•Panel grills top anti-graft officials again as Magu’s interrogation enters seventh day
Omololu Ogunmade and Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
As part of ongoing investigation into the activities of suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the federal government has directed intelligence agencies to mount surveillance on the headquarters of the anti-graft agency and its offices nationwide.
THISDAY also gathered that senior investigators of the agency close to Magu, known as “Magu Boys,” are being treated as “persons of interest,” whose movements have been restricted.
Some of the affected operatives are said to have appeared before the panel while others await their turn.
More of those officials yesterday appeared before the Justice Ayo Salami-led presidential panel investigating the 21-point allegation of corruption and insubordination levelled against Magu by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami.
Magu has been in police custody since Monday last week.
THISDAY’s investigation revealed that Magu’s office was searched after the code that opens the office, which is only known to Magu and one other official was extracted from him.
Intelligence operatives were also said to have been deployed in the headquarters of the commission to monitor movements of persons in and out of the commission, notably directors and investigators and others who worked on cases under Magu.
Magu’s stand-in, Mr. Umar Mohammed, has been briefed about the development while the “persons of interest” log in and log out daily under supervision.
As the investigation widened, other offices of the commission across the country were placed under intelligence surveillance as applicable to the headquarters.
Security and intelligence sources confirmed that major targets of investigation under Magu and other associates have been placed under watch.
Physical assets and others forfeited to the EFCC are under guard.
“This is a very important investigation and we are leaving nothing to chance. All necessary measures are in place,” a security source said.
THISDAY gathered that phone lines of staff of the commission are being monitored and this situation has led to phones not being answered or conversations cut short by staff.
Movements of files at the offices are also under strict supervision and surveillance, it was learnt.
The Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) sealed the office of the suspended EFCC chair and recovered bulletproof vehicles from his Abuja and Maiduguri residences. The vehicles are now parked at the Force Headquarters in Abuja.
The 10th floor where Magu’s office is located had, since last week, been placed under watch.
Officials and visitors to the commission are thoroughly searched with scanners, while vehicles moving in and out of the commission are subject to the same process.
Panel Grills Top Anti-graft Officials Again as Magu’s Interrogation Enters Seventh Day
Meanwhile, the probe of Magu continued in Abuja yesterday, as four top management staff of the commission who had been interrogated last week were further grilled by the presidential panel in Abuja.
The EFCC’s top shots, who are also heads of different units of the commission had first appeared before the panel last Thursday but were asked to re-appear within the next seven days following perceived inability of the men to provide satisfactory answers to the questions they were asked.
The men were also instructed to return for further interrogation with files of cases they had handled since 2015 including assets’ register and records of cash releases they had made.
Malami had in a letter he earlier sent to the president accused Magu and his men of perpetrating a range of atrocities including extortion, sale of recovered assets without following due process and failing to remit the proceeds of such sales to the federation account.
Magu was ambushed on the road in Wuse II, Abuja on Monday, July 6, by security operatives and dragged before the presidential panel which had been sitting three weeks earlier with their activities shrouded in secrecy.
He was subsequently detained at the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) from where he is daily brought before the panel to defend the allegations.
His house was also searched last week and some sensitive documents recovered.
The suspended acting chairman, has, however, filed a bail application before the Nigeria Police through one of his lawyers.
He was formally suspended on Friday, July 10 by President Muhammadu Buhari and has been appearing before the panel every day except for last Saturday and Sunday.
Today will mark the eighth day of his appearance before the panel.
In the meantime, the presidency last night assured Nigerians that Buhari would not be deterred by what he described as baseless criticisms by the opposition in his efforts to combat corruption.
Reacting to a range of aspersions cast on the administration’s anti-corruption war by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since the beginning of Magu’s interrogation, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said the volume of anti-corruption crusade being championed by the government is a reflection of what the PDP left behind.
According to him, corruption became a tradition when the PDP was in power to the extent that the then ruling party had difficulties “in defining what is ‘corruption’ and ‘theft.”
Shehu argued that Buhari’s determination to end corruption in the country was the reason for several highly publicised charges and cases in courts.
“A large number of cases, new and old, may appear to be daunting but PDP, which is now heckling the president, has forgotten that the party bequeathed this to the current administration. They had a large number of cases they did not investigate and prosecute,” he said.
He advised the PDP to allow the process of investigation and prosecution to proceed smoothly, instead of pre-emptying ongoing cases and unduly inciting members of the public.
Shehu, who expressed hope that the judiciary would swiftly and satisfactorily handle ongoing cases, to deter future occurrences, added that “the current administration is handling many of the cases that the PDP should have dealt with and the new ones as they arise.”