•Annual report not submitted to N’Assembly in four years contrary to law
•Ribadu, Farida, Lamorde in full compliance
•SAN seeks bail for suspended anti-corruption chief
By Kingsley Nwezeh
The suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, failed to submit the audited accounts of the anti-graft agency to the National Assembly as required by law, THISDAY learnt at the weekend as critics say he took advantage of the non-confirmation of his appointment by the Senate to avoid accountability leading to his current woes.
By Section 37 of the establishment act, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment, ETC) Act 2004, the commission is required to submit its report, including its audited account to the National Assembly every year.
It states: “The Commission shall, not later than 30th September in each year, submit to the National Assembly, a report of its activities during the immediately preceding year and shall include in such report the audited accounts of the Commission.”
Despite the refusal of the Eight Senate to confirm his appointment, first in December 2016, and later in March 2017, the agency was still required by law to submit its annual accounts as done by Magu’s predecessors, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Mrs. Farida Waziri and Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde in compliance with the establishment Act.
Critics say the insistence of the presidency in keeping Magu in office in an acting capacity, despite non-confirmation may have stalled accountability and oversight of the commission even as the National Assembly approves the agency’s budget every year.
This faceoff with the Senate enabled Magu to operate the way he did without any scrutiny, a development that negated the practice of the commission under his predecessors, Ribadu, Ibrahim and Lamorde, who complied with the provision of the law by submitting their annual reports and audited accounts to the National Assembly.
Analysts told THISDAY at the weekend that the kind of financial fraud, Magu is being accused of could only occur in an unsupervised organisation, adding that had the EFCC put itself through the process of an independent audit, a number of the issues Magu is now being accused of might have been resolved.
The Senate had in December 2016 rejected Magu’s nomination as chairman of the commission on the strength of a damning security report by the State Security Service (SSS), which declared him unfit for public office, saying his credibility could not be guaranteed.
Rather than withdraw Magu’s nomination, the presidency represented him in March 2017. Again the Senate refused confirmation and resolved not to consider him again for the position.
The presidency responded by maintaining him in an acting capacity, arguing that it did not require Senate approval for Magu’s appointment since the establishment act requiring legislative approval was in conflict with the power of the president to make executive appointments under the constitution.
With the Senate resolving not to have any dealing with Magu, the commission became unable to present its annual report to the National Assembly.
Analysts said had the reports been filed all of the issues that are being raised now would probably have been detected by the National Assembly.
“With this kind of situation,” said one analyst, “Magu would appear to have operated without supervision by either the National Assembly or the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, as the minister’s petition accusing him of insubordination has suggested.”
According to another analyst, this absence of legislative oversight would have been avoided if the presidency did not insist on having Magu as the boss of the anti-corruption agency.
Magu was accosted last Monday and taken before a presidential panel of enquiry led by Justice Ayo Salami, investigating allegations of corruption and insubordination brought against him by his supervising minister, Mr. Abubakar Malami.
Aggrieved Staff Leak Information to AGF’s Office
THISDAY also gathered at the weekend that disgruntled members of staff of the commission have been fingered as leaking vital information about Magu’s activities to the Office of the AGF’s office, paving the way for his ongoing probe by a presidential panel.
Magu is answering questions on the 21-point allegation of financial impropriety and fund diversion levelled against him by Malami.
The panel widened the probe last Thursday as it quizzed the commission’s Secretary, Mr. Olanipekun Olukoyede, and other directors of the commission.
THISDAY learnt that the panel summoned the top management officers from the commission to narrate all they knew about the allegations against their boss.
At the end of their conversation, the panel was said to have directed the directors and sectional heads in the EFCC to produce files of cases handled since 2015, including forfeited assets’ register and all cash releases within seven days.
However, some the EFCC officials told THISDAY at the weekend that many of them were disgruntled with Magu’s stewardship and accused him of high handedness and neglecting staff welfare.
They said there was a point Magu owed a backlog of salaries and allowances, adding that they had it tough under his leadership.
Magu was said to have worked with a few investigators and operatives called ‘Magu Boys” to the detriment and envy of others, triggering a backlash in the form of leakages of official documents and files.
“At a time, workers were owed five months arrears of salaries and allowances and they threatened to take the matter to a popular radio talk show, “Berekete Family,” aired by Human Rights Radio, to express their grievances and call on the management to clear the arrears of salaries and allowances,” a source told THISDAY.
