The face-off between the Senate and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, deepened on Thursday following the failure of the SGF to appear before the Federal Character Committee to defend the 2017 budget proposal of his office.
Irked by the absence of the SGF, members of the committee led by Tijjani Kaura shunned the Permanent Secretary, (General Services Office) of the SGF, Mohammed Bukar, who was delegated to represent him at the budget defence session.
The SGF had through his Permanent Secretary informed the committee of his absence through a telephone conversation minutes to commencement of the meeting on Thursday.
He was said to have told the Permanent Secretary at the last minute that he was away from Abuja attending the funeral of a relative who passed on sometime ago.
Some of the lawmakers who spoke on condition of anonymity with our correspondent, however frowned at the failure of the SGF to notify the committee in written communication ahead of time on his planned absence.
The lawmakers, after refusing that the Permanent Secretary represent Lawal, insisted that the SGF communicate a new date when he would be disposed to appear before the committee.
It was further gathered that the committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs thereafter briefed the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on the circumstances and events which led to its decision to postpone the budget defense session.
One of the lawmakers on the committee who spoke with our correspondent said: “Much as we try to protect him as a brother, there are limits to what he should do. What he ought to do is seek the understanding of the committee to reschedule which is a normal thing.
“As far as the committee is concerned, courtesy demands him to call the Chairman. He does not appear, he does not show concern. Since he’s not here and not ready, he should make contact with the committee to reschedule.
“Why he’s not here is not cogent. He said he went to condole the loss of a loved one, but here we have a colleague, a Senator for that matter, who is also supposed to attend the funeral of a loved one staying back to attend the budget defense. As far as we are concerned, the excuse he gave of going to bury a loved one is not a good one at all,” another lawmaker added.
Recall that the relationship between the Senate and SGF became frosty following recent calls by the upper chamber on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack him over what it described as gross abuse of office.
The apex legislative assembly also called for Lawal’s prosecution for allegedly violating the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and the Federal Government Financial Rules and Regulations pertaining to the award of contracts.
The Senate reached the resolution sequel to consideration of an interim report of its Ad-hoc Committee on the Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East, which indicted the SGF.
But President Buhari, in a letter addressed to the Senate President, dated 17 January 2017, cleared the SGF of any wrongdoing.