Magu: Humbling of Anti-Corruption Czar

Magu: Humbling of Anti-Corruption Czar

…His Travails Enmeshed in Power Play Within Buhari Administration…Odekunle …Arrows Being Fired against Magu to Stall Anti-Corruption Campaign… CSNAC …Enact Proceeds of Crime, Mutual Legal Assistance Bills…CISLAC Following the suspension of Mr Ibrahim Magu as acting chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the appointment of Mr Mohammed Umar to

…His Travails Enmeshed in Power Play Within Buhari Administration…Odekunle

…Arrows Being Fired against Magu to Stall Anti-Corruption Campaign… CSNAC

…Enact Proceeds of Crime, Mutual Legal Assistance Bills…CISLAC

Following the suspension of Mr Ibrahim Magu as acting chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the appointment of Mr Mohammed Umar to oversee the affairs of the Commission in the interim.

Magu is currently facing probe on various allegations of financial misconduct and other infractions.

The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, announced in a statement on Friday, July 10 that President Buhari has approved Magu’s immediate suspension.

“President Muhammadu Buhari has also approved that the EFCC Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar, should take charge and oversee the activities of the Commission pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation and further directives in that regard,” the statement read.

Magu’s suspension came a day after he was grilled by an inter-agency presidential panel on allegations of corruption. The embattled acting chairman of the EFCC appeared before a presidential committee chaired by former President of the Appeal Court, Justice Ayo Salami on Monday.

The presidential committee invited Magu to hear from him on issues related to his leadership at the EFCC. Magu spent the night in custody by security forces because investigations were not completed on Monday.

Magu was arrested by DSS officials on Monday. After being quizzed on 22 allegations, he was whisked away at about 10.15 pm to the Force Criminal Investigations Department (FCID) in Abuja.

His escort mobile policemen and security details were stood down before he was taken into custody. At the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, FCID around 10.50pm, Magu rejected an offer to take him into an office to stay the night.

He told the officers in charge to treat him like a suspect by putting him in a cell.

There was drama to Magu’s invitation earlier in the day. He was intercepted on the road along Fomella Street while moving out of the Wuse II office Annex of the EFCC in Abuja.

Invitation was then extended to him by a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) from the FCID. The CSP’s vehicle had a backup comprising a three-man security team, who closely watched the encounter.

Magu was on his way to the Force Headquarters. He pleaded with the officer to allow him to honour the scheduled appointment but was told the invitation by the panel was superior to his appointment.

At about 1.35 pm on Monday, Magu arrived at the Villa. He had gone to the Villa with his full escort and security detail and was not molested.

Magu’s travails began following some allegations against him made by Justice Minister, Mr Abubakar Malami.

Allegations Against Magu

He was reportedly asked to respond to the allegations by the Salami panel Viz:

  • Alleged discrepancies in the reconciliation records of the EFCC and the Federal Ministry of Finance on recovered funds Declaration of N539billion as recovered funds instead of N504b earlier claimed
  • Insubordination to the office of the AGF by not seeking his approval on some decisions
  • Not providing enough evidence for the extradition of ex-Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke
  • Alleged late action on the investigation of Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) leading to legal dispute
  • Not respecting court order to unfreeze an N7billion judgment in favour of a former Executive Director of First Bank
  • Alleged delay in acting on two vessels seized by Nigerian Navy leading to the loss of crude
  • Alleged favouring of some investigators called Magu’s Boys
  • Reporting some judges to their presiding officers without deferring to the AGF
  • Alleged sales of seized assets to cronies, associates and friends
  • Alleged issuance of investigative activities to some media prejudicial to some cases.

Enmeshed in Power Play

However a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC), Prof Femi Odekunle had stirred the hornest nest inferring that Magu’s arrest was enmeshed in power play within the Buhari administration.   

According to him, “While PACAC has not had a formal meeting on this development, I have discussed with the Chairman and some other members and the following can be considered as PACAC’s preliminary reaction to this development.

“The alleged originating Malami memo, up to the current “arrest “ seems an outcome of power-play by power blocs in the corridors of power in which Malami appears to be an arrow-head or major agent of a power bloc that is not really interested in, or in support of, Buhari’s anti-corruption fight.