It was learnt that the threat led the EFCC management to intervene after giving several excuses that the agency’s money was held up “somewhere.”
“At a point, we were owed five months arrears of salaries and allowances. We could not feed our family and do basic things.
“We were organised and threatened to go to Berekete Family (radio show). We gave them an ultimatum, which they could not meet but at the dying minute, they called to say they have found money to pay,” another source, who spoke anonymously, said.
He added that the workers queried the position by the management that they found money to pay.
He said: “Why do you have to owe for five months and now have to find money to pay? This is a government agency, an important security agency at that. Where were the arrears kept that you had to look for it for five months?”
THISDAY gathered that investigators who worked closely with Magu were allegedly accorded special treatment, which brewed bad blood that eventually led to internal sabotage.
When contacted by THISDAY, spokesman of the commission, Mr. Dele Ojewale, declined to comment on the matter.
SAN Seeks Bail for Suspended Anti-corruption Chief
Meanwhile, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, has called on the federal government to either charge Magu to a court or release him on bail.
He said the continued incarceration of the suspended head of EFCC was a violation of Section 35 of the Constitution.
Oyetibo said though the EFCC under Magu was guilty of unlawful detention of Nigerians, the law of Karma had no place in the constitution.
In the statement titled “Magu Still Has Rights,” Oyetibo said despite the allegations against him, Magu had not lost his constitutional rights.
“On Monday, July 6, 2020 it was widely reported that the now suspended Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, was arrested and taken before the Justice Ayo Salami-led panel of inquiry set up by the president to investigate a number of allegations raised against him.
“As of today (yesterday) Sunday 12 July 2020, Magu is reported to still be in detention whilst the investigation of the allegations made against him continues.
“Although the allegations made against Magu are said to be documented and border on serious economic crimes and abuse of office, that does not mean that he has lost his constitutional rights.
“Amidst the cacophony of allegations of serious crimes made against Magu, the law of Nigeria still speaks the same language, which is expressed in section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which provides to the effect that every person who is arrested or detained upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed a criminal offence shall be brought before a court of law within a period of 24 hours in the case of an arrest in a place where there is a court of competent jurisdiction within a radius of 40 kilometres otherwise he ought to be released on bail,” he stated.
He added that since there is a court of competent jurisdiction within a radius of 40 kilometres within Abuja where Magu was arrested, he should be taken before the court.
“While it may be argued that the EFCC which Magu hitherto headed was notorious for ignoring this constitutional provision in relation to citizens who were arrested under him, the law of Karma has no place under our constitutionalism.
“For these reasons, Magu ought to be released on bail forthwith as otherwise the government would be acting excessively in breach of his rights,” he added.
Global Coalition Writes Buhari over Anti-corruption Fight
In a related development, global groups working against sleaze have said the unceremonious exit of Magu may erode the recent gains in the fight against corruption.
World acclaimed anti-corruption groups, Re: Common, Globalwitness, and The Corner House based in Europe said Nigeria has regained unprecedented gains under Magu’s leadership of EFCC and that his removal under the current circumstances may roll back the momentous gains already recorded under his tenure.
Re: Common’s top official, Mr. Lucas Manes, Corner House’s Nicholas Hildyard and Simon Taylor of Globalwitness in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari last week expressed deep concern over the travails of Magu, saying that the former EFCC boss may be a pawn in the desperate attempts by corrupt officials to kill the EFCC or turn the agency into a willing tool of corrupt politicians.
The letter was signed by Manes, Hildyard, Taylor and their Nigerian counterpart, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre) Chairman, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju.
“What is going on in Nigeria is of concern to the international community. Mr. Magu has proved himself to be up to the task. His determination to fight corruption is evident by the recovery of stolen funds and properties plus his own high moral ground earned at the cost of diligence and hard work never before seen. His political removal questions the will of Nigeria to deal with a major cause of the country’s underdevelopment which is corruption,” the groups said in a letter delivered to the Nigerian President.
Some of the groups’ most significant contributions to Nigeria’s anti-graft effort are the historic exposure of Nigeria’s top oil companies linked to large scale corruption and their ongoing trial in Italy and other European courts.
The coalition said: “We are therefore greatly alarmed – as are others in the international anti-corruption movement – by reports that Magu has been detained and/or suspended following allegations against him that were reportedly made by Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami directly to you.”
They said the international community is not opposed to Magu being investigated since all allegations of corruption must be thoroughly probed but rather that due process and the proper disciplinary procedures have not been followed.