Ibrahim Magu, Acting Chairman, EFCC

By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU

Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission is in the eyes of a dangerous storm raging wildly in the Nigerian sea of intrigues. No one knows what the outcome of the storm threatening to morph into tsunami may do to the career of the beleaguered EFCC boss.

At issue is a memo from the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Shehu Malami to President Muhammadu Buhari detailing the financial heists and other forms of infractions committed by Magu. The said memo culminated in advice to the president to axe the EFCC boss in the face of these infractions.

In the controversial memo which has now stolen headline in the dailies, Malami accuses EFCC boss of diversion of recovered loot and gross insubordination. Malami (SAN), recommended to President Muhammadu Buhari to sack Magu.

The Attorney General anchored his recommendation on several grounds “raging from diversion of recovered loot to insubordination and misconduct” by Magu. Reports gleaned by this newspaper showed that Malami included a short list of three candidates for consideration to replace Magu.

But the embattled EFCC boss may have decided not to go down without a fight. His backers in    the Presidency are said to be piling pressure on Buhari to spare him given that he has lent muscle to Buhari’s anti-corruption fight. Whatever that means is open to debate, as there have been allegations that the corruption fight under Buhari as in other administrations before him is selective and politically motivated.

One of Magu’s powerful allies in the presidency was reported to have said, “It is painful that the EFCC boss is facing certain powerful forces who have decided to remove him in spite of his remarkable achievements.”

But sources said given the weight of Malami’s allegations against Magu, the president may be inclined “to set up a probe panel to look into the veracity of the allegations and make necessary recommendations.”

One of the sources told the media that, “I can authoritatively tell you that though Magu has survived previous plots to remove him, the AGF’s legal opinion remains the deadliest plot to get Magu out of the EFCC as AGF’s letter to the president contained 22 weighty allegations that require Buhari’s decision on whether or not to send Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation or replace him….. This is because the office of the AGF is the supervising ministry of the EFCC and so his legal opinion cannot be treated with levity.

“For example, Malami alleged accounting gaps or discrepancies of figures concerning the recovered assets, claiming that Magu was not transparent enough in the management of recovered assets…”

A Magu supporter was quoted to have said:” It will interest you to note that Malami accused the EFCC boss of disclosing a total naira recovery of N504 billion but lodged N543 billion in the Recovery Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Incidentally, this exceeded the disclosed figures by N39 billion.”

It is also said that “Malami also accused Magu of blatant display of arrogance and insubordination to him as supervising minister of the EFCC.”

A source explained that most of the recovered assets by the EFCC were allegedly sold by Magu without the knowledge of anyone.

“But it is unfortunate that this claim is at variance with the public auction of assets by the EFCC,“ a source  said.

Recall that Magu ever since his appointment on November 9, 2015 has had a rough ride as many efforts have been made in the past to make the president to drop  him. The opposition party, PDP had on Friday reacted to reports of a leaked memo by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, indicting the acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, of financial scam.

The opposition party in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, alleged that the said memo had exposed the abysmal corruption, deception and hypocrisy in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

The party called on the National Assembly to investigate claims contained in the alleged memo.

According PDP, “Malami’s memo has also exposed the credentials of President Buhari’s anti-corruption architecture; rubbished his standing as Africa Union (AU) Anti-Corruption Champion and shattered our national integrity in the international arena.

“The world can now see that the much-hyped anti-corruption fight of the @MBuhari administration has been nothing but a huge fraud and a racket by certain persons in the APC administration to harass political opponents, intimidate and extort money from innocent Nigerians and steal public funds. Many Nigerians have also called for investigation. This is not the first time Magu’s integrity test will be called into question.

Recall that the Nigerian 8th Senate had severally declined to confirm Magu as the substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission. At that time his nomination was rejected by the majority of the senators present at the plenary after it was put to a vote.

It is a public knowledge that Magu’s rejection by the Senate followed the receipt of petitions from the Department of State Services (DSS) which stated that the acting EFCC chairman would be “a liability to the anti-corruption fight of the present administration” if confirmed.

BusinessHallmark recalls that the Senate had on December 15, 2016, declined to confirm him based on a DSS status report which discredited his capability to carry out his duties creditably. The DSS also accused Magu of being corrupt, an accusation the acting EFCC boss queried.

The content of the earlier letter was upheld by another one which was received by the Senate on March 14, 2016.

