Embattled Acting Chairman of the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, yesterday spent the second-day answering questions from members of a presidential panel headed by Justice Ayo Isa Salami.
Vanguard learned yesterday that the acting EFCC chairman might have been suspended, but this could not be confirmed at press time. However, a Presidency source said anybody elevated to the position of EFCC chairman must be above suspicion. A Presidency source told Vanguard yesterday that the interrogation of the anti-graft boss was to give him the opportunity to clear himself of weighty allegations.
The source maintained that the investigation of the EFCC boss was to reinforce the Buhari administration’s commitment to transparency and accountability, and assured that the administration will not pre-judge anyone as it could be counted on to uphold justice and fairness.
“The panel investigating allegations against the acting EFCC chairman had been sitting for some weeks now. In consonance with the principle of fairness and justice, it was needful that the acting chairman is given the opportunity to respond to the allegations, which are weighty in nature.
“Under the Muhammadu Buhari administration, nobody is above scrutiny. I repeat, nobody.
“The investigation is to reinforce transparency and accountability, rather than to vitiate it. Accountability for our actions or inactions is an inalienable part of democracy. In such an elevated position as that of EFCC chairman, the holder of the position must be above suspicion.
“There’s no pre-judgment, absolutely none.
” The Buhari administration can be counted on to uphold fairness and justice at all times.”
Reluctance to answer the summons
Vanguard gathered yesterday that Monday’s incident, which led to the “arrest” of Magu on the street, was warranted by his reluctance to answer the panel’s several summonses. Despite that, the panel was said to have accorded the anti-graft boss his due respect by letting him retain his phones, allowing him to go for prayers and served dinner while still being quizzed.
The panel quizzing the embattled EFCC boss has Justice Ayo Isa Salami, a retired president of the Court of Appeal as chairman, while other members were drawn from the Police, DSS, and the National Security Adviser’s office.
It was also learned that while Magu resisted attempts to get him into a car at the end of Monday’s panel’s sitting, and opted to ride in the back of a pick-up truck. He was said to have spent the night at the Force Criminal Investigation Bureau, FCIB, after Monday’s grilling and was brought to the State House Conference Hall with the same truck that was used when the former Director-General of the Department of State Services, DSS, Lawal Daura, was relieved of his position.
On the second day of the sitting, yesterday, members of the panel were noticed at the venue of the interrogation by noon, while a convoy of three cars, which appeared to be carrying an important guest drove into the premises at 12.37 pm. It was not certain whether Magu was the principal official in the convoy.
The convoy had a Peugeot saloon car sandwiched between two Toyota Hilux vans occupied by many security personnel who provided cover for the car. After a brief screening by personnel of the Department of State Service, DSS, at the gate, the convoy was waved on to join the panel. Access was again denied to unauthorized persons, including journalists by security details at the center.
Vanguard also gathered that Magu’s private residence at Karu, Abuja was searched by security operatives yesterday, just as feelers indicated that he might also have relocated to his private house in Karu. Nonetheless, he was said to be receiving the courtesies due to a senior Police officer, having been allowed to come down from the interrogation room to call his family. It was further disclosed that investigations ended at about 8.30 pm last night, after which he was taken to FCID in the same vehicle that was used to ferry him on Monday. His lawyer was also said to have joined him at yesterday’s interrogation.
Allegations against Magu
Some allegations made against Magu by the AGF include:
…Alleged discrepancies in the reconciliation records of the EFCC and the Federal Ministry of Finance on recovered funds.
…Declaration of N539 billion as recovered funds, instead of N504 billion earlier claimed;
…Insubordination to the Office of the AGF;
…Alleged late action on the investigation of P&ID, leading to legal dispute;
…Not respecting court order to unfreeze a N7 billion judgment in favor of a former executive director of a bank;
…Not providing enough evidence for the extradition of Diezani Alison-Madueke;
…Alleged delay in acting on two vessels seized by the Navy;
…Alleged favoring of some investigators called Magu Boys;
…Reporting some judges to their presiding officers without deferring to the AGF;
…Alleged sale of seized assets to cronies, associates and friends;
…Alleged issuance of investigative activities to some media prejudicial to some cases.