“One can recall the earlier non-confirmation experience of Magu by the 8th Assembly, orchestrated by a power bloc and supported by the DSS ‘Security’ reports.

“One can also note the non-resubmission of Magu for confirmation since May, 2019 despite the apparent willingness of the 9th Assembly to consider it this time around. Furthermore, one must take cognisance of the alleged memo referred to earlier i.e by Malami concerning alleged corrupt practices by Magu, along with his own nominations for Magu’s replacement.

“Again, we cannot forget Malami’s demand of certain high profile case files from Magu which the latter has been resisting.

“The position of PACAC is that while Magu, or any official of whatever status, must be nailed if found to be corrupt, the President must be careful not to shoot its anti-corruption fight /modest achievements in the foot, and not to forget that EFCC under Magu has been the Administration’s anti-corruption poster-face.

“It may not be contestable that Malami has been exploiting his alleged loyalty and closeness to the President for his personal /power bloc agenda.

“For, to the best of PACAC’s knowledge and observations, Malami has not manifested any genuine commitment to the anti-corruption fight. Samplers: The nolle- prosequi entered in a case of corruption against Orubebe in relation to alleged malfeasance while Minister of Niger Delta Ministry; his secret meeting with fugitive Maina in Dubai under whatever guise/ excuse; his involvement in the surreptitious reinjection of the same Maina into the Civil Service; his supervision of Obono-Oblas’ kangaroo Asset Recovery outfit which Obono subsequently ran out of the country when exposed by some ICPC investigation; his non-due attention, by design or default, to the P&ID matter since 2015 until it was blown open by humongous financial damage to the country; etc.

“Notwithstanding the situation at hand, the hope of PACAC is that the President would wake up to the ongoing shenanigans of power players that are working from the inside against his anti-corruption fight. We are also counting on the experience and dexterity of the new Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari whose loyalty to the President and good of the country cannot be doubted, and we also hope that the demonstrated integrity of retired Justice Salami would carry the day for thoroughness, fairness and justice in the interest of the anti-corruption fight,” Odekunle, a professor of Sociology said in a statement.

Although PACAC Chairman, Prof Itse sagay has disowned Odekunle’s statement as personal, it has already cast some slur on the grilling of Magu

Presidential Panel Should Be Fair

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) wants the Presidential Panel set up to investigate allegations of corruption and insubordination levelled against Magu, to carry out a thorough and fair investigation.

According to its Executive Director, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), “While it is unclear what the real issues are, CISLAC is concerned about the conflicting signals it sends to Nigerians. Being that Ibrahim Magu heads a very sensitive position of a sensitive government agency tasked with the investigation of financial crimes, such as advance fee fraud and money laundering, it is thus pertinent that the case be handled with all diligence and transparency in order to ensure that the gains in the fight against corruption are not lost in the battle for supremacy and political advantage

“This development has heightened the need for reforms in Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs), which is long overdue. In the aspect of Asset Recovery, CISLAC has been consistent in calling for a reform of the system, which is prone to mismanagement, embezzlement and political misuse.

“There is no clear framework on who takes custodian of recovered assets and how they are utilized. The Government has claimed recoveries of assets worth billions of dollars without accounting who manages these assets, how these assets are utilized and what prevents the re-looting of looted assets. The control of lucrative asset recovery ‘business’ of asset freezes, confiscations and repatriations has caused inter-agency rivalry among ACAs saddled with the responsibility of fighting corruption.

“We therefore urge the enactment of the Proceeds of Crime Bill and the Mutual Legal Assistance Bill, which would go a long way in strengthening the anti-corruption fight in Nigeria, take the war against corruption to the doorstep of treasury looters and ensure that repatriated assets are utilized for the benefits of Nigerians.

“It would also clarify the roles of ACAs and put an end to inter-agency rivalry and bring more transparency in the utilization of recovered assets. The repeated failure to enact the legal framework, which would once and for all clarify mandates in recoveries of assets, is an ample evidence of political interference in the fight against corruption, where Nigerian politicians seek personal advantages at the expense of the Nigerian public.

