Confession Of The Receipt Of A Cash Gift From Gov. David Umahi Of Ebonyi State Has Pitched Secretary To Government Of The Federation Against Indigenes Of The State
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Engr. Babachir David Lawal, may have landed himself in serious trouble without knowing it.
His confession, allegedly, during a thanksgiving service held on October 17, 2015 in Abuja, to the effect that Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi state had made a gift of some cash to him, is now turning to be a development that may blight his time in office.
The SGF, who was honoured at a thanksgiving at the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Wuse, Abuja on October 17, had during a vote of thanks, disclosed that the Ebonyi governor had made a cash gift to him after he refused an earlier plan by the governor to send him some rice.
Following that confession, a group of concerned indigenes of the state, known as Ebonyi Indigenes Association, are now demanding that the SGF discloses how much of the states money their governor gave him
They have given him 30 days to comply or face legal action. The group said the money was given without budgetary approval and as such may have been an inducement.
Petitioning the SGF under the Freedom of Information law, the group, through its lawyers, Uche Alo of Immanuel Chambers Abuja, is asking the SGF for total disclosure on how much was given to him by the governor.
The SGF had on the occasion said: “Another man who I just met recently; the man who read the second verse, David Umahi -what is your second name; whether Umuahia or something like that- really since the time we met, I don’t know why, our spirits locked on. And you see that he has been good; he is somebody I know that when am in trouble I can always run to him. This is a man; I don’t know but he is PDP; he’s Igbo but he sent a trailer load of rice to my governor for the IDPs in Adamawa state recently. May be he did not want me to say it.
“Again, one day I was just in my office looking and sounding broke, he just said ‘during the Sallah, I am going to send Ebonyi rice to you’. And I said I don’t want Ebonyi rice, I have too much rice in my house; I don’t even know what to do with the rice. So later his ADC comes and says oga sent me to you. And I said what is inside that thing and he said money and I said bring it my friend”.
Though the SGF uttered the words in his vote of thanks, the group believes that he ought to make full disclosures in the spirit of transparency and accountability so as to enable them put a check on the disbursement of state funds by the governor.
In the petition dated November 11, 2015 and addressed to the SGF, titled ‘Request In Re: Freedom of Information Act’, the Ebonyi group told the SGF that it was relying on provisions of section 1(1)(2) and (3) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, to “demand for vital and sensitive information within your exclusive knowledge”.
According to the petition, “On the 17th day of October 2015, at the thanksgiving serviced held in your favour upon your appointment to the office of Secretary to the government of the Federation of Nigeria (a public office), which held in the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Wuse 2 Abuja; that you expressly stated/ acknowledged that the serving governor of Ebonyi state, His Excellency, Engineer David Umahi, gave you, through his Aide-De-Camp (ADC), a huge amount of money in your office during the 2015 Eid-el-Fitri “Sallah” period.
“According to you, as captured in the Video CD recorded by the above mentioned church, as part of their Sunday service tradition, that you were broke and just sitting in your office (the Office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation) when the money was brought to you”.
Continuing, the group wrote that “acting as persons from Ebonyi state (we) demand that you disclose the exact amount of the money given to you by His Excellency, Engineer David Umahi, the Executive governor of Ebonyi state. We refer you to Section 1(1) (2) and (3) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
Reminding the SGF of their legal protection to institute an action in court, the group told him also that they “seek your total co-operation by way of a prompt reply within 30 (thirty) days inclusive the day of receipt of this letter”. They warned that failure to do so would necessitate legal action as guaranteed by law.
The law as referenced says: Section 1(1). Notwithstanding anything contained in any other Act, Law of Regulation, the right of any person to access or request information, whether or not contained in any written form, which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution howsoever described is established.
(2). An applicant under this Act needs not demonstrate any specific interest in the information applied for
(3). An person entitled to the right to information under this Act, shall have the right to institute proceedings in the court to compel any public institution to comply with the provisions of this Act. The group attached a copy of the video clip of the event where the SGF allegedly made the confession.
– Our Reporter