Previously, former DSS D-G, Lawal Daura, had leveled some allegations against Magu in December 2016. The allegations bordered on:
- Missing EFCC Files;
- Return to EFCC under Lamorde;
- Tenancy of My Official Residence;
- Expensive air travels.
- High profile/dual lifestyle;
- Mutually Beneficial Relationship with Commodore Mohammed Umar (rtd);
- Perceived reluctance to arraign Vice Marshall Adesola Amosun;
- The alleged vendetta against Stanley Lawson; and
- Work through police cronies in EFCC.
Magu’s response to allegations
Responding to the allegations in a letter addressed to the AGF, dated December 21, 2016, Magu, had written:
“I most respectfully refer to your letter referenced HAGF/EFCC/2016/Vol.1/23 dated 19th December 2016, asking me to respond within 48 hours to the allegations contained in a report written by the Department of State Service, DSS, and which provided the basis for the non-consideration of my confirmation on December 15, 2016, by the Senate.
“Having carefully considered all the issues, I hereby present a point-by-point response as follows:
Missing EFCC files
“It is true that my residence was searched on the orders of Mrs. Farida Waziri, shortly after she succeeded Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as Chairman of the EFCC and some documents relating to cases under investigation were found in my house. At the time of the raid, I was yet to formally hand over to my successor, Umar Sanda, as head of the Economic Governance Unit.
“My schedule at the time warranted that I work round the clock and it was impossible to conclude all assignments without working at home. The documents found in my house were actually found in my office bag where I kept documents relating to investigations.
“I was in the process of handing over and it would be wrong to suggest that I willfully kept the Commission’s files at home. Nevertheless, the incident was thoroughly investigated by the Police as I was placed on suspension without pay for 20 months. But in the end, I was reprimanded, recalled, and promoted to Assistant Commissioner of Police.
“It is important sir, to draw your attention to the fact that some of us that worked closely with Ribadu was victimized after his exit. And my ordeal was orchestrated as punishment for being the chief investigative officer for most of the high-profile cases involving politically exposed persons, some of whom became very influential in government at the time.
Return to EFCC under Lamorde
“I was Assistant Commissioner of Police in Charge of Operations at the Anambra State Police Command when I was recalled to the EFCC in 2012.
“I did not lobby to return to the EFCC. It is preposterous for anyone to suggest that I was recalled to do a hatchet job for Lamorde, as alleged in the DSS Report. My job schedule as Deputy Director, Department of Internal Affairs, under Lamorde, was simply handling issues of professional responsibility in the commission. I had no inputs in core operations, duties of the commission.
Tenancy of official residence
“I live in the official residence of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. This accommodation, contrary to the report of the DSS, is not my private home, neither was it rented and furnished for me by Commodore Umar Mohammed (rtd). It was rented and furnished by the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory through the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council, under the Safe House Scheme.
“It is also false that the house was rented for N20million per annum and furnished for N43million. The entire cost for both two-year rent and the furnishing of the house is N39.628million.
Details of the transaction are contained in the contract award letter and payment schedule which are attached to this letter.
Expensive air travels
“Honourable Minister, the claim that I have a penchant for expensive air travels in a private jet belonging to Commodore Mohammed is baseless
“The two times I can recall traveling in Commodore Umar’s aircraft were on a trip from Kano to Abuja, and Abuja to Maiduguri. In the first instance, I had gone to Kano on an official assignment with two of my directors, and Mohammed who was on his way back to Abuja offered us a ride in his jet.
“The second occasion was when I was going to see my sick mother in Maiduguri. These, for me, were harmless gestures as we were both members of the presidential investigative committee on arms procurement.
