OBINNA EZUGWU

Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari has suspended the acting chairman of the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.

Magu spent last night in police cell at the Force Criminal Investigation Department Headquarters in Area 10, Garki, Abuja, after he was quizzed on Monday for about six hours by a Presidential panel, chaired by a former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami.

Magu was detained at the FCID after the panel grilled him throughout yesterday and continuing today.

The panel was constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari to probe various allegations levelled against Magu following a petition by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the Department of State Service (DSS).

Malami’s memo accused Magu of diversion of recovered loot and contains 22 allegations against him.

However, the Attorney General through his spokesman, Dr Umar Gwandu said he had no knowledge of Magu’s arrest.

“You are just informing me now,” Gwandu said when told that Malami had reportedly written a memo in June, 2020, which indicted Magu. I am also not aware of any memo written to the president on the EFCC chairman,” Daily Trust quoted him to have said.

Magu was interrogated

One of our sources, according to Daily Trust, said the Salami panel had “quizzed Magu” who has been the acting chairman of the EFCC since when he was first nominated for the job by President Buhari in 2015.

“I am sure Justice Salami was selected to chair the panel because he will not compromise.

“This is a serious setback for the administration’s anti-corruption war. As it is now, Magu is a loner.

“He may be asked to handover to the most senior officer in the commission while the investigation continued.

“I don’t see him surviving this,” the source told one of our correspondents.

Another source told the Daily Trust yesterday that “it took a long time before President Buhari gave the green light for Magu to be interrogated.”

According to the source, “What happened yesterday was a tough decision…It was at the instance of the president and he (Buhari) agreed that Magu should be asked questions.

“This was based on the petitions and facts made available to him.

“Magu is the face of the anti-corruption war of the president but the allegations are heavy.

“So, I can assure you that it was a tough decision taken by the president in order to save his image and that of his administration,” he said.

It was not clear last night whether Magu was allowed to go home after he faced the panel or the DSS took him into custody.

Why Magu was invited – Presidency

The Presidency yesterday said Magu was not arrested but rather invited so that he can respond to issues as they arise.

Senior Special Assistant to the president on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a text message in response to Daily Trust enquiries, said Magu’s attention was “immediately” needed as the presidential panel investigating the disposal of recovered assets began its sitting.

Garba, while reacting to a text message that sought to know the feeling of the presidency to the DSS’s decision to invite Magu, said: “There is a presidential panel that has begun sitting, investigating the disposal of recovered assets and the EFCC chairman is responding to their questions.

“I will not call it arrest per se, as many have suggested, but they need him to be immediately available to them so that he can respond to issues as they arise,” he said.

Magu could not be reached for comments last night as his mobile phone was switched off.

But his media aide, Tony Amokedo, told the Daily Trust that Magu was not arrested as reported by a section of the media.

He said the EFCC boss was invited by a presidential panel investigating allegations of corruption against him and he complied.

He also said he hasn’t seen the memo purportedly written by Malami against Magu.

Journalists barred from covering proceedings

Journalists were yesterday barred from the sitting of the panel set up to probe alleged violations against Magu.

Reporters that arrived at the venue to cover the event at about 3:20pm were denied access by security personnel.

“They said you people should excuse the use of this place for today,” a security official detailed to the venue, politely told reporters.

How DSS operatives intercepted Magu

Magu was reportedly stopped by DSS operatives while moving out of the Wuse II Annex of the EFCC in Abuja.

He was intercepted while his convoy was driving out of the premises.

A source described what happened as a sting operation, saying Magu might not have honoured an invitation if extended to him by the DSS, which necessitated his arrest.

Another source said the DSS wanted to arrest the EFCC boss last week but could not because of some reasons.

However, the DSS said its operatives did not arrest Magu, saying he was only given an invitation letter.

In a statement yesterday, its spokesman, Peter Afunanya, said: “DSS wishes to inform the public that it did not arrest Ibrahim Magu, acting EFCC chairman as has been reported by sections of the media.

“The service has been inundated with enquiries over the alleged arrest,” he said.

Also yesterday, the EFCC said Magu had honoured an invitation by a presidential panel reviewing the activities of the EFCC, saying he met members of the panel at the Banquet Hall wing of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

A statement from EFCC spokesman, Dele Oyewale said Magu was served the invitation to the panel while on his way to the Force Headquarters, Abuja for a meeting.

He said the EFCC’s boss was neither arrested nor forced to honour the invitation, adding that a member of a legal team from the EFCC was also with him on the panel.

Malami had reportedly filed a petition to President Buhari demanding the removal of Magu over alleged diversion of recovered loot, insubordination and misconduct.

Daily Trust recalled that trouble started for Magu immediately after his appointment by President Buhari to head the commission.

The Senate under Senator Bukola Saraki had refused to confirm his appointment, citing a 2016 report by the DSS.

The DSS in a 2016 report said Magu was not fit to serve as EFCC chairman.

Among other allegations, the secret agency in the report also said the Police Service Commission (PSC) had in December 2010, found Magu guilty of action 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.