ABUJA (Reuters) - President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday sacked Nigeria’s most senior civil servant after an investigation into graft allegations, the highest profile casualty of the anti-corruption pledge that helped bring him to power.
He ordered an investigation into Babachir Lawal, an ally and one of his first appointments, after lawmakers in a separate probe alleged that he inflated the value of contracts for humanitarian aid projects in parts of the northeast ravaged by Boko Haram as part of a suspected kickback scheme.
“The president accepted the recommendation of the panel to terminate the appointment of Mr Lawal,” presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said in a statement.
Secretary to the government of the federation Lawal, who has denied wrongdoing, did not immediately respond to phone calls and a text message requesting a comment.
Buhari’s two presidential spokesmen declined to comment on whether there were plans to prosecute Lawal.
The director general of the National Intelligence Agency (CIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke, was also sacked on Monday in connection with the discovery of large amounts of cash in foreign and local currencies by the financial crimes agency in a residential apartment in Lagos this year, Adesina said.
The discovery of more than $43 million in cash was investigated by the same panel, led by the vice president, as had looked into Lawal, but any connection between the two cases has not been made clear. Both men were suspended in April.
The NIA had insisted it was the owner of the money. The agency, Nigeria’s equivalent of the CIA, could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.
Buhari took office in May 2015 after winning an election largely on his promise to end the endemic corruption that has stunted development in Africa’s biggest economy, but there have been no major convictions.
A number of former government officials have faced criminal charges related to alleged corruption since Buhari came to power. The opposition People’s Democratic Party, in power for 16 years prior to Buhari taking office, has accused the president of focusing on its members.
Reporting by Felix Onuah and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Additional reporting by Camillus Eboh in Abuja; Editing by Alison Williams