“At the time I had no knowledge that he was under investigation for any alleged crimes. Claims that I flew in Mohammed’s jet is false. I have never flown in a private aircraft with any managing director of any bank, let alone one that was under investigation by my agency. I have no personal relationship whatsoever with him.
High profile/dual lifestyle
“The allegation that I live a flamboyant lifestyle is also surprising to me. While it is true that I did travel first class on Emirates Airlines to Saudi Arabia for Umrah, this action to the best of my knowledge did not contravene the directive of Mr. President on First Class travels as suggested by the DSS Report.
“My trip to Saudi Arabia was a private journey to perform my religious obligation and it was not financed with public funds. More importantly, my decision to fly first class was not borne out of the quest for luxury but compelled by necessity.
“The trip was made during the last ten days of Ramadan and other classes of tickets were not available. I had no other choice. That I flew first class in one instance is not enough evidence to suggest an extravagant lifestyle as alleged by the DSS Report. It is also not enough to suggest a dual personality.
“Anyone that has associated closely with me will attest to the fact that I am not known for ostentatious living. And my new office as acting chairman of the EFCC has not changed this.
Mutually beneficial relationship with Commodore Mohammed Umar (Retd)
“Sir, it is important to situate my relationship with Commodore Mohammed Umar (rtd), in proper perspective. Our paths crossed when we became members of the Presidential Committee on the investigation on arms procurement.
“He was instrumental in getting some of the information that helped the committee make significant breakthroughs in its assignment. Beyond that, the relationship between Umar and myself is one of the professional acquaintances, devoid of issues of conflict of interest.
“So, it comes to me with shock, the imputation by the DSS that we have a “mutually beneficial relationship”. This appears suggestive that Mohammed and I were involved in activities that could be said to be untoward. I certainly have no knowledge of such activities.
“The claim that EFCC documents, including EFCC letters, addressed to the Vice President and being investigation reports on the activities of Emmanuel Kachikwu and his brother Dumebi Kachikwu, were found in his home during a search by the DSS came to me as a surprise.
“If that is correct, he should be made to disclose how he came by such documents. I never discussed my official duties with him let alone give him documents pertaining to investigations being conducted by the commission.
“Interestingly, Mohammed was detained for several months by the DSS. In all those months, did he claim that I mandated him to commit any crime or that I was an accomplice to any crime? If there is any such claim, I will wholeheartedly like to be confronted with the allegation.
“It is interesting to note that when Mohammed was eventually charged to court, the charges against him were money laundering and illegal possession of firearms, and nothing related to my purported “shady” relationship with him.
Perceived reluctance to arraign Vice-Marshall Adesola Amosun
“The DSS Report that the reason EFCC delayed the arraignment of a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Adesola Amosun, was because Mohammed never wanted Amosun to be prosecuted is astonishing. Anyone familiar with the EFCC under my watch knows that I perform my duties with the highest sense of responsibility.
“The reason Amosun was not arraigned when the likes of Alex Badeh and Umar were arraigned was that he cooperated with the Commission in terms of assisting the process of recovering the proceeds of crime.
“Indeed, among the suspects arrested over the arms procurement scandal, he was most cooperative. The Commission recovered N2.835billion cash from him, aside from property worth One Billion Five Hundred and Eighty-One Million Naira (N1,581,000,000), Two Million One Hundred and Fifty Thousand United States Dollars ($2,150,000) and One Million Pounds Sterling (£1,000,000).
“Since a key focus of the investigation was to recover as many proceeds of crime as possible, the Commission took its time to ensure it had recovered what was possible before arraigning the suspect in court. This had nothing to do with the wish of any individual. Moreover, the suspect has since been arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction.
The alleged vendetta against Stanley Lawson
“The suggestion by the DSS Report that Stanley Lawson, a former Group Executive Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was placed on a watch list, to settle scores with him is strange.
