Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) monday met with President Muhammadu Buhari behind closed doors, ostensibly to seek clarification on the directive by the president for Malami’s office to carry out a probe of some top government officials of the administration who have been fingered for corruption.
Although the minister did not answer questions from State House correspondents after his meeting with the president, sources said that he came to meet with Buhari on the directive to investigate top government officials alleged to have engaged in corrupt acts.
Also yesterday, Senate Leader, Ali Ndume met with Buhari over the Senate’s decision not to confirm the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, following a security report from the Department of State Service (DSS) that indicted him for corruption and leading a double life.
The president’s directive came on the heels of the Senate’s report on the humanitarian crisis in the North East which indicted the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir David Lawal, for awarding a weed clearing contract to his firm, Rholavision, as well as the upper legislature’s rejection of Magu over the damning DSS report.
However, when Ndume was cornered by journalists, he refused to disclose the details of his meeting with the president, but said: “My meeting with Mr. President is not a new thing in that you have been seeing me here in and out for two reasons: One I’m the Senate Leader by the grace of God and two, General Buhari, the president, is one of my mentors and we have been relating since 2002.
“So, we normally come intermittently to compare notes on issues so that’s my reason for coming here.”
Asked to comment on the position taken by the Senate on Magu, the Senate leader, who was alleged to have appealed to his colleagues last week not to turn down Magu’s confirmation, said the acting EFCC chairman had not been completely rejected by the upper chamber in the parliament.
He said: “No, no, no, let me say categorically that the Senate did not reject Ibrahim Magu as the chairman. What happened was that when we slated his confirmation for Thursday, at the time we had an issue or a letter from the Department of State Service (DSS) that could not allow us to continue with the confirmation without further clarifications.
“So, we now concluded that since we have a letter that we cannot ignore we could not do the confirmation. So, it was not that we sat down to take a decision that we have rejected Ibrahim Magu. I want that to come out clearly.”
He added that the Chairman of Senate Committee on Media was directed to issue a statement to that effect.
He said: “What we said last Thursday was that the Senate could not go ahead with the confirmation of Mr. Ibrahim Magu and that we are in possession of a letter from the Department of State Service which required clarification from Mr. President, who is the head of the government. That was what happened.
“Even if the rejection is going to come, it is not going to come from the Senate.”
When reminded that the Senate spokesperson had said specifically that the upper chamber had rejected Magu, the Senate Leader responded: “I hope we are not arguing. I listened and I still listened because of this controversy that came out.
“I was one of the persons that wrote the short press statement which stated that the Senate cannot continue with the confirmation. It was different from saying that the Senate had rejected him. In fact we have referred the order form to the committee.”
Ndume also spoke on the recommendation of the Senate ad hoc committee, which recommended the removal of the SGF.
According to him, the recommendation was not an order to the executive arm, adding: “The Senate resolution was a recommendation, it’s not a law.
“What the Senate considered was work in progress because it was an interim report. It was for the same public, especially for those that are interested and worried to know what we have done as a Senate about those allegations.
“The committee released the interim report and the interim report seemed to indict the SGF, the consequence of that indictment was what they recommended, but we are not there yet because the report itself is interim. So we still have to wait until the whole investigation is concluded.
“I hear coming from the SGF that he has not been given a fair hearing, which means that the hearing has not been finished. We can give him ample time to appear before the committee and clear himself.”
The president on Sunday had directed the justice minister to investigate allegations of corruptions against top government officials.
A two-paragraph statement issued by his media aide, Mr. Garba Shehu said: “The attention of the presidency has been drawn to a number of reports in the media, in which various accusations of corruption have been levelled against some top officials in the administration.
“In that regard, President Buhari has instructed the Attorney General of the Federation to investigate the involvement of any top government officials accused of any wrong-doing. If any of them is liable he will not escape prosecution.”