Why most senior police officer in EFCC takes charge
Quizzed on alleged looted assets’ disposal
Osinbajo denies collecting N4bn from commission’s boss
The heat on the Embattled Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, a Commissioner of Police, heightened Wednesday as his interrogation by the Justice Ayo Salami-led presidential panel entered the third day, with the Police high command insisting that it is against its service rule for him to be under investigation and still function in office. Ibrahim Magu, has also been given him two days to consult his lawyers.
The panel reportedly granted Magu the opportunity “when his responses to the allegations were incoherent,” a security source told Nigeria Daily yesterday.
The Police, Nigeria Daily learnt last night, has, therefore, directed the most senior police officer in the commission, Mr. Mohammed Umar, a deputy commissioner of police, and the commission’s director in charge of operations to stand in, pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation of Magu.
For the third day in a row, Magu faced the panel sitting at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, to account for his stewardship at the EFCC since November 2015. Among other allegations, the probe panel asked the EFCC boss to account for the specific number of properties recovered by the commission under his watch and what happened to them, the locations of the recovered property, how they were sold, whether the sale process(es) followed due process and the present state of those still in the commission’s custody.
As Magu continued to tell the panel his own side of the story wednesday, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, denied an allegation by “Jackson Ude that he collected N4billion from the EFCC boss”.
A statement by his media aide, Mr. Laolu Akande, said the allegation was false and had been referred to the appropriate authority for investigation.
Said the source: “From some of his submissions before the committee, he could not account for the exact figure of the assets in EFCC custody and what has even become of them. Even for the ones sold, he was incoherent when confronted with details of their disposal.”
A reliable security source told Nigeria Daily last night that the Police high command had decided to subject Magu, a serving commissioner in the force, to its service rules, which does not allow an officer who is under investigation to function in the office.
“Magu is essentially a policeman and he is subject to police rules. So, the police are holding him and insisting that he must stand down,” the highly placed security source said.
“Apart from his arrest and investigation of a former director-general of DSS, Mr. Ita Ekpenyong, Magu also clashed with the secret service over the acquisition of 14, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi Lagos, as the commission’s annex office, which used to be owned by the DSS,” the security source said.
Part of Magu’s problem, explained another source, is the lack of clarity in his submissions to the press and the authorities on the commission’s recoveries.
One of the allegations against the anti-graft boss was that whereas he claimed that the commission had recovered N980 billion worth of assets while what is in the account is less than N100 billion.
But Magu had laboured unsuccessfully to explain that most of the assets and monies recovered were under litigation and could not be posted to the account of the federal government until the litigations are concluded.
Meanwhile, his interrogation continued yesterday for the third day.
The panel, it was further gathered, asked Magu if the bidding process(es) for the sold assets were advertised in national newspapers, as required by law, the short-listing process(es) and whether other government agencies were involved in the sale process(es) and also, whether the Presidency, through the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, was notified and involved in the disposal of looted assets, and “he was not coherent in his reply to these allegations.”
This reportedly prompted the probe panel to give him “two days to meet with and present his defence lawyers from Lagos,” according to report monitored by the News Agency of Nigeria.
The committee chaired by Justice Ayo Salami (retd), decided to give Magu the opportunity of “legal counsel,” as the “allegations against him are weighty.”
A Presidency source had on Tuesday told State House correspondents that Magu was suspended from office following the ongoing investigation by the presidential panel.
Since Monday night when he was invited to appear before the panel, Magu has been spending the night at the FCID.
However, as it was the situation on Monday and Tuesday, journalists were again barred from accessing the venue of the meeting as a security official at the gate of the venue turned them back.
Nigeria Daily learnt yesterday that Magu, who had been in police custody since Monday night was brought before the panel at 11.44 am by the FCID.
He was later joined by his lawyer at the investigation panel sitting.
Uncertainty in EFCC as Umar takes charge
Meanwhile, the Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar, has taken charge as the interim head, to avoid a leadership vacuum in the commission.
Until Magu is recalled or a substantive head appointed in his place, Umar would hold sway as boss of the anti-graft commission.
Secretary of the commission, Olanipekun Olukoyede, who ought to have stepped in, is considered to be lacking in operational experience, which makes it difficult for him to assume the position in acting capacity. A source said Umar had not been issued a letter from President Buhari to officially take over in an acting capacity, but decided to step in, to avoid a vacuum in the management of the agency.
Commission awaits presidential directive
“Officially, no letter or announcement has been made. We have been waiting since Monday when Ibrahim Magu was whisked to the Villa. We had imagined that he would either return or a new replacement announced. When that didn’t happen, the director of operations had to take over for now. If the President makes a new pronouncement anytime, the new person will take over. For now, that’s all I can tell you. We are waiting for the acting chairman to call for a management meeting and reduce the tension in the commission,” said the source.
Magu, pioneer staff of the EFCC, was appointed by President Buhari in an acting capacity in November 2015, following the expiration of the tenure of Ibrahim Lamorde.
