By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
Ibrahim Magu, former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Chairman has had a chequered career, which at every point in time has been punctuated by controversy after controversy making him the most controversial chairman of the anti graft agency since its founding by the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo.
He came in a blaze of glory as a soot and thaw to the disgraceful performance and ignoble end of his predecessor, Ibrahim Lamorde, who also came from the northeast geopolitical zone as Magu. Now there is a twist of acerbic irony as Magu, who is generally believed to have outperformed his predecessors now left in a blaze of disgrace.
On Monday last week, operatives of Department of State Security, DSS, arrested the embattled ex EFCC boss and raided his homes in Abuja and Kano as suspended EFCC boss remains in detention. Magu was subsequently suspended on Tuesday by the Buhari administration amidst allegations of gross misconducts. The suspension was also confirmed by top officials at the presidency.
This newspaper learnt that the next most-senior EFCC official to Mr. Magu was asked to take charge. This made EFCC secretary, Olanipekun Olukoyede to step in acting capacity, but dramatically on Thursday last week, the Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar, a deputy commissioner of police replaced Olukoyede as acting chairman.
According to sources who confided in BusinessHallmark, the removal of Olukoyede might have been connected with the fact that he has no background as an operative, for a top position that requires deep background in intelligence and operations. This reality this newspaper learnt paved the way for the possibility of Mohammed Abba Umar, director of operations, being allowed to take charge because of his background as an operative.
Efforts to reach presidential spokespersons, Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina, on the suspension have not been successful. Recall that Mr. Magu was recently accused of corruption, insubordination and abuse of office by Attorney-General Abubakar Malami.
In view of Mr. Malami’s allegations, Magu was arrested on Monday morning by a police team outside his office in Abuja.
He was driven to the Presidential Villa where he appeared before a panel investigating the allegations against him. After his appearance before the panel, he was taken into custody by the police, where he was held overnight by detectives.
Magu has been leading the anti-graft agency in acting capacity since 2016, overseeing scores of high-profile corruption cases that have seen many politicians and businessmen convicted and sentenced to prison.
He strongly denied wrongdoing, with his aides arguing that he has run the office diligently and away from sharp practices. Magu spent night in police custody as plot to remove him thickened throughout Wednesday until he was finally replaced by Umar.
This newspaper learnt that immediately Magu was picked up he was taken to the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where he appeared before a presidential panel investigating alleged corruption and insubordination.
Earlier, the attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami had written a confidential memo to the president alleging corruption and insubordination and ‘relooting of recovered funds’ against Magu. In separate statements last Monday, the SSS denied arresting the anti-graft chief while the EFCC said Magu was only invited for questioning.
Similarly, the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption also described Mr. Magu as a victim of power play in the presidency. The investigative panel to probe embattled Magu headed by jurist, retired Isa Ayo Salami, former president of the Court of Appeal had ordered Magu’s detention, as he was not allowed to go back home .
The EFCC official was reportedly interrogated for several hours by members of the panel in the presence of an EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo. When the panel rose for the day, it decided to send Magu to Area 10 Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) of the police, sources said. He spent the night there, in police custody.
This newspaper learnt that several options of sanctions against Magu were being weighed, pending the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“They are planning to take him to court,” BusinessHallmark learnt from a source familiar with the matter. But this newspaper was informed that a lobby group has started advocating for a soft-landing for Magu, a police commissioner.
“You cannot claim successes in the fight against corruption and turn around to say the man leading the war is a corrupt, immoral person. That is part of the argument of Magu’s sympathisers,” said the source late on Monday.
Power struggle, unending crisis
Multiple sources have also said the ongoing investigations into the activities of the EFCC is ”majorly a battle between the AGF and the EFCC boss.” But Liborous Oshoma, a human rights activist and lawyer told Reuben Abati-anchored programme on the developing Magu story at Arise TV on Tuesday last week that the issue of power play is not totally tenable while it cannot be wholly discounted, said, “he who must come to equity must be clean”, saying Malami raised fundamental issues of corruption and we cannot say it is power play”.
But eminent criminologist, and former aide to General Oladipo Diya, Professor Femi Odekunle, said the drama around Magu” is pure power play and nothing but power play.”
“The alleged originating Malami’s memo, up to the current “arrest“ seems an outcome of power-play by power blocs in the corridors of power in which Malami appears to be 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,” Femi Odekunle, a member of the presidential advisory committee against corruption (PACAC), wrote in a statement Monday night.
Other sources, who asked not to be mentioned, accused the AGF of using insiders at the commission to sponsor media attacks against Magu.
It is no longer news that Malami has never been in support of Magu for the EFCC top job. Both men have constantly played a cat and mouse game despite holding sensitive roles in the Buhari administration, especially in the fight against corruption.
Magu, who was appointed acting chief of the anti-graft agency in 2015 by President Muhammad Buhari, was rejected twice by the 8th senate.
This was after the SSS, allegedly in collaboration with Malami, said the nominee lacked the integrity to lead the country’s anti-corruption agency. The presidency had baulked at resending Magus’s name for screening since then.
Chronicle of travails that culminated in sack
Recall that Magu was summoned on Monday, July 6, by the operatives of the state security services, though DSS said he was not arrested but only invited for interrogation.
Peter Afunanya, the spokesperson for the Department of State Security said that the EFCC boss was invited to Aso Rock to clarified growing media reports that Magu was apprehended over alleged illegal ownership of properties. The EFCC boss had been earlier indicted by the attorney-general of the federation, Abubakar Malami, who also recommended his sack in a recent memo.
- Alleged ‘relooting’ of recovered loots’ and sale of seized assets to cronies, associates and friends.
- Alleged favouritism towards selected EFCC investigators called the ‘Magu Boys’ for ‘juicy’ assignments.
- Insubordination to the Office of the AGF.
- Alleged discrepancies in the reconciliation records of the EFCC and the Federal Ministry of Finance on recovered funds.
- Alleged leakages of investigative reports that were prejudicial to some cases to some selected media.
- Reporting some judges to their presiding officers without deferring to the AGF.
- Alleged declaration of N539billion as recovered funds instead of billion earlier claimed.
- Not respecting court order to unfreeze N7b judgment in favour of a former executive director of a bank.
- Late action on the investigation of P&ID leading to legal disputes.
- Not providing enough concrete evidence against some suspects including Diezani Alison-Madueke for her extradition.
Finally, a curtain has drawn on the career of Ibrahim Magu. But many agreed that he achieved more than his predecessors. Oshoma said he remains the best; this position was shared by Professor Odekunle.
Dr. Abubakar Mohammed, former head of political science, University of Ilorin told this newspaper that “in spite of the allegations, in the chronicles of EFCC he remains the most active.”