Magu took charge of the EFCC in an acting capacity following the expiration of the tenure of his former boss, Ibrahim Lamorde, in November 2015. He had presided over the affairs of the commission for eight months before Vice President Yemi Osinbajo made the nomination to the Senate on July 22, 2016, when he (Osinbajo) was acting president. President Muhammadu Buhari, who initially appointed Magu had cleared him of any wrongdoing.

In a letter addressed to the Senate President in January, Buhari said he believed Magu was capable of carrying his duty as the head of the anti-corruption outfit in line with the vision of the administration.

“Distinguished Senators, in view of my conviction, there is need to maintain the momentum of anti-graft fight, while I urge the Senate to reconsider Ibrahim Magu as substantive EFCC Chairman,” Buhari wrote in the letter.

But the Senate did not share Buhari’s sentiment about Magu. Speaking on  the matter at that time, Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Capital territory (FCT), Senate Dino Melaye insisted the integrity issues raised by the DSS in its letters were such that could not be wished away.

“Mr. Ibrahim Magu, nominee for the position of the Chairman of the EFCC, the first report indicted you,” Melaye said. But because of the letter from Mr. President, you are here again. Mr. Chairman, if I have your permission, I want to read page five, paragraph 14 of that report.

“It says: `In the light of the foregoing, Magu has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption fight of the present administration’’, he said.

Melaye said the Senate had the prerogative to request the DSS to screen any government appointee sent for confirmation.

“We do request for [the] screening of every nominee that comes to this Senate by the DSS. It did not start with you and it will not end with you. The DSS is to us what the FBI and CIA is and we cannot ridicule, undermine, and put in abeyance, the report of the DSS.

“Anyone who wants to be chairman of EFCC must have the character and characteristics from the words of Caesar. You must be unblemished, you must be pure, and you must be stainless.

Speaking to BusinessHallmark, Leke Job, SAN, said “given the weight of the allegations against Magu, especially coming from the chief law officer, what the president ought to do was to ask Magu to step aside for proper investigation.”

This view resonates with Fidelis Nwankwo of the Justice Initiatives, who in his chat with this newspaper condemned Buhari’s reluctance to solve once and for all the Magu conundrum.” Honestly, Buhari seems to be protecting him in spite of evidence indicting Magu. Recall that Buhari’s own DSS wrote a damning report on his integrity question yet he refused to sack him, and he has been on acting capacity for four years.”

On such allegations of corruption against its chairman, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has always defended Magu, raising alarm over  what it called smear campaign against Magu.

Recently it spoke of an attempt by suspected blackmailers to begin a smear campaign against its chairman, Ibrahim Magu, with a view to tarnishing his image.

EFCC spokesperson, Dele Oyewale, in a statement, said the corruption will always fight back and the Commission is not surprised that such a campaign could be coming from some overseas-based, politically-exposed and disgraced elements being investigated for unnerving acts of corruption.

According to him, ”the attention of the EFCC has been drawn to the antics of some few elements in the social media,  employing desperate antics of blackmail, and smear campaigns against the successful war being fought against  corrupt practices by the Commission and its courageous chairman,  Ibrahim Magu.

“As a law enforcement agency, the EFCC has enough facts about the sponsors of such insidious campaigns.

“It is an unflattering fact that corruption will always fight back and the Commission is not surprised that such a campaign could be coming from some overseas-based, politically-exposed and disgraced elements being investigated for unnerving acts of corruption.

“For his courage, consistency and never-say-die spirit, Magu, would undoubtedly, have a tribe of hard critics, cynics and bitter foes. However, it is uncharitable to link him with the ownership of some buildings belonging to other individuals with verifiable addresses. It is even ridiculous to allege that he shied away from being served a fictitious writ of summons over a matter long decided by the Judiciary. “

Oyewale also stated that “the Commission finds every unfounded claim against it and its helmsman, as desperate backlash from disreputable elements suffering its uncompromising works against corrupt practices. We are not worried about such retrograde moves.  Members of the public only need to ignore tendencies aimed at blackmailing the EFCC and its workforce.

”Lastly, the Commission is on the trail of all the blackmailers and paid agents of darkness  armed against it.  Massive investigations of the platforms being used and their promoters have commenced.   Facts about their operations shall be made known to the public and outcome of investigations being carried out shall also be released to the public.  Appropriate legal actions are also being taken against bloggers and their promoters embarking on a campaign of calumny against the Commission.”

Magu, 58, is said  to be a brilliant police detective with good tract-record of performance, and was one of Nuhu Ribadu trusted lieutenants when he was EFCC chairman.