- Accuses Magu of abuse of power
Tobi Soniyi in Lagos and Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
A Senior of Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former prosecutor with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Chief Godwin Obla, has written to the Presidential Investigation Committee on Alleged Mismanagement by EFCC of Federal Government Recovered Assets and Finances, from May 2015 – May 2020, explaining how the suspended acting Chairman of the commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, used his power to harass and persecute his perceived enemies.
This is coming as Magu’s lawyer, Mr. Wahab Shittu, has said that his client did not appear before the Justice Ayo Salami-led panel yesterday because it had adjourned till August 4.
In the letter, Obla said Magu was ‘power-drunk’ and in the process destroyed the reputation of the commission.
He narrated how Magu detained him for 21 days on the allegation that he bribed a judge of Federal High Court, Justice Rita Ofili Ajumogobia, to procure the conviction of a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA), Mr. Temisan Omatseye.
He said: “It is my firm view that Ibrahim Magu’s tenure as Acting Chairman of the EFCC, almost irredeemably, cast a dark shadow on the anti-corruption fight of the present administration and significantly eroded the gains that have been made in years past.”
According to him, EFCC under Magu has become an apparatus for the promotion of personal vendetta against persons with whom the suspended acting chairman has an axe to grind.
He said his ordeal began when he demanded his fees after Magu had disengaged him from further handling of the commission’s cases.
He said: “Magu’s EFCC deliberately refused to settle my fees (which had never at any point contested my bill of professional charges) in spite of the fact that pursuant to the handover process and in response to the EFCC’s debriefing letter, I sent a letter dated February 27, 2017, titled ‘Re: Demand for Payment of Professional Fees to EFCC,’ wherein I reminded EFCC of its long-outstanding legal fees in the sum of N685,389,928.10 (six hundred and eighty-five million, three hundred and eighty-nine thousand, nine hundred and twenty-eight naira and ten kobo) and $202,460.47 (two hundred and two thousand, four hundred and sixty dollars and forty-seven cents) or its naira equivalent at the prevailing Central Bank of Nigeria exchange rate, together with interest at a prime lending rate, being professional fees for the prosecution of over 40 high-profile cases.”
Obla said he recovered over N2 billion for the commission, adding that some of the items his law firm handed over to the EFCC had not been properly accounted for.
He asked the panel to investigate how Magu compromised the pension fraud cases the prosecution of which he said had gained traction before Magu suddenly asked him to hands off the cases.
He said: “It is interesting to note that virtually nothing has occurred by way of progress in respect of almost all the matters withdrawn from our firm in 2016.
“The lackadaisical manner in which most of the matters have been handled either indicate that the matters have been compromised or constructively withdrawn or abandoned.
“Cases in point are the Office of Head of Service of the Federation pension funds fraud cases. A lot of interim orders of forfeiture were obtained by my firm covering cash in excess of N2 billion, $2,000,000.00 (two million dollars, stocks and shares, real estate, etc.
“The implication of this compromise or abandonment is that there will be no final order of forfeiture over those properties and even the cash obtained by the interim forfeiture orders already transferred to EFCC by court order may someday be liable to be returned to the suspects not because they were adjudged innocent of the charges but because of the deliberately contrived incompetence and negligence of the EFCC in seeing through the prosecutions.”
Obla urged the panel to direct the Attorney-General of the Federation to discontinue his trial because it was malicious and baseless.
He also asked that the commission be ordered to pay his outstanding fees.
He called for a complete inventory of the Office of the Head of Service pension fraud cases with specific attention to the state of the exhibits and recoveries: monies and other properties, which were seized as suspected proceeds of crime.