By Matthew Isuma
If allowed, the renewed campaign of calumny targeted at the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, would not only dent the image of the country’s fight against corruption, but also take the country back to the pre-2015 era.
Not a few people both nationally and internationally have applauded Magu’s efforts, which have been selfless, transparent giving vent to the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Interestingly, these achievements which have surpassed all other previous chairmen of the Commission are now a subject of highly placed plot by the so-called powerful corrupt individuals not only to discredit Mr. Magu but to unseat him as he has become a thorn in their flesh.
The Commission has on several occasions warned against blackmail, which it said was not unexpected because those whose ill-gotten wealth have been seized while they were sentenced would always find a way to discredit Mr Magu.
Indeed, Magu’s achievements have deepened the financial resources of the federal government at a period in which the country so much needs revenue.
It is refreshing to restate that the EFCC under Magu has secured about 2,240 convictions from 2015 till date. The breakdown shows that in 2015, the Commission secured 103 convictions while it secured 109 in 2016, 189 in 2017, 315 in 2018, 1281 in 2019 and 243 in 2020 respectively.
No one can doubt the convictions of
ex-governors, top military officers, captains of industries, and other politically-exposed persons.
It is worth reminding that even two ex- governors of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), namely Jolly Nyame from Taraba State and Joshua Dariye from Plateau State, were not spared but are serving their different jail terms in Kuje Prison, Abuja.
The commission also secured the conviction of former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzo Kalu, as a sitting senator showing clearly that there are no sacred cows in the fight against corruption.
In Kalu’s case, the Supreme Court recently set aside his conviction on technical grounds and ordered a retrial. The process of retrial has begun already.
One of the celebrated convictions was the former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh who is also in prison, following his conviction over N400 million money laundering.
Also, a senior lawyer, Joseph Nwobike (SAN), was convicted for perverting the course of justice while the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) withdrew the coveted Senior Advocate of Nigeria from him.
On March 21, 2018 the EFCC secured a “re-conviction” of a pension thief, John Yusuf. The Court of Appeal in Abuja sentenced the former federal civil servant to six years imprisonment for pension fraud and further directed him to pay a fine of N22.9 billion.
The appellate court judgement effectively put to rest the controversial verdict delivered by Justice Talba in April 2013.
The EFCC deemed the verdict as a miscarriage of justice and subsequently appealed it at the Court of Appeal. The EFCC had argued that the trial judge did not exercise his discretion judicially and judiciously when having convicted the respondent of a three-count charge of conversion of over N3 billion contrary to section 309 of the Penal Code, the judge imposed two years imprisonment with an option of fine of N250,000 on each of the three counts.
On January 26, 2018 the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the former member of the Kogi State House of Assembly and former caretaker chairman, Ogori/Magongo Local Government Area of Kogi State, Hon Gabriel Daudu, over his conviction on 77-count-charge of money laundering. Daudu, who was first arraigned in April 2010, was prosecuted by the EFCC on a 208-count charge of money laundering and misappropriation of public funds to the tune of N1.4billion.
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Lokoja, Kogi had on April 25, 2016 found him guilty of 77 counts and sentenced him to two years in prison on each, to run concurrently. He had failed at the Court of Appeal to upturn the conviction. He thereafter approached the Supreme Court for redress while the apex court upheld his conviction on the grounds that his asset and properties were not in tandem with his total earnings.
On January 25, 2018, Munir Sagagi, Chairman of the Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industries, Kano Chapter, was sentenced to seven years imprisonment without an option of fine, following his involvement in obtaining N8,750,000 under false pretence. Justice Dije Aboki of the Kano State High Court held that the prosecuting EFCC has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and further ordered Sagagi to make restitution of N5,500,000 to the complainant.
Whistle-blower Policy and the gains
Acting on the federal government’s Whistle-blowing policy, introduced on December 21, 2016, the first information received by the commission led to the discovery of $9.8million cash hid in the slum of Sabon Tasha, Kaduna state.
EFCC also recovered humongous cash of $43million, £27,000 and N23million in Osborne, Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, all of which have now been forfeited to the federal government.
The investigation of arms procurement fraud in the military also led to a number of recoveries, including $1million cash belonging to the late retired Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, former chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
Air Marshal Adesola Amosun, also lost his choice properties and funds to federal government.
