‘…until panel completes probe’
Presidency approves suspension, replacement
There seems to be no respite in sight for the embattled former Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, as Presidency sources yesterday informed Saturday Telegraph that the suspended anti-graft boss would have to remain in detention, pending the completion of the on-going probe.
This is coming despite the fact that Magu’s lawyers had written to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, seeking his bail, while the Presidency confirmed the suspension and replacement of Magu by the agency’s Director of Operations, Muhammed Umar.
The Justice Ayo Salami-led panel, which is investigating a 22-count allegation of financial impropriety and abuse of office, levelled against Magu by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had been grilling the anticorruption czar since Monday. It was gathered that Magu, who had been in protective custody at the Federal Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (FCIID), Abuja, was denied bail by the police authorities, as such, had to arrive at the venue of the probe, yesterday, from the Force Headquarters where he is being detained.
Magu, who continued his defence before the panel, was accompanied by his lawyer, Kanu Agabi (SAN), who incidentally was a former Attorney- General and Minister of Justice. He was said to have officially requested bail on personal recognition in a letter by one of his lawyers, Oluwatisin Ojaomo.
Multiple sources informed Saturday Telegraph that the suspended EFCC boss would be in protective custody until the Salami panel completes its investigation adding that releasing Magu on bail could jeopardise the evidence being gathered by the panel. One of the sources said: “Magu was denied bail partly because he declined an official invitation to appear before the committee. Twice, he refused to honour their invitation, before he was eventually arrested on Monday by a joint team of DSS and police operatives”.
“You don’t expect them to let him go now. He was adamant; he refused to obey them when he was summoned. So, it is expected that they won’t let him go now, especially on personal recognition. If at all, he has to be temporarily freed, the conditions would be very stringent”, the source said.
In the course of the Salami panel’s investigation within the week, police officials carried out searches in Magu’s Abuja residence where vital documents relevant to the probe were taken away for analysis. Other officials, including directors and those loyal to the embattled EFCC boss, otherwise known as ‘Magu Boys’ are also under the radar of the panel. Those already grilled include the agency’s Secretary, Mr. Olanipekun Olukoyede. Some others close to Magu who had their days before the panel, according to findings, were Bashir Abdullahi, Ishiaku Sharo, Bala Silas Sanga, Abubakar Madaki and Ibrahim Ahmed.
The Magu loyalists were accused of colluding with their principal to commit several atrocities including blackmailing and extorting suspects, appropriating exhibits to themselves and selling off forfeited or seized assets without remitting the proceeds to government coffers.
A Presidency source said: “Magu’s travails show that there is no sacred cow in Buhari’s administration. If there is anything that the President hates to hear, it is allegation of corruption against government officials. “You know that the EFCC is the arrowhead of his administration’s fight against corruption and whoever heads that agency must be above suspicion. Though Magu has yet to be indicted by the panel, it is only right for him to step aside so as not to interrupt the process of investigation.
“That is why the President approved the panel’s commendation for his suspension pending the time the investigation will be concluded”, the source said. Another source, who noted that the allegations against Magu are weighty and could not be taken with levity, stated that he would be given a fair hearing. “Once he is able to defend himself satisfactorily before the panel, he would be left off the hook. You will see that other officials in the EFCC are equally under investigation alongside Magu.
All of them would be given the opportunity to defend themselves. “If they are found to be innocent, they will be freed but if anyone is found culpable on any of the charges, such a person should be ready to face the music. The President has zero tolerance for corruption, no matter how close one may claim to be to him. I think Nigerians should know by now that the President is not paying lip service to the fight against corruption”, the source explained.
‘Expose buyers, relooters – Fayose, Vatsa
However, a former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, has called for full investigation into the sales of some properties seized by EFCC while asking the Federal Government to expose and probe the buyers. Fayose, who spoke through his media aide, Lere Olayinka, said the probe must not just achieve the removal of Magu from office, the assets must be recovered and the identity of the buyers made known to Nigerians. “Nigerians are interested in the identities of buyers of the properties seized by EFCC and how they were sold.
Those recovered loots that were relooted must be re-recovered”. Alleging that the properties were bought by some associates of Magu, the former Ekiti governor said Nigerians are interested in knowing “who bought what and how they were sold”.
Fayose said: “Nigerians must know the beneficiaries of the seized properties and how they were sold because most of these properties were bought by associates of Magu, including some so-called human rights lawyers. “These human rights lawyers were his promoters, and today, they are the ones defending him because they know that if this investigation goes deeper than just looking for what Magu did wrong so as to remove him from office, their own dirty secrets would be revealed for Nigerians to see.
“This investigation must not end up as their usual paddypaddy arrangement. It should not end up as a tool just to remove Magu because removing him will not be enough, the loots already re-looted must be re-recovered and those who re-looted the loots brought to book. “Also, those holding money and properties in trust for Magu as well as those who must have helped him to launder money must be revealed”, he said.
Make findings public –APC chieftain
In the same vein, a former Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Niger State, Comrade Jonathan Vatsa, has urged the Federal Government to ensure that the findings of the panel are made public while urging that those involved in the diversion of the looted funds under EFCC custody be exposed and made to face the law. Vatsa, who said Nigerians are waiting anxiously for the outcome, said that is the only way Nigerians can believe and have confidence in the anti-corruption war of the Buhari administration, which is already suffering credibility problems because of the way and manner the war is being prosecuted. In a statement titled; ‘Now that the hunter is being hunted: Where is the fight against corruption?’, Vatsa pointed out that the probe of Magu is an embarrassment to the anticorruption crusade of the Buhari administration.
“This is a clear indication that there is monumental corruption going on in high places in this administration. It is quite disturbing because the only qualification that brought APC to power in 2015 was integrity but the corruption in the system today is very scary.
“I urge the Federal Government to ensure that the outcome of the probe panel is made public for Nigerians to see, that is the only way that the people can believe and have confidence in the anticorruption war of the Buhari administration.
“The anti-corruption war of this government has suffered a lot of credibility problems because of the way and manner it is being prosecuted. This is an opportunity for the government to build confidence in Nigerians by making the findings public.
Vatsa therefore suggested that the law establishing EFCC must be revisited because of experience with past Chairmen of the Agency, stressing that with the current structure of the anti-graft Agency where men of the Nigerian police are at helm of affairs will not achieve the desired results.
Magu’s hope of reprieve and possible return to his beat was dashed by a statement confirming his suspension and his replacement. The statement signed by Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, who is the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations to Malami, noted that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the immediate suspension of Magu in order to allow for unhindered inquiry by the Presidential Investigation Panel under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act and other relevant laws. According to the statement, the President also approved that the EFCC Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar, should take charge and oversee the activities of the Commission pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation and further directives in that regard.
It was learnt that the panel resolved to recommend Magu’s suspension because of the weight of the allegations against him in the petition written by the Attorney-General. A source close to the panel disclosed that the suspended anti-corruption boss could not address some of the allegations satisfactorily before the panel.
Malami had accused Magu of insubordination and re-looting of recovered loot. He was also accused of owning four posh houses in high-brow areas in Abuja and money laundering abroad through third parties. Magu was equally accused of indulging in ostentatious lifestyle and living in a N40 million rented apartment paid for by a corrupt individual amongst others.