“Furthermore, it is important that the National Assembly and the Executive work towards amending the EFCC Act. The board of the EFCC has been dormant and non-inclusive of Non-State Actors. We ask for the arm of government responsible for the oversight of the EFCC, and other ACAs, to ensure that the board is active and that Non-State Actors are included in the board in the amendment of the Act to ensure accountability in the fight against corruption, which is consciously lacking.

“In this pandemic era where the utilization of funds repatriated and funds donated to fight COVID-19 are opaque and questioned, it is important that the attention of Nigerians are not just being diverted to cover up sharp practices over the management of donated and recovered funds.

Public Trials Send Wrong Signals

 “We therefore urge the panel to make the results of the investigation public in the interest of the President and in order not to rubbish the progress made in the fight against corruption and undermine the efforts of stakeholders. Public trials of heads of anti-corruption agencies send a wrong signal to Nigerians and the international community about the genuineness of the fight against corruption.

“This incident comes at the worst possible moment and may hamper our national efforts to fight transnational financial crimes and national scams, which has plunged Nigerians into poverty and deprivation. Full transparency of the investigation Panel is of paramount importance.

“We also ask that sanctions be meted out where necessary to serve as a deterrent for officers saddled with the fight against corruption and political office holders. We call on civil society organisations, the media and Nigerians to continue to monitor events as they unfold and demand justice is served,” CISLAC stated.

Also, a coalition of civil society groups claim on Wednesday that, “Forces bent on putting a stop to the anti-corruption campaign are amalgamating forces to politicize and stampede the process of impartial investigation of Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) Mr Ibrahim Magu.”

Arrows Fired on Magu

The group said “the arrows being fired against Magu were the latest orchestrated designs to return Nigeria to the status quo and ensure corruption and impunity return to reclaim their inglorious seat at the apex of Nigerian political economy.”

The Civil Society Network Against Corruption, (CSNAC) in a statement signed by its official Mr Sina Odugbemi accused Malami of building a network of people opposed to accountability and transparency in governance.

“It stirs the conscience of Nigerians that an investigative panel meant to interrogate Mr Magu had same day detained him and the same day purveyors of fake news and public persecution of Magu bandits his removal as the EFCC Acting Chairman. The entire drama is nothing but a prepaid plan to defeat the anti-corruption campaign,” Odugbemi said in the statement.

The CSNAC is a coalition of 150 local, national and regional anti-corruption groups spread across Nigeria and West Africa Sub region.

The anti corruption coalition said it was not opposed to investigation of Magu for possible cases of corruption but that the way and manner the forces behind the plot pursued their desire was a clear indication that Magu was a victim of political power game between reactionary and progressive forces.

“It is suspicious that the purpose of the allegations, stemming from the Attorney General’s memo against Magu was deliberately orchestrated to remove Magu from office and not to call for impartial investigation. “it was nothing but a mockery of the rule of law.” Similar experience was meted out to the Pioneer Chairman of the Commission, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, when agents of corrupt ruling elites took over government in 2017.

The group said while some of the allegations were rehash of same allegations concocted by the former leadership of DSS, for which Magu was investigated and exonerated before his name was represented to the National Assembly for confirmation.

“Mr Magu was dragged to the panel without adequate notice. He was not given the time and opportunity to prepare his defence. He was not given any chance to call witnesses. He hurriedly called his lawyer who was also not adequately briefed before Magu was brought to the panel in a state of confusion and anxiety,” the group stated.

Stalling Anti-Corruption Campaign

CSNAC said Magu has been the subject of covert attacks by corrupt politicians spread across Nigeria’s two main political parties and their colloborators in the business community., arguing that the removal of Magu may be the end of any genuine efforts to fight corruption in Nigeria.

Contending that “The manner of his ‘arrest’ and investigation is capable of discouraging every other anti-corruption champions in government from commitment and dedication to service, CSNAC says it “believes in the imperativeness of security of tenure for heads of the anti corruption agencies and protection from political interference for the agencies.”

“Anti-corruptions agencies should not be surbodinated to any politician or office but the parliament. The President should urgently constitute and inaugurate the EFCC board and National Assembly to ensure the submission of annual report of EFCC to it and debate same for accountability

The coalition said with the unceremonious exit of Magu, Nigerians should expect a more corrupt and inept system of governance and an anti-corruption agency that may dance into the whims and caprices of the ruling elite like it was the case after the removal of Ribadu.

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