As the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami gets set to testify against former EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, before the Justice Ayo Salami Panel, it may seem that the last is yet to be learned of the Magu era, writes Shola Oyeyipo
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has agreed to testify before the Justice Ayo Salami Panel investigating the embattled former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu. However, questions are being asked as to the motives of the nation’s number one law officer.
The decision by Malami, SAN, to testify against the sacked EFCC boss, Magu, in his ongoing trial by the Special Presidential Panel, has raised the stakes in the power game in the Presidency and a clear indication that Magu might not get a soft landing after all.
Magu’s problem is as old as his tenure as the chair of the anti-corruption body. In the first instance, until his last day in the office, the Senate never confirmed him as the substantive Chairman of the EFCC.
The Senate, led by former Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Sraki, had based its decision not confirm him on two scathing security reports written by the Department of State Security (DSS) on two different occasions. The report had indicted Magu and probably concluded that he was not fit enough to be given an assignment as sensitive as the chairmanship of the EFCC.
Part of the leaked memo read: “An officer appointed as the Acting Chairman of the EFCC should by all means be one of impeccable credentials with proven integrity and capacity to lead the nation’s fight against graft in high and low places. Thus far, it is evident from Magus’s antecedence that he is by no means that kind of person.
“His relationship with (one) Umar Mohammed, which involved disclosure of very sensitive and classified documents in his possession shows lack of professionalism and has soiled his integrity. More so, for an officer, who was indicted and nearly dismissed six years ago, to again be involved in similar circumstances, it is clear Magu is a perennial offender and cannot change.”
Ironically, the document of this scathing and damaging indictment was sent to no other person than Malami himself, who has never been a fan of Magu due to power play within the corridors of power.
It was a known fact that while Malami was in the camp that also involved the late Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and the former Director-General of the DSS, Lawal Daura; Magu has always been in the camp of the National Security Adviser to the President, General Monguno.
It was, therefore, not surprising when that scathing security report against Magu found its way into the public space. This was in May 2017.
The Senate, which was led by a group not really a fan of the Presidency then, found a veritable platform to latch on and deny Magu clearance.
To crown it all, the memo that finally nailed Magu’s coffin was also written and submitted to the President by no other person than Malami, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. And the first paragraph of the memo was enough to nail any public officer.
It reads: “The Acting Chairman of EFCC is not acting in the overall best interest of the country and the policies of this administration, due to its Mismanagement and Lack of Transparency in Managing Recovered Assets; Diversion of Recovered Assets for Personal Enrichment; Neglecting to investigate the P & ID case as directed by the President; Flagrant Disobedience to Directives and to Court Orders due to the following…”
He was not done. “For Foreign currency recoveries, EFCC reported a total naira equivalent of N46, 038,882,509.87 while the naira equivalent of the foreign currency lodgments were N37, 533,764,195.66, representing a shortfall of N8, 505,118,314.21. These inconsistencies cast a serious doubt on the accuracy of figures submitted by the EFCC.
“It is the committee’s view that the EFCC cannot be said to have fully accounted for cash recoveries made by it. While EFCC reported total Naira recoveries of N504, 154,184,744.04, the actual bank lodgments were N543, 511,792,863.47.
“These discrepancies mean that EFCC’s actual lodgment exceeded its reported recoveries by N39, 357,608,119.43. This is an apparent case of manipulation of data in a very brazen and unprofessional manner and this has greatly eroded the public confidence in the anti-corruption efforts.”
However, Magu, his lawyer and his loyalists have vehemently denied these allegations and claimed that the embattled senior police officer was a victim of power play and being targeted by those who were feeling his ruthless pursuit of stolen funds all over the world. In fact, no time had the regular cliché of this regime – corruption is fighting back – was more poignant than when the travails of the embattled EFCC chairman started.
Beyond this, however, is the fact that the Magu saga shows how divided the Buhari Presidency has been since day one. Buhari’s core message during the campaigns of 2015 was that he would fight corruption to a standstill and that those who dipped their hands into the public till in previous administrations would have to vomit whatever they had stolen.
The appointment of Magu to succeed Ibrahim Lamorde was seen as a masterstroke. And Magu went about his duties with so much ruthlessness and determination. But there was a problem: Magu’s focus was opposition figures. In fact, many accused him of ignoring or refusing outright to investigate any member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who had a petition submitted against him to the Commission.
One particular case was that of the suspended National Chairman of the party and former governor of Edo State, Adam Oshiomhole. The EFCC had to say it needed an injunction to even investigate the petition against him.
But today, the hunter has become the hunted. Magu is in the dock and the person, who has volunteered to testify against him is no other person than his nemesis, Malami. But analysts have been asking questions as to what the motive of Malami is. Is it really altruistic? Is he working in the interest of the administration?
Sources told THISDAY that Malami might have submitted a memo to the President or is on the verge of doing that to whittle down the powers of the Chairman of the EFCC. In fact, he wants the Commission to have a Director-General and not a Chairman. If that is the case, then, there is a political angle to the whole matter and which further questions the motive of Malami in his new ‘offensive’ against Magu.