• Presidential panel grills acting chairman
• DSS, anti-graft body dismiss rumoured detention
• Journalists barred from Aso Rock probe venue
• Don’t jeopardise anti-corruption fight, CSO warns govt agencies
There was confusion, yesterday, following news of the alleged arrest of Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu.
Earlier reports had said officers of the Department of State Services (DSS) picked up Magu and whisked him away to their headquarters for questioning over allegations of corruption.
But just as Nigerians began to weigh up the development and its implications, DSS Public Relations Officer Peter Afunanya released a statement, saying the agency “wishes to inform the public that it did not arrest Ibrahim Magu, Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as has been reported by sections of the media. The Service, has since, today (yesterday), July 6, 2020, been inundated with enquiries over the alleged arrest.”
Similarly, EFCC Head (Media & Publicity) Dele Oyewale disclosed in a statement: “Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, on Monday, July 6, 2020, honoured an invitation by a presidential panel reviewing the activities of the EFCC, at the Banquet Hall wing of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He was served the invitation to the panel while on his way to the Force Headquarters, Abuja, for a meeting. The EFCC’s boss was neither arrested nor forced to honour the invitation. A member of a legal team from the EFCC is also with him on the panel.”
Watchers, however, might be quick to ask why the EFCC boss deserved to be abruptly “served the invitation” to a panel “reviewing the activities of the EFCC” while he was “on his way” to another event.
This poser, which appeared to have fueled the ‘arrest narrative’, is coming after a 2016 report by the DSS accused Magu of corruption and also after Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, more recently, indicted him of financial scam.
The DSS report reads in part: “In December 2010, the Police Service Commission (PSC) found Magu guilty of actions prejudicial to state security – withholding of EFCC files, sabotage, unauthorised removal of EFCC files and acts unbecoming of a police officer, and awarded him severe reprimand as punishment.
“Magu is currently occupying a residence rented for N40 million at N20 million per annum. This accommodation was not paid [for] from the commission’s finances, but by one Umar Mohammed, air commodore retired, a questionable businessman who has subsequently been arrested by the secret service.
“For the furnishing of the residence, Magu enlisted the Federal Capital Development Authority to award a contract to Africa Energy, a company owned by the same Mohammed, to furnish the residence at the cost of N43 million.
“Investigations show that the acting EFCC chairman regularly embarked on official and private trips through a private jet owned by Mohammed. In one of such trips, Magu flew to Maiduguri alongside Mohammed with a bank MD who was being investigated by the EFCC over complicity in funds allegedly stolen by the immediate past petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
“Furthermore, the EFCC boss has so far maintained a high-profile lifestyle. This is exemplified by his preference for first-class air travels. On June 24, 2016, he flew Emirate airlines first-class to Saudi Arabia to perform the lesser hajj at the cost of N2.9 million.
“This is in spite of Mr. President’s directive to all public servants to fly economy class. Magu has fostered a beneficial relationship with Mohammed who by his confession approaches clients for possible exploitation, favours and associated returns.”
Malami had suggested to President Muhammadu Buhari the need to sack the EFCC boss. In a memorandum, he anchored his recommendation on several grounds including the “diversion of recovered loot”, “insubordination” and “misconduct”.
There have been previous moves to have Buhari drop Magu, following his appointment as acting chairman on November 9, 2015. The intrigues twice stalled his confirmation by the Eighth Senate, causing him to remain an interim head of the anti-graft agency ever since.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had on Friday said the memo by Malami indicting Magu of financial scam had further exposed the corruption, deception and hypocrisy of the Buhari-led government.
According to a statement by National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan, “The PDP recalled that President Buhari had insisted on Magu as the EFCC chairman despite his rejection by the Senate over reports by the DSS, which raised certain integrity issues against him.
“The party further recalled that the DSS report, which was read out on the floor of the Senate, allegedly stated that ‘Magu has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption stand of the current government.’
“Our party, therefore, holds the latest report coming from none other than the Attorney General of the Federation (the EFCC’s supervising minister), who believably has unhindered access to facts and documents related to the anti-graft issues, must be received by President Buhari as a huge demand on him to clean up the system.
“Moreover, following the allegation of diversion of recovered funds coming from the nation’s Attorney General, the EFCC chairman has lost all moral rectitude to preside over our nation’s anti-corruption agency to investigate and prosecute others until he comes clean of these horrible allegations.
“However, given this administration’s history of concealment and cover for indicted officials, our party enjoins the National Assembly to immediately constitute a joint ad-hoc committee and commence an independent investigation into these alleged disgraceful acts, which have the potential of collapsing our nation’s integrity before the comity of nations. Our party also calls on Mr. Magu to immediately step aside and submit himself for an independent investigation in order to clear his name.”
Meanwhile, State House Correspondents, yesterday, were barred from accessing the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where the panel, which comprised of DSS operatives was investigating Magu’s oversight of the EFCC.
The Special Force wing of the DSS secured the venue. When the journalists sought to enter the facility at about 3:20 p.m., they were stopped by a plain-clothed security detail who politely asked them to back off. “They said you people should excuse the use of this place for today,” the officer said.
This was as the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), yesterday, warned that Magu’s ordeal, unless it is properly handled, could jeopardise the fight against corruption.
“A situation where the Acting Chairman of EFCC is ‘invited for questioning’ within a very short notice could cost the fight against corruption serious setback, as well as much embarrassment to the Federal Government and its anti-corruption stance, hence, the need for the various agencies of government to always be mindful of their actions at all times.”
In a statement released by CACOL Executive Chairman Debo Adeniran and Coordinator (Administration and Programmes) Tola Oresanwo, the group noted: “It is common knowledge that there has been no love lost between the DSS and the person of Mr. Magu. We have also observed that the relationship among the EFCC, DSS and Ministry of Justice has been frosty over the years.”