The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr. Babachir David Lawal on Wednesday engaged senators in a hot exchange when he appeared before the joint Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, and Appropriation and Finance over a comment credited to him that the federal government would not implement constituency projects as provided in the 2016 budget.
Lawal, who criticized the tone of the letter summoning him, said it threatened him and was written “in bad faith”. He also complained that he was given short notice to appear before the committee. But the committee took exception to the choice of the words of the SGF and demanded for an immediate retraction of the remarks.
Lawal had complained, “I only saw this letter this morning. I thought it was going to be Wednesday next week. I wanted my permanent secretary to write to request for another date, knowing that Wednesdays are for Federal Executive Council meetings. You gave me a very short time to prepare.
“Taking together the lateness of the letter and the threat at the bottom of it shows that it was not done in good faith. We should respect each other and give each other the time to appear,” he complained.
But these words did not go down well with the committee as its chairman, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, said: “This is a joint committee meeting. Our committee days are usually Wednesdays. The Senate is expected to go on recess next week Wednesday and because of the urgency of the issue, we had to send the letter. We want that aspect of that your statement withdrawn.”
Lawal however hesitated in doing so, prompting the Chairman of the Finance Committee who is also the co-chairman of the joint committee, Senator John Enoh, to reecho Anyanwu demanding for the retraction of the statement.
Eno said: “We take exception to the words ‘bad faith’. The comments imply that the Senate committee, in extending an invitation to you, acted in bad faith. If we sent the letter to you in bad faith, it means you are also here in bad faith.”
Apparently unperturbed by the position of the committee, the SGF claimed that he had a right to freedom of expression, stating that he was only withdrew the statement because he was forced to do so and not because he felt he did anything wrong.
“The freedom of expression is a right. While I excuse your position but I want you to note the threat in your letter. I want to put it on the record that you forced me to withdraw my statement,” he said.