AYOOLA OLAOLUWA |
A thick cloud of uncertainty is still hanging over Ibrahim Magus’s reign as the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), despite the insistence of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo that he would remain the anti-corruption tsar as long as he remains in office.
Powerful forces, consisting of men of immense wealth and influence are not relenting in their desperate plot to get him sacked. Through their control of instruments of state, they manipulate public agencies and officials. Their ultimate aim is nothing less than to remove the head of the nation’s anti corruption agency.
The Senate had on March 15 2017, rejected the confirmation of the Ibrahim Magu for the second time after the senators voted against his confirmation. The Senate had cited a fresh security report from the Department of State Services (DSS) disqualifying him based on his failure of an integrity test.
The upper chamber said that two reports from the DSS were released on Ibrahim Magu and they both indicted him. The DSS report basically contained the same allegations raised by the service in December 2016 which bothered on the purchase of Magu’s official residence, his past record as head of the EFCC’s economic governance unit, as well as his relationship with Air Commodore Mohammed Umar who had been under investigation for alleged money laundering and illegal possession of firearms.
The DSS had also alleged that the retired Air Commodore paid the sum of N40million for Magu’s rented apartment.
Magu was first rejected by the lawmakers in December 2016, after which he was re-nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari in January, 2017, after consulting with the leadership of the Senate.
However, contrary to the widely held view that the negative security report from the Department of State Services (DSS), wherein Magu was adjudged to have failed integrity test, was the sole factor responsible for his rejection, Business Hallmark’s findings revealed that Magu ran into troubled waters in the course of performing his duties.
Described by sources in the police and EFCC as “a fearless investigator that goes to any length to get the information he needs and never hesitate to stand up to any duty. Magus, a competent, tenacious, and heady operative, gained recognition after handling many high profile investigations, particularly those against serving and former governors, including Governor Abudal’aziz Abubakar Yari of Zamfara, former James Ibori of Delta State and former Kwara State Governor, now Senate President Bukola Saraki.
This brazen action, it was learnt, drew the wrath of some powerful interests ranging from past top military brass to top politicians threatened by his decision to investigate their stupendous wealth and bring them to justice.
BH reliably learnt that more than 20 serving state governors, angered by EFCC’s probe of the handling of the bailout funds released to 35 states as Paris Club refund, have teamed up with the anti-Magu plot.
The governors, according to sources are from all the six geo-political zones of the country.
One of the governors was said to have vowed to do everything to stop Magu from investigating the spending of the funds released to his state.
The governors are joined by some ex-governors in the Senate who are under investigation by the anti-graft commission. This group of governors, led by Senate President Bukola Saraki, while Senators Danjuma Goje, Godswill Akpabio and others, BH learnt, are the arrowhead of the stop Magu movement in the Senate.
Outside the Senate, there are also formidable anti-Magu opponents. They include serving and former ministers, top government officials, retired and serving military officers, businessmen, and a cabal in the presidency.
Sources said that the cabal within the Presidency, made up of the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal, DSS Director Lawal Daura, Chief of Staff (CoS) Abba Kyari and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami and several others, played a big role in ensuring that the Senate did not confirm Magu as EFCC chairman.
A source in the AGF office alleged that Malami was angry that Magu was not taking directives from him regarding issues of who to prosecute or not – a decision that made him set up a national prosecution committee domiciled in his office.
According to unconfirmed reports, the president’s chief of staff, Kyari, is a friend of Jide Omokore, the alleged accomplice of former petroleum minister, Mrs Diezani Madueke.
On the other hand, Senate President Bukola Saraki is said to be blaming his ordeals in the hands of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) on Magu.
It was EFCC operatives that investigated and supplied the evidences used to prosecute Saraki at the CCB. Saraki, it was also learnt, had not forgiven Magu for arresting his wife, Toyin, in July of 2015.
Magu also led EFCC in investigating Senate Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio and Senator Stella Oduah for her airport renovation projects under former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, was also grilled by Magu in the recent past.
Findings also revealed that some retired military officers are also mobilising against Magu over the way and manner he handled the corruption case involving some serving and retired Generals, such as Air Chief Alex Bade, Air Marshal Amosu etc.
“Did you see how both serving and retired generals were being paraded by a deputy commissioner of police publicly? It was a disrespect of the highest order. We are not in support of any act of corruption, but there are ways you go about your constitutional job without unnecessarily hurting or embarrassing anybody.
“Did you see how both serving and retired generals were being paraded in hand-cuffs? That was why the military class lobbied the Senate. Yes, I said lobbied, because it is allowed in democracy to shoot down anything Magu and I thank God we succeeded,” a military source disclosed.
Having failed in their bid to force the presidency to sack the EFCC boss from office, the anti-Magu forces, BH reliably gathered have continued to hold consultations to ensure that they render the anti-corruption agency redundant.
One of the plots hatched by the leaders of the group is to push for the separation of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), an arm of the EFCC that helps to tackle money laundering and monitor financial flows from the commission.
The thinking of the group, according to a source in EFCC privy to the move, is to render the EFCC toothless.
Our correspondent gathered that the group sponsored some Nigerians, especially Juliet Ibebaku, a former head of the NFIU, to write several petitions to the Egmont Group demanding the separation of the NFIU from the EFCC.
Their prayer was answered when the Egmont Group, a network of national financial intelligence units (FIUs) that collects information on suspicious or unusual financial activity from the financial industry and other entities or professions required to report transactions suspected of being money laundering, suspended the NFIU as a member based on the petitions received from Nigeria.
Buoyed by this development, the anti-Magu forces in the Senate promptly presented a bill to establish the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency (NFIA) as an independent body on July 20.
Lawmakers, while debating the bill and promising to pass it by August, described the bill as a step closer to making the financial intelligence unit independent.
However, critics of the move faulted the speed with which the lawmakers quickly debated and promised to pass it into law.
“The lightening speed that the bill was tabled and debated is suspicious. How I wish that my colleagues would be as concerned and proactive in handling other important bills brought before them in the future”, said a senator who did not want his identity revealed.
The anti-Magu forces in the presidency, it was gathered, had visited ailing President Buhari in London with the names of two likely candidates to succeed the EFCC boss. The two candidates, according to feelers, are a deputy commissioner of police and an assistant commissioner of police.
However, the embattled Magu seems to have an ally in the acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, who recently declared at the inauguration of the Kaduna office of the anti graft agency that President Muhammadu Buhari has resolved to work with Magu as chairman of the EFCC to stamp out corruption in the country.
He was adamant that Magu would be retained in the position, as section 171 of the 1999 constitution does not mandate the Senate to confirm appointments into extra-ministerial bodies, such as the EFCC.
He advised those who think they are winning in fighting back against the government’s war on corruption, to wake up.
Meanwhile, in a bid to save Magu, the Presidency has concluded plans to take the Senate to the Supreme Court over its insistence that it must confirm certain appointees before they can assume office
A Presidency source confirmed to BH that they have received legal advice and are confident of flooring the Senate in court over the issue.
“In fact, Justice Walter Onnoghen, before he became Chief Justice of Nigeria, ruled in the case of Chief Isaac Egbuchu V. Continental Merchant Bank Plc & Ors (Supra), at page 19, paragraph C that ‘the time-honoured principle of law is that wherever and whenever the constitution speaks, any provision of an act/statute on the same subject matter must remain silent.’ That is a clear indication that presidency is right to insist that section 171 of the constitution is superior to the EFCC act,” the senior presidency official said.
However, it remains to be seen how this fight will play out but one thing is sure: It has continued to raise the political temperature of the nation and worsens executive-legislature cooperation.
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