There was a high class drama yesterday in the nation’s capital, Abuja, following the arrest and interrogation of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, for alleged corruption and money laundering.
Magu was reportedly picked up as he was leaving the Wuse II Office of EFCC by some security operatives suspected to be from the Department of State Services (DSS), the secret police. In what appeared like an ambush operation, the security operatives promptly whisked him away to the Presidential Villa.
New Telegraph gathered that the embattled anti-corruption chief was on his way to Louis Edet House, the headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force, to keep an appointment with the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, when his convoy was intercepted by the security operatives.
Amidst the standoff, Magu was said to have been served an invitation to appear before a Presidential Panel of Inquiry sitting at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja. One of the EFCC’s lawyers, Rotimi Jacobs, followed Magu to the Villa. Sources told New Telegraph that the memo of Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, to President Muhammaud Buhari, triggered Magu’s probe.
Malami had, in the memo, accused Magu of alleged diversion of recovered funds and fraudulent sale of assets seized by EFCC. Hence, the Justice Minister urged the President to sack Magu as acting EFCC chair. Malami’s memo prompted the President to constitute a probe panel.
The panel, according to sources, was chaired by former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami. Other members of the panel include Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police in charge of FCID, Mike Ogbizi, representatives of the DSS and Office of the National Security Adviser, among others.
The panel, New Telegraph also learnt, was set up to probe Magu’s stewardship at EFCC following reports that there were some discrepancies in the remittance of the loots, which the agency claimed to have recovered from some corrupt Nigerians.
According to a source familiar with the case, a huge chunk of the recovered loot appears to have been “relooted” as the figures of recoveries do not seem to tally with records of remittances. Besides the missing loot, the panel was said to have questioned him about the allegations that he recently acquired four posh properties and have been laundering money in some bank accounts overseas, through cronies.
Magu was said to have been quizzed by the presidential panel for several hours amidst tight security around the venue.
He was still being quizzed as at 10p.m. However, the DSS denied reports that its operatives arrested Magu, just as the EFCC claimed that its acting chairman only honoured an invitation by a presidential panel said to be reviewing the Commission’s activities under his leadership.
Public Relations Officer of DSS, Dr. Peter Afunanya, in a terse statement sent to New Telegraph, said the earlier reports that Magu was arrested by DSS operatives was untrue. “The Department of State Services (DSS) 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, 6th July, 2020, been inundated with enquiries over the alleged arrest,” Afunanya said. On its part, EFCC maintained that its chairman appeared before a presidential panel reviewing the Commission’s activities.
In a three-paragraph statement signed by its Head of Media and Publicity, Mr. Dele Oyewale, EFCC noted thus: “Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, on Monday, July 6, 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 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,” Oyewale said. In the meantime, journalists were barred from accessing the Conference Centre (Banquet Hall) of the Presidential Villa, where Magu was grilled by the panel set up by the president to investigate the alleged infractions.
Newsmen who arrived at the venue were turned back by stern looking security personnel. “They said you people should excuse the use of this place for today,” a security official detailed to keep watch at the venue, politely told reporters.
President Muhamnadu Buhari appointed Magu as Acting Chairman of EFCC in November 2015. His nomination for appointment as substantive chairman by President Buhari was rejected twice by the Eighth Senate.
The rejection was said to have been predicated on a report by the DSS, which had alleged, among others, that the senior police officer was not a fit and proper person to superintend over the anti-corruption agency because his lifestyle and track records smelt of corruption and compromise.
According to the report, Magu was at that time (and up till now) living in a N40 million mansion in Abuja paid for by a retired Air Commodore, Umar Mohammed.
The retired Air Force officer, whom the referenced report had described as (alleged) “questionable businessman”, had once been arrested by the Secret Service, While this subsisted, a memo said to have emanated from the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to the president had accused Magu of alleged impropriety and insubordination, among others.
A source at the Commission’s headquarters had denied all the allegations in an earlier chat with this newspaper. Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described the invitation and interrogation of Magu as a confirmation of the malfeasance in the agency.
The party therefore called on President Buhariled administration to allow unhindered investigation into the matter.
In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP said that the desperate attempt by EFCC to cover the investigation only raised more integrity questions regarding Magu’s activities in the Commission.
“Only last month, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minster of Justice, Abubakar Malami, released a memo in which he indicted Magu of alleged diversion of recovered funds and fraudulent sale of assets seized by EFCC.
“Our party, Nigerians and, indeed, the international community, are keenly monitoring the development and expect the Buhari presidency to muster the courage to carry out a comprehensive investigation and make its findings available to the public.
“Now that Magu has been pulled in for investigation, the Federal Government should preserve the integrity of the office of the Chairman of the EFCC by ordering him to step aside while investigators take charge of every activity of the office to forestall destruction of evidence as well as unnecessary interferences in the matter,” the statement read.
The opposition party said that with the allegations and investigation, Magu has lost the moral rectitude to continue to preside over the anti-corruption agency and should step aside until he proves his innocence.
However, the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), has accused Malami of being “an arrow-head or major agent of a power bloc that is not really interested in, or in support of, Buhari’s anti-corruption fight”.
This was as the advisory committee further described the “arrest” of Magu, as “an outcome of power-play by power blocs in the corridors of power in which Malami appears to be an arrowhead or major agent of a power bloc that is not really interested in, or in support of, Buhari’s anti-corruption fight”.
A member of PACAC, Prof. Femi Odekunle, made the allegations in a statement. New Telegraph reports that, previous statements from PACAC, had been issued and signed by the chairman, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN).