VICE President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) is ready to surrender his constitutional immunity so that allegations against him can be freely investigated.
He said waiving the immunity will permit “the most robust adjudication of baseless allegations, insinuation and falsehoods” against his person and office.
Under the 1999 Constitution, the President, Vice President, governors and their deputies are insulated from criminal investigation.
But, in a tweet, Prof. Osinbajo said he would give up the privilege until the claims against him are resolved.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) also yesterday clarified that it was not probing the vice president and the National Social Investment Programme (N-SIP).
N-SIP said contrary to rumours, Prof. Osinbajo was not involved in financial transactions or disbursement of funds under its programmes.
Taking an exception to what he described as defamatory remarks about him, the vice president said he had instituted a suit against those behind the “misleading assertions”.
He said: “In the past few days, a spate of reckless and malicious falsehoods has been peddled in the media against me by a group of malicious individuals.
”The defamatory and misleading assertions invented by this clique had mostly been making the social media rounds anonymously.
”I have today instructed the commencement of legal action against two individuals, one Timi Frank and another Katch Ononuju, who have put their names to these odious falsehoods.
“I will waive my constitutional immunity to enable the most robust adjudication of these claims of libel and malicious falsehood.”
Disclaiming the purported probe, EFCC spokesperson Wilson Uwujaren, said he never made any reference to N-SIP as a programme or accused those who superintend it of corruption.
The agency cautioned against reports, which could project a false indictment and incite the vice president against the person of its chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
Uwujaren said Magu appreciated how N-SIP has lifted many Nigerians out of poverty.
He said: “The attention of the EFCC has been drawn to a report captioned, “There is corruption in N-SIP programme- Magu”, which appeared in a newspaper on Wednesday September 25, 2019 and a few other newspapers, in which the acting Chairman of the Commission, Ibrahim Magu was quoted as saying that there is corruption in the National Social Investment Programme and the Anchor Borrower’s Programme.
“The papers claim that Magu, who spoke through the Spokesperson of the agency, Wilson Uwujaren, at the 15th Anti- Corruption Situation Room organized by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda in Kaduna on Tuesday September 24, 2019, asked the civil society organisations “to investigate the N-SIP”.
“The commission wishes to disclaim the reports as false and a mischievous twist of the goodwill message presented by Mr. Uwujaren, on corruption and peace building in conflict communities.
“In the presentation, the EFCC spokesperson observed that the agency had received complaints in some zones regarding the social investment programmes, citing an example in Gombe where the Commission investigated a case in the Anchor Borrower’s Scheme in which sand was bagged and passed off as fertilizer.
“He, therefore, warned that for the crises in these conflict zones not to degenerate, civil society organisations should play more active roles in monitoring the programmes to ensure that their benefits get to the people for which they are intended.
“At no time in the presentation did Mr Uwujaren mention the N-SIP as a programme nor did he accuse those who superintend it of corruption. The specific case mentioned, the Anchor Borrower’s scheme, is not part of the N-SIP being supervised by the office of the Vice President.
“This clarification becomes necessary to correct the wrong impression of a verdict of corruption on N-SIP by the EFCC which the purveyors of the false reports obviously want to create.
It added: “All over the world, one of the core competences of civil society organizations is project monitoring. Calling on Nigerian civil societies to monitor social intervention programmes, was not a call to ”investigation” as no one had been indicted. Investigation itself is not the job of civil society organisations.
“The EFCC chairman recognizes the unprecedented impact of of the N-SIP intervention in not only lifting the poor out of poverty but also its potential for reconciling feuding communities across the country.
“It is, therefore, shocking to read the unfounded insinuation of the reporters, aimed only at fanning the embers of disaffection that only exist in their imagination.
“The sensational attempt to project a false indictment, and incite the Vice President against the person of the Chairman of the EFCC, is therefore condemnable.”
According to the NSIO, the office of Vice President was not involved in financial transactions or the disbursement of funds for N-SIPs.
A statement by the NSIO Communications Manager, Justice Bibiye, said that the Ministry of Budget and National Planning is in charge of all matters regarding financing, budgeting, procurement and disbursement of funds allocated and released for the N-SIPs.
According to the statement, the N-SIPs, which involves four broad programmes (N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfers, National Home-Grown School Feeding and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programmes), are uniquely targeted towards different subgroups of Nigerians for empowerment.
Bibiye said: “The Steering Committee for the NSIO, chaired by the Vice President, supervises the implementation of the SIPs, The Steering Committee comprises nine Ministers, including that of Finance; Education; Health; Agriculture, Trade and Investment, Youth and Sports, Women Affairs; Labour and Productivity; Information; with the Ministry of Budget and National Planning as the Secretariat. The Steering Committee meets regularly for updates, to review, advise, guide and approve the processes of the N-SIPs,” it said.
“Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) beneficiaries are identified by members of the communities themselves, through a tripartite method, which includes technology, for objectively and scale. At commencement, the World Bank community-based targeting process was adopted to assure of community ownership of the process.
“The Bank of Industry (BOI) manages the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) which provides collateral and interest-free financial support to businesses at the bottom of the financial pyramid, through its MarketMoni, FarmerMoni and TraderMoni schemes. The payment process is also transparent”.
Bibiye explained that Osinbajo only went round markets in the states where the TraderMoni scheme was launched to engage with beneficiaries, adding that he was not involved in the disbursement of loans, whether in cash or through cash transfers.
The Coalition of Northern Nigerian Youth urged President Muhammadu Buhari to halt any attempt that can lead to maltreatment or embarrassment of the vice-president.
Speaking with reporters in Kano, its Chairman, Mallam Yusuf Abdulmalik, said any attempt to whittle down Osinbajo’s influence will label Buhari, and by extension, the North, as ungrateful people, thereby creating a bad image for the region.
He said Osinbajo, who has displayed maximum loyalty to the President, is the face of the Church and strength of the Yoruba as well as the South in Buhari administration.