Kingsley Nwezeh writes on the arrest and detention of the suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the triggers that led to his incarceration and the implication for the anti-graft war
Last Monday, the news that Mr. Ibrahim Magu, suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was arrested hit the nation like a thunderbolt.
Although his handlers made concerted efforts to disclaim the arrest by substituting it with invitation, it turned out that he was picked up by security agents to face the seven-man presidential panel headed by Justice Ayo Salami, set up to look into the activities and allocations made to the commission.
Wait for it, the feared and dreaded anti-graft czar, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, was detained! How are the mighty fallen!
As at the time of filling this report he remained in the custody of his parent agency, Nigerian Police, being a Commissioner of Police.
Magu was the poster boy and face of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption drive. While he reigned, he cut the picture of a no-nonsense, unsmiling, anti-graft warlord.
He also enjoyed a seeming chubby relationship with Buhari and had, among others initiatives, convened an anti-corruption summit that attracted many African leaders to Abuja.
Magu’s leadership at EFCC is on record to have secured the conviction of four former governors, notably, Jolly Nyame (Taraba), Lucky Igbinedion (Edo), Joshua Dariye (Plateau) and recently Orji Uzor Kalu, who was set free via a court order after spending some months in Kuje Correctional Facility.
His arrest alarmed the nation, Magu, having been rated as one of the best performing heads of the anti-graft agency in recent memory going by the 2,240 convictions the agency secured under his leadership and N990 billion and other assets recovered in five years.
He was a nightmare to politically exposed persons mired in corruption, oil thieves and Nigerians involved in cybercrime popularly known as “Yahoo boys”.
He also received accolades and awards from no less an institution than the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for his efforts in joint operations aimed at hunting down internet fraudsters across the globe.
Charges against Magu
Magu’s problems from inception are many and varied. The issues hunting him had stalled his confirmation as substantive head of the commission for five years.
The 8th Senate relied on the DSS report to deny him confirmation, but his name was not sent to a friendlier 9th Senate either after one year into President Buhari’s second tenure.
A memo written by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, accused the suspended EFCC Chairman of diverting recovered looted funds, insubordination and discrepancies in lodgement of recovered loot.
The AGF also accused Magu of failing to provide sufficient evidence for the extradition of former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, sale of seized assets to cronies, associates and friends and issuance of investigative activities to some media outfits prejudicial to some cases.
The minister also accused Magu of delay in acting on two vessels seized by the Nigerian Navy, alleged preference of some investigators called “Magu Boys” and reporting some judges to their presiding officers without deferring to the AGF.
Before the Justice Minister’s memo, Ibrahim Magu had running battles with the then Lawal Daura-led Department of State Security (DSS), who raised issues with houses owned and rented by him in Karu and Maitama Districts of Abuja, expensive air travels, high profile and expensive lifestyle, the mutually beneficial relationship with retired Air Commodore Mohammed Umar, missing EFCC files and alleged vendetta against some people under investigation.
Magu had also responded to the allegations to a query issued him by the AGF following the DSS report against him.
Responding to the allegations in a letter addressed to the AGF, dated December 21, 2016, Magu, had given a point by point response to the allegations, which are still some issues before the Justice Salami Panel.
Missing EFCC Files
Magu posited that, “It is true that my residence was searched on the orders of Mrs. Farida Waziri, shortly after she succeeded Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as Chairman of the EFCC and some documents relating to cases under investigation were found in my house. At the time of the raid, I was yet to formally hand over to my successor, Umar Sanda, as head of the Economic Governance Unit.”
On return to EFCC under Lamorde, he said: “I was Assistant Commissioner of Police in Charge of Operations at the Anambra State Police Command, when I was recalled to the EFCC in 2012.
“I did not lobby to return to the EFCC. It is preposterous to say I was recalled to do a hatchet job for Lamorde, as alleged in the DSS Report. My job schedule as Deputy Director, Department of Internal Affairs, under Lamorde, was simply handling issues of professional responsibility in the commission. I had no inputs in core operations, duties of the commission.”
On his controversial residential accommodation, the embattled EFCC boss said: “I live in the official residence of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. This accommodation, contrary to the report of the DSS, is not my private home, neither was it rented and furnished for me by Commodore Umar Mohammed (rtd).
“It was rented and furnished by the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory through the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council, under the Safe House Scheme.
“It is also false that the house was rented for N20million per annum and furnished for N43million. The entire cost for both two-year rent and the furnishing of the house is N39.628million.”
Magu also explained why the former Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Adesola Amosun’s arraignment was delayed.
According to him, “the reason Amosun was not arraigned when the likes of Alex Badeh and Umar were arraigned was because he cooperated with the commission in terms of assisting the process of recovering the proceeds of crime.
“Indeed, among the suspects arrested over the arms procurement scandal, he was most cooperative. The commission recovered N2.835 billion cash from him, aside from property N1,581,000,000, $2,150,000 and £1,000,000”.
He held that, “since a key focus of the investigation was to recover as much proceeds of crime as possible, the commission took its time to ensure it had recovered what was possible before arraigning the suspect in court. This had nothing to do with the wish of any individual. Moreover, the suspect has since been arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction.”
The Magu probe saga has been variously described as power play amongst power blocs in government, proof that no official is above the law, and witch-hunt by others.
A presidency official, who spoke anonymously affirmed that probe of Magu’s headship of EFCC was proof that nobody in the administration is above the law.
A member of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Femi Odekunle, weighed in on the matter.
He argued that Ibrahim Magu’s invitation to face a presidential panel probing the activities of the anti-graft agency was a product of power play by power blocs in government.
He warned that President Muhammadu Buhari must be careful not to shoot down his government’s anti-corruption fight and modest achievements.
He called on the president to be mindful of the fact that EFCC under Magu remained the administration’s anti-corruption poster-face.
He posited that the memo written recently by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) calling for Magu’s removal was also an outcome of the clash by power blocs in government.
“The alleged originating Malami 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.”
Panel and EFCC
As the presidential panel continues its proceedings, President Buhari Friday approved the appointment of Umar Mohammed, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) as the acting chairman of the commission.
Directors of the commission have also appeared before the panel even as Magu applied for bail on self recognisance.
The Justice Ayo Salami-led panel is expected to do a thorough job of ensuring that the issues raised are dealt with in a manner that occupants of such sensitive positions in anti-graft agencies live above board while also taking into cognisance charges raised over the perceived true intention of the investigation.
The nation is in dire need of cleansing, which could only be provided by a transparent leadership at the highest level including anti-graft agencies.