- Says media reports prejudicial to proceedings
- Regains freedom after nine days in detention
- Presidency: Suspended EFCC boss’ invitation by panel in his best interest
- Commission’s secretary, 11 other top officials suspended
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, wednesday wrote to the Justice Ayo Salami-led presidential panel investigating a 21-point allegation of corruption and insubordination filed against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, asking for copies of the AGF’s petition and others that might have been filed by other individuals.
Magu, who regained his freedom after nine days in detention also called the panel’s attention to what he called “serial falsehood publications in the media in respect of matters which never featured in the proceedings” of the panel, saying they were prejudicial to the work of the enquirers.
The suspended EFCC boss in a 16-point letter signed by his lawyer, Mr. Wahab Shittu, a copy of which was made available to THISDAY yesterday, complained that despite his request, he had been denied copies of allegations against him.
“Our client is spending the 9th day in custody without being given [a] copy of the allegations against him to enable him formally respond to same,” it stated, adding: “Our client is ready to formally respond to [the] allegations and furnish documentary evidence in support if served the copy of the allegations.”
He, therefore, demanded a copy of the report of the Presidential Audit Committee; a copy of the memo of the AGF to the president; and individual petitions submitted to the panel.
“Our client observes that rather than being afforded copies of the allegations against him, some of these allegations are flying [a]round the social media platforms with prejudicial consequences,” it said, adding: “Our client requests that these allegations be formally served on him to enable him [to] respond to the same immediately.”
Magu cited 13 publications in the media, which he said were orchestrated to prejudice the proceedings against him and dismissed them as false.
One of the publications he called the attention of the panel to is THISDAY’s lead story of July 13, ‘Revealed: Magu Failed to Submit EFCC Audited Account for Four Years.’
“The truth is that EFCC under our client’s watch is not in arrears of submission of Audited Accounts. EFCC has complied in the submission of Audited Account for four years running,” it said and explained the account for 2020 would be submitted by September by virtue of section 37 of the EFCC Act, 2004.
Copies of the commission’s covering letters submitting its Annual Reports for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 to the National Assembly were sent to THISDAY yesterday as proof of compliance with the law.
However, standing by its story, THISDAY Board of Editors pointed out that while the newspaper’s emphasis was on annual audited reports, the EFCC sent purported covering letters of annual reports.
Even then, whereas the law requires submission not later than September of each year, the covering letters were signed well after September, signifying none compliance with the law. In any case, added the editors, certified copies of the reports were not made available to THISDAY.
More importantly, the commission showed no evidence of compliance with the law with respect to the Annual Audited Account.
“As we speak, there is none of those audited reports in the public domain,” the editors said, pointing out that the EFCC has not published anywhere the names of their external auditors who ought to have audited the account.
“Had the commission submitted the audited accounts, many of these issues and allegations that are now being raised against Magu would have been cleared,” THISDAY editors said.
Magu had been arrested on July 6 by security operatives at the Abuja zonal office of the commission on his way to a meeting and taken before the Justice Ayo Salami-led presidential panel.
But despite reports that he was undergoing interrogation daily since his arrest, except on weekends, his lawyer, Shittu, said yesterday that he had not appeared before the panel for days, claiming that he is yet to be given a copy of the allegations against him.
The presidency, however, said the suspended anti-graft agency chief’s invitation by the panel was in his best interest.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, told a television network last night in Abuja that Magu was invited to give him an opportunity to clear his name, explaining that the enquiry was not a trial.
The presidency also reportedly suspended the commission’s Secretary, Mr. Olanipekun Olukoyede, and 11 other directors of the anti-graft commission to ensure an unhindered enquiry.
THISDAY gathered that visitors have been barred from the EFCC headquarters and other offices in the country.
Earlier yesterday, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, had asked Magu to direct his bail application to the presidential panel.
Counsel to the suspended EFCC boss, Mr. Tosin Ojaomo, told THISDAY that Magu regained his freedom yesterday evening.
“Yes that is correct,” he responded to inquiries about Magu’s release.
Magu’s lawyer had written Adamu seeking his release.
A source said the suspended boss of the anti-graft commission was in high spirits and had also vowed not to give up on the fight against corruption.
He also denied all the allegations levelled against him, saying they were fabricated to tarnish his image.
“As for me, I will forever wage war against corruption. I urge Nigerians to continue to support the fight against corruption. They should not give up on the fight because corruption kills a nation faster than any other thing,” he was quoted as saying.
Before his release, his lawyer, Oluwatosin Ojaomo, was said to have written the IG requesting for his bail.
But the IG replied that Magu’s detention was not authorised by him but the presidential panel and urged the lawyer to redirect his attention to the presidential panel.
In a letter dated July 14, 2020, and addressed to Ojaomo, the IG said the police were not investigating and detaining Magu, so, they could not grant the bail request.
The letter, signed by the Principal Staff Officer to the IG, Mr. Idowu Owohunwa, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, advised the lawyer to redirect his request to the chairman of the presidential panel for appropriate attention.
He said: “The Inspector-General of Police directs that your attention be drawn to the fact that the Nigeria Police Force is not investigating CP Ibrahim Magu (your client), and he is accordingly, not being detained by the police but by the presidential panel that is investigating the activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“The Inspector-General of Police, therefore, advises that you reconsider directing your request to the chairman of the presidential panel for appropriate attention.”
Magu Denies Facing Panel for Days
However, despite reports that he was undergoing interrogation daily, except on weekends, since his arrest, Magu’s lawyer yesterday said he had not appeared before the presidential committee for days.
The suspended EFCC boss was said to have appeared before the panel about a week ago.
Shittu, in a letter written and submitted to the panel yesterday, said his client had not been brought before the panel between Thursday and Tuesday.
He added that Magu had instead arrived at the venue on the listed days only to wait from 9 am to 9 pm before being taken back into custody.
He said the clarification became necessary after it was reported that Magu was grilled by the panel on Monday.
“The allegation that our client was grilled by the panel on Monday, 13th July 2020, as reported above is [a] complete falsehood.
“The correct position was that our client and his counsel (Mr. Wahab Shittu) arrived [at] the venue of the ongoing investigations on Monday 13th July 2020 by 9 am. Our client and his counsel were kept at the waiting room of the venue of the sittings unattended to from 9 am to 9 pm when our client was taken back to custody.
“This followed the same pattern on Thursday and Friday last week when our client waited for 12 hours without being called upon by the panel to partake in the proceedings. Witnesses called by the panel were interrogated by the panel without the participation of our client or his counsel in the proceedings. This was also the pattern on Tuesday, 14th July 2020. Our client chose to wait patiently on the panel,” he said in the letter.
Commission’s Secretary, 11 Other Tops Officials Suspended
The presidency has barred visitors from the EFCC headquarters and other offices across the country even as it suspended 12 directors of the commission.
Although there was no official statement, it was gathered that the AGF authorised the suspension.
The Acting Chairman of the commission, Mr. Umar Mohammed, reportedly received the letter suspending the directors late Tuesday.”
Some of the affected directors, however, have protested the suspension in view of the fact that they were not connected or worked directly with Magu.
“If this is a purge, let us see it as it is but those who have nothing to do with the suspended chairman should not be lumped together with those under investigation”, one of the affected directors, who spoke anonymously, said.
Meanwhile, the presidency has directed that all visitors to EFCC be barred from entering the premises.
The same directive affects EFCC offices in the states.
“No visitor is allowed to enter the premises. This is an order from the presidency. Visitors are not allowed in. This directive has been in place since this week,” an EFCC official told THISDAY.
THISDAY observed that visitors were turned back at the major entrance of the commission’s Abuja office.