The suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, was yesterday released on bail, after 10 days in police custody. Magu’s release from detention came a few hours after the Nigeria Police Force denied detaining him and advised his lawyers to approach the Presidential Investigation Panel to seek his release.
It also came on the heels of the suspension of the Executive Secretary of EFCC, Ola Olukoyede and 11 directors of the anti-corruption agency, including Ibrahim Buhari, Kabir Latona, Rotimi Oyedepo and Muhammed Abba. Sources told New Telegraph that the development was part of efforts to unravel the alleged graft in the system. The embattled anti-corruption fighter was reportedly released on bail, but details of the conditions for his freedom were not available as at press time. One of his lawyers, Wahab Shittu, who spoke with our correspondent on the phone, confirmed Magu’s release, but gave no further details.
Hours before he was released, his legal team had expressed frustration about his continued detention without bail and alleged that he had not even been interrogated by the panel for about five consecutive days even when he was compelled to attend the daily sittings of the panel. According to Shittu, the last day his client was interrogated by the panel was Wednesday last week. He said that despite his failing health, Magu had always reported at the venue of the sitting on the other days only to wait from 9a.m. to 9p.m. before being taken back into custody. In what appeared like a protest letter, Shittu described the reports trending in the media that his client was grilled by the panel on Monday, 13th July, as complete falsehood.
“The correct position was that our client and his counsel (Mr. Wahab Shittu) arrived the venue of the on-going investigations on Monday 13th July, 2020 by 9a.m. Our client and his counsel were kept at the waiting room of the venue of the sitting unattended to from 9a.m. to 9p.m. when our client was taken back to custody. “This followed the same pattern on Thursday and Friday last week when our client waited for 12 hours without being called upon by the panel to partake in the proceedings. Witnesses called by the panel were interrogated by the panel without the participation of our client or his counsel in the proceedings.
This was also the pattern on Tuesday, 14th July, 2020. Our client chose to wait patiently on the panel.” Shittu said that as at yesterday, Magu was yet to officially receive a copy of the allegations levelled against him. “Our client is spending the 9th day in custody without being given copy of the allegations against him to enable him formally respond to same.
Our client is ready to formally respond to allegations and furnish documentary evidence in support if served with the copy of the allegations,” he wrote. Shittu also denied all the allegations against Magu, including the alleged attempt to “spirit” him away from custody, adding that he was being held on “trumped-up allegations designed to tarnish his image and rubbish the credibility of EFCC under Magu’s watch. Magu was arrested on July 6, and taken before the Presidential Panel probing the allegations of corruption, money laundering and other financial malfeasance in the Commission. Following his arrest and detention, the Federal Government appointed the Director of Operations of EFCC, Mohammed Umar, as Acting Chairman of the agency.
The probe panel, headed by a former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, had, in the last one week, also summoned other top officials of EFCC to answer questions on the allegations to determine their level of complicity or otherwise. New Telegraph learnt that the notice for the suspension of 12 officials of EFCC was conveyed to the Acting Chairman of the Commission, Mohammed Umar, via a memo from the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and took immediate effect.
It was also gathered that the suspension of the top officials was in connection with the on-going investigation of Magu. A source familiar with the action said the suspension of the officials was to pave the way for an unfettered investigation of the Commission in the face of grave allegations of corruption against Magu and members of the top echelon of the agency In addition to the suspension of the 12 officials, their offices have been sealed to prevent any attempt by anyone to tamper with files and other sensitive documents at the Commission.
There were strong indications, yesterday, that the Presidency may have also barred visitors from accessing the headquarters of EFCC until further notice. A source at the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja, who spoke in confidence with New Telegraph, said the directive followed the suspension of Magu.
Since his arrest last Monday, Magu has been held at Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigative Department (FCIID), Area 10, Abuja, from where he is moved to face the panel on daily basis. Highly placed sources at the Commission confirmed to our correspondent that visitors have been barred from entering the Commission’s headquarters, with only staff allowed in under strict conditions. Our correspondent was also denied access into the building, as security operatives manning the two entrance gates, separately maintained that “we have order from above not to allow anybody in. “Since Monday, 13th July, we received instruction not to allow visitors in. “So, if you are here to see anybody, call the person, let him come down and see you, or may be to come back another day.
“For now, only those that are meant to be in this building are allowed in. “Honestly, we don’t know when the ban will be lifted, but that is what it is now,” the source said. Asked if staff were coming to work, another source, who spoke in similar vein, said: “Yes, the staff are coming and investigations are going on.
“In fact, investigations are going on in the building, and every staff is seriously working, to give out what the (presidential) panel wants.” Efforts to reach the Head of Media and Publicity of EFCC, Mr. Dele Oyewale, for confirmation, did not yield result, as at the time of filing this report. A senior establishment official confided in our correspondent that “as it is now, no official, junior or senior, who values their job, will speak on what is unfolding.” Meanwhile, a covert visit to one of Magu’s Abuja homes, yesterday, showed absence of security operatives within and around the vicinity. Only a lone car was seen parked a few metres away from the gate of the building. Meanwhile, Magu has described his experience in custody as “one of those risks of the job. “I will forever wage war against corruption…
It is not a personal fight. Whether I am EFCC chairman or not, the anti-corruption war must continue. “What I have gone through is a case of dog eats dog, but I see it as one of those risks of the job. But we must not give up in any way,” he told this newspaper shortly after his release. Speaking on the corruption allegations against him, Magu said: “They are nonsense. They are mere trump up allegations to tarnish my image and that of EFCC. I did not steal or divert or convert funds to private use. I read the allegations and I was shocked.”