He can implement the full recommendations of the report since he has the full powers of the president in acting capacity”, Mahmud contended.
On his part, another member of the inner bar, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) faulted the way the committee was constituted, even as he argued that the acting president was not the right person to head the panel in the first place.
Ozekhome said, “The way the committee was set up in the first place was wrong. The acting president should not have been appointed as the head of the committee because it should be to him that the findings and conclusions of such a committee should have gone to.
“What it now means is that the acting president would now submit the report to himself. That is not tidy at all. They are turning the government to a laughing stock.
“What the government should have done is to have made the Attorney-General of the Federation or one of the investigative bodies in the country such as the EFCC, ICPC or even the Police to conduct the investigation.
“But as things stand now, the deed has been done and it is left for the Nigerian people to decide whether or not the government was right to have acted the way it did’, Ozekhome maintained.
Also lending his voice to the debate, the first vice president of the Nigeria Bar Association, Mike Ubani, insisted that the submission of the probe report must be suspended until the president returns.
He said, “There is no way that the acting president can submit the findings of a panel that he chaired to himself. He must wait for the president to return.
“The committee should have submitted the report last week friday or yesterday, when they realised that the president was leaving the country for medical treatment”.
President Buhari had three weeks ago set up the probe panel headed by Vice President Osinbajo, now the acting president to look into allegations of fraud against SGF Lawal and the N15billion found at Osbourne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, which the director-general of NIA claimed belong to his agency.
Apart from Osinbajo, others members of the panel are the Attorney-General of the Federation and the National Security Adviser.
I Am Confident Govt Will Run Smoothly – PMB
Meanwhile, in what could best be described as a vote of confidence on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed optimism that government will run smoothly in his absence.
The President stated this on this twitter handle yesterday.
“As l noted earlier, l have absolute confidence that government will continue to run smoothly while I’m away. God bless the Federal Republic,” he said.
President Buhari proceeded to London On Sunday night for follow-up medical consultation with his doctors.
According to a statement by his special adviser media, Femi Adesina, “The length of the President’s stay in London will be determined by the doctors. Government will continue to function normally under the able leadership of the Vice President”
“President Buhari has transmitted letters about the trip to the Senate and the House of Representatives, in compliance with Section 145 (1) of the 1999 Constitution” Adesina added in a statement he issued to announce the president’s departure to London on Sunday.