“It may interest you to know that I do not know Stanley Lawson personally and could not be settling personal scores by framing somebody that I do not know. Lawson’s encounter with the EFCC is in relation to the investigation into the mismanagement of $118 million public funds for electioneering campaigns involving former Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
“It was discovered that he made payment of $25million into Fidelity Bank and also facilitated the purchase of Ogeyi Place Le Meridien Hotel in Port Harcourt for Mrs. Alison Madueke, for which he collected Ninety-Four Million Five Hundred and Sixteen Thousand Naira (N94,516,000) as commission. Lawson was arrested and he made a refund of the N94.5million traced to him. He was never placed on any watch list.
Work through Police cronies in EFCC
“I do not understand what the report meant by working with cronies. If what was implied is that I have preferred officers that I work with and who go about their work in an unethical manner, my response is that nothing of such exists in the EFCC.
“Officers who work with me know that the easiest way to lose your job is to be found to be involved in unethical or corrupt activities. Indeed, when I assumed office as acting chairman, my first action was to return police officers with integrity issues back to the Nigeria Police Force.
“If the DSS finds that there are police officers in the EFCC who are working closely with me and have properties that their incomes cannot support, the Service is at liberty to expose them.
“Honourable Minister, Sir, I invite you to take notice of the fact that the DSS authored two separate vetting reports on me, one referenced SV.114/3 addressed to the Clerk of the National Assembly and the other referenced SV.114/3 addressed to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate).
“Both letters were dated 3rd October 2016 and signed by the same Officer, Folashade Bello, on behalf of the Director-General. While one of the reports advised the Senate against my confirmation, the other asked it to favorably consider my confirmation. The two reports emanating from the same agency raise questions of sincerity and motive.
“You will want to find out why they came up with two conflicting reports on the same subject on the same day. It is important to note that in all this, I was not given the opportunity of fair hearing.
“Above all sir, I am persuaded by my conviction in my innocence that in all the issues supposedly raised against me, no one has accused me of receiving gratification to act against my conscience or the interest of the country.
“I have attached to this letter all supporting documents and materials that would enable you to arrive at a fair position on all the issues raised.”
PACAC disowns Odekunle’s statement
Reacting to Magu’s travails yesterday, the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, disowned a statement issued by a member of the committee, Prof. Femi Odekunle, which gave the impression the committee was against the action of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.
Malami had written President Muhammadu Buhari last month, listing 22 infractions against the EFCC chief. Disowning Odekunle, PACAC Chairman, Prof Itse Sagay, SAN, said in a statement yesterday that Prof. Odekunle merely expressed his personal opinion and not that of the committee.
Sagay, in the statement signed by PACAC Communications Officer Aghogho Agbahor, said: “The attention of the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, has been drawn to a statement circulating in the media space credited to one of its members, Prof Femi Odekunle.
“The press release is the personal opinion of the member under whose name it was released and not that of the committee.
“If the committee, consistent with its mandate has any view on the matter, it will be channeled to the President and not to the media.”
But Vanguard gathered last night that the seeming division in PACAC over the issue has been resolved. A source said Prof. Odekunle’s initial reaction was an emotional outburst to Magu’s ordeal.
How EFCC top shots can be removed
Section 3 (2) of the EFCC Act on the removal of commission member states:
“A member of the Commission may at any time be removed by the President for inability to discharge the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for misconduct or if the President is satisfied that it is not in the interest of the Commission or the interest of the public that the member should continue in office.”
Uphold Magu’s rights — SERAP
Reacting to the development yesterday, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, called on authorities to afford the acting EFCC chairman his constitutionally and internationally guaranteed fair trial rights in the ongoing probe over alleged infractions on duty.
In a statement by the Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP expressed concern over what it called “arbitrary arrest,” and insisted that Magu must either be charged with a recognizable criminal offense or released immediately and allowed to do his job without fear of reprisals.
The statement read: “The reported statement by a member of PACAC seems to suggest that Magu’s arrest may be politically motivated and aim to undermine the independence and freedom of action of the EFCC.