His recent travail is the culmination of his long-running battle with the Senate, the DSS and the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami.
Malami had in a memo reportedly listed Magu’s ‘22 sins’ and recommended his sack to President Buhari.
Malami anchored his recommendation on several grounds “ranging from diversion of recovered loot to insubordination and misconduct.”
In Magu’s place, Malami reportedly recommended three persons as substantive chairman of the EFCC.
Osinbajo Denies Collecting N4 billion from Magu
In a related development, Osinbajo last night denied an allegation by one Jackson Ude that Magu gave him N4 billion from alleged looted funds.
The allegation against the vice-president said to have been published by Ude online claimed that Magu stole N39 billion and gave N4 billion of the sum to Osinbajo.
But a statement by the vice-president’s spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, last night, described the allegation as sheer falsehood and a mere concoction by Ude with the intention of smearing the image of the vice-president.
He said Ude is known for fabricating fake news, and in accordance with his stock in trade, concocted the story to create the impression that the allegation is one of the revelations before the presidential panel probing Magu’s alleged corrupt practices.
According to Akande, Ude is noted for criminal defamation of character and has been referred to law enforcement agencies to investigate it and promptly bring it to move against it as the case may be.
He stated: “The attention of the Office of the Vice President has been drawn to a series of tweets and online publications by [an online medium] today 8th July 2020, credited to the same person, one Jackson Ude.
“In essence, Ude’s story is that ’embattled former Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, allegedly embezzled over N39 billion and gave Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (sic) N4 billion, after the VP gave instructions to him to release some of the recovered loots…’
“The same Jackson Ude has also been circulating a video on YouTube with a female commentator, peddling the same lies.
“With all emphasis at our disposal, let it be firmly stated that these are totally false and baseless fabrications purporting to reflect goings-on at the probe panel investigating Mr. Ibrahim Magu. They are indeed completely absurd in every respect.
“Sadly, such mindless, vicious and reckless publications have now become the preferred tool of unscrupulous and reprobate elements in our society who are procured with monetary inducement to peddle blatant falsehood, tarnish the image of upright public officials and mislead unsuspecting Nigerians.
“Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, will of course not be distracted by these obvious campaigns of lies and calumny. The online publications, being criminally defamatory in nature, have been referred to the relevant law enforcement agencies for investigation and necessary action.”
Magu must face prosecution -PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) , yesterday, said Magu must be prosecuted for alleged graft.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the allegations against Magu, as reported in a memo by Malami has put a question mark on the Federal Government’s fight against corruption.
The opposition party stated that the allegations against the embattled EFCC boss has reinforced its position that “the much-hyped war against corruption by the EFCC, under his watch, has been a huge scam by corrupt individuals to cover the plundering of public resources, harass political opponents, intimidate and extort money from innocent Nigerians.”
According to the PDP, “the development has also exposed why corruption has worsened under the Buhari administration, as documented by credible international organisation, including the Transparency International (TI).
“It is a big embarrassment to our nation, that the head of anti-corruption agency in an administration led by the African Union (AU) anti-corruption champion and which prides itself on zero tolerance for corruption, is being dragged in allegation of looting recovered fund and other barefaced frauds.
“Now that the racket has been exposed, the onus lies on President Muhammadu Buhari to clean his Augean stable by not sweeping the matter under the carpet or seeking to provide soft landing for the indicted EFCC boss and shield him from prosecution.
“What Nigerians expect at this moment is for President Buhari to enforce the law by directing relevant agencies to commence actions that would lead to Magu’s prosecution in the court. Anything short of this will not be acceptable to Nigerians.”
Conflicting signals not good for anti-corruption fight’
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has called on the presidential panel to carry out a thorough and fair investigation.
A statement by executive director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, said it was unclear what the real issues were, even as the group expressed worry over the conflicting signals being sent to Nigerians.
The centre said Magu’s heading of a sensitive government agency, tasked with investigation of financial crimes such as advance fee fraud and money laundering, makes it pertinent that his case be handled with all diligence and transparency, to ensure the gains in the fight against corruption are not lost in the battle for supremacy and political advantage.
Rafsanjani said: “We, therefore, urge the panel to make the results of the investigation public, in the interest of the President and in order not to rubbish the progress made in the fight against corruption and undermine the efforts of stakeholders. Public trials of heads of anti-corruption agencies send a wrong signal to Nigerians and the international community about the genuineness of the fight against corruption. This incident comes at the worst possible moment and may hamper our national efforts to fight transnational financial crimes and national scams, which have plunged Nigerians into poverty and deprivation. Full transparency of the investigation panel is of paramount importance.
“We also ask that sanctions be meted out where necessary to serve as a deterrent for officers saddled with the fight against corruption and political office holders. We call on civil society organisations, the media and Nigerians to continue to monitor events as they unfold and demand justice is served.”