These include: ₦2.24billion, a house located on Adeyemo Alakija Street, Ikeja GRA, a set of houses in the Badagry area of Lagos, and an ultra-modern hospital, St. Solomon Health Care Limited, located on Adeniyi Jones Avenue in Ikeja, also in Lagos. These have since been forfeited to the federal government.
In the final forfeiture of N1.4billion Paris Club Refund, which Melrose General Services, a firm linked to the immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was implicated, the Court of Appeal in Lagos after its ruling, ordered that the sum be forfeited to the federal government.
Saraki also forfeited N220million, allegedly obtained from the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) through false consultancy claims and traced to Wasp Networks Limited and Thebe Wellness Services.
Properties recovered from the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison- Madueke, from 2015 to date are: 76 Housing units and two parcels of land In Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt valued at N4.82billion and $41.7million; two houses in Aso Drive and Asokoro, Abuja valued at N995million and one mansion and twin duplex in Yenagoa, Bayelsa valued at N602.5million. Jewelry valued at $40million were also recovered from the former petroleum minister.
The sum total of the properties recovered from Diezani inclusive of the Dollars at N420 conversion rate would amount to N40.47billion.
Handing-over of forfeited properties to Federal Government’s agencies
In a novel step to save billions of naira for the federal government over annual rent for the MDAS, the EFCC, on July 17, 2019 handed over one of the forfeited properties belonging to former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the late Air Marshal Alex Badeh, to the Voice of Nigeria, VON, to use as its new headquarters in Abuja.
In the same vein, the EFCC also on Thursday, August 8, 2019, handed over to the North East Development Commission (NEDC), another forfeited property of the late Badeh- a massive 13-bedroom one-storey building- for its operations.
The commission further handed over forfeited properties to the following MDAs for use as their offices:
1. National Directorate of Employment (NDE).
2. Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC).
3. Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
4. Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM).
5. Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development
EFCC’s support for COVID- 19
The EFCC, on Friday, May 15, 2020, handed over a property forfeited by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke, to the Lagos State government for use as an isolation centre for COVID-19 patients. The sprawling property, located on the Lagos Island, comprises six flats of three bedrooms and a boys’ quarter . It was forfeited by Mrs Allison-Madueke to the federal government, following an order of the Federal High Court in Lagos in 2017.
EFCC onslaught against Cybercrime fraudsters
The arrest and ongoing prosecution of a social media celebrity and internet fraudster, Ismaila Mustapha (otherwise known as Mompha) and his Lebanese accomplice, Hamza Koudeih, as a landmark achievement in the sustained fight against internet-related frauds and money laundering in the country.
The EFCC is prosecuting Mompha before a Federal High Court in Lagos, following his alleged involvement in N14billion money laundering and operating as Bureau De Change Operator (BDCE) without valid licence.
It is also noteworthy that there was a joint EFCC-FBI operations, codenamed, “Operation Rewired” across the globe aimed at tackling the menace of cybercrime. The development led to the arrest and ongoing prosecution of internet fraudsters (aka Yahoo-yahoo boys).
Prevention Strategies Against Corruption
In line with Section 6(f) of the EFCC’s Establishment Act, several preventive measures are being taken against corrupt practices.
They include engagement with Civil Society Organizations(CSOs); Town Hall meetings locally and internationally; establishment of Integrity Clubs in Secondary Schools; inter-faith collaboration and engagements and other practical measures, all aimed at public sensitization to the menace of corruption.
On February 14, 2020, the EFCC held the first-ever Nigerian Youth Walk Against Corruption. The Walk held in all the 36 States of the Federation, including the FCT. Youths trooped out enmasse from all corners of the country to make a loud statement against corruption. The Commission is also involved in several other Preventive programs, including the mobilization of Nigerians in the diaspora against corrupt people hiding their loot in their domain.
Recall that the African Union named President Buhari as the Champion of Anti-Corruption in Africa due to his stands against corruption and the remarkable achievements made by EFCC under the leadership of Ibrahim Magu, and the world knows this.
It is disheartening to hear that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami is now playing the ostrich, heaping allegations on the Acting Chairman whom he had on several occasions extolled his achievements in different fora. Malami should not dent his credibility by allowing himself to be used by the corrupt to impede President Buhari’s fight against corruption.
*Isuma is an Abuja-based media consultant