“If true, this would make a mockery of Buhari’s oft-repeated commitment to fight grand corruption and the impunity of perpetrators, which is fuelling widespread and systemic corruption in the country.
“SERAP urges the authorities to afford Magu his constitutionally and internationally guaranteed fair trial rights. Magu must either be charged with a recognizable criminal offense or released immediately and allowed to do his job without fear of reprisals.
“Nigerian authorities cannot continue to keep Magu in detention under suspicious circumstances without bringing any legitimate charges against him in violation of national and international law.
“Nigerian authorities must support the independence and freedom of action of anti-corruption agencies and institutions if they are to be able to genuinely fight grand corruption, which has for many years turned public service for many into a kind of criminal enterprise.
“Nigerian authorities should focus on addressing the impact of corruption such as political violence, and denial of access for millions of Nigerians to even the most basic health and education services, as well as other patterns of human rights violations.
“Improving the independence of anti-corruption agencies and institutions is the most promising way to make tangible progress in the fight against corruption now and in the near future.
“Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party guarantee to everyone the right to liberty and security of person, and that no one should be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.
“Similarly, Section 35(1) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) guarantees to every person the right to personal liberty and that no person should be arbitrarily deprived of such liberty.”
We’re not surprised— Afenifere
Also reacting, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, said it was not surprised at Magu’s travails, noting that it was tragic to have left him at the helm of affairs of the anti-graft agency.
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said: “It is tragic we allowed such a character to be in charge of our anti-graft war for five years. It was known all over the streets the unclean politicians that Magu was in bed within all the years and the DSS wrote volumes on him. His travails testify eloquently that there is no country here but a very dry joke.”
FG sending strong signals — Agbakoba
In his reaction, former President, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Olisa Agbakoba said: “I don’t have clear details of why the arrest was carried out but it certainly shows that President Buhari appears prepared to be strong on corruption if a high ranking anti-corruption czar like Ibrahim Magu can be arrested.
“It sends strong signals about the government’s intent and what is very important is that this example must be replicated across the board.”
On his part, Lawal Pedro, SAN, said: “Magu is not above the law. If the President feels the allegations against him are strong, he can suspend Magu as he has done. I believe the President must have considered the gravity of the allegation presented to him by the investigative panel before taking this action.”
Similarly, Gbenga Ojo, Snr Lecturer, Faculty of Law, LASU, said: “This is a right step in the right direction. This singular act will convince doubting Thomases about this government’s fight against corruption.
“In the past, the Senate refused to confirm his appointment as the Chairman of EFCC based on indicting report by DSS. The government took no step. That is why he is still occupying the position in an acting capacity.
“For his supporters, the slogan has been that corruption was fighting back. With the latest development by his indictment by the Attorney-General of the Federation, it becomes very difficult to sweep the allegation under the carpet.
“Given the function of his office and given the allegations against him on corruption, the suspension is necessary. The situation can be likened to lunatic in charge of the asylum. For now, we keep our fingers crossed, while waiting for the outcome of the investigation. The suspension is right and legal.”
Also, Monday Ubani, Former 2nd Vice-President, NBA, said: “I believe that credible evidence must have been presented to the President for him to have ordered his immediate suspension.
“Moreover, for someone facing weighty allegations, the proper thing is for Ibrahim Magu to step aside for proper investigation. The President’s action is the right thing in the present circumstance. I believe this will give room for people, especially in the commission, to freely give evidence to investigators without fear.”
FG must follow due process — ULC
Reacting General Secretary of United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, Didi Adodo, said: “The use and dump policy of this regime will make qualified people not to be willing to serve in any government.
“The petition by Mallam Shehu Malami did not only make allegations but went further to make three nominations for replacement, which means Magu was already guilty as charged. The government must learn to follow due process in any given case before being judgmental. If Magu is truly found guilty, he should be prosecuted in a competent court of law.”