SWITZERLAND, JULY 10 – A few hours ago, the Federal Government finally confirmed what had been an open secret in media circles for days; the suspension of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, and his replacement with Mohammed Umar.
According to the government’s official twitter handle, President Buhari 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 regards.
This is the latest development in an ongoing five-day ordeal for the disgraced anti-graft boss, which depicts a fall from grace to grass. In the past four days, Magu has been arrested, indicted by a presidential panel, and now, removed.
Arrest and Suspension
On Monday, June 6, information wafted into the media, indicating that the anticorruption boss had been arrested by the Department of State Security (DSS) and the Police. The DSS immediately denied arresting Magu. In a statement released on Monday afternoon, the secret police agency said that Magu only went to honour an invitation by a presidential panel.
“The EFCC’s boss was neither arrested nor forced to honour the invitation. A member of a legal team from the EFCC is also with him on the Panel,” Dele Oyewale, head of media and publicity, said in the statement.
However, the seriousness of Magu’s travails continued to unfold as he remained in the DSS custody till Tuesday morning and even up till the time of filing this report. His situation became even more precarious after reports indicating that he has been suspended emerged on Tuesday
It is now clear that Magu has been indicted and is being investigated by a special presidential panel headed by Ayo Salami, former President of Court of Appeal, with the offices of National Security Adviser (NSA); Director General, Department of State Services (DSS); Director General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Police, and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) as members.
According to media reports, some of the issues he is being interrogated on include explanation on allegedly acquired 380 houses, seven vessels loaded with crude oil allegedly unaccounted for, and N37 billion allegedly acquired illicitly.
Today’s Echo gathers that Magu’s detention and alleged suspension follow months of pressure from the AGF, Abubakar Malami, who made several moves to remove him.
On June 21, Today’s Echo reported that President Muhammadu Buhari had given Malami approval to investigate and prosecute Magu, following Malami’s memorandum, in which he itemised 22 weighty allegations against the EFCC chairman, who has occupied the office for nearly five years in acting capacity after the National Assembly refused to confirm his appointment.
Malami’s memo had accused Magu of financial malfeasances in the failure to declare actual money recovered from looters. He also accused Magu of gross insubordination, refusing directives from the commission’s supervisory ministry; and alleged that as a result, the Federal Government has come under severe attack and embarrassment on account of poorly pursued investigations. The AGF’s memo made strong innuendos purporting that Magu has made himself a willing tool in the hands of politicians thereby reducing the sterling reputation EFCC once enjoyed.
The Political Undertones of Magu’s Travails
Nevertheless, Magu’s ordeal may have some political undertone. Many of the allegations against him remain just like his appointment; unconfirmed. Like many other high-profile personalities, Magu may have just been a victim of the high-level power-play going on amongst Nigeria’s political elite.
Magu is alleged to have stepped on some really big toes in the discharge of his duties. Recently, renowned journalist, Segun Adeniyi, said in an article, that Magu had harassed Retired Generals Abdulsalami Abubakar and Theophilus Danjuma; immensely powerful men alleged to be president Buhari’s allies. According to Adeniyi, Magu blocked a move by Theophilus Danjuma, former defence minister, to purchase an aircraft, few weeks after raiding the residence of Abdulsalami Abubakar, former head of state, in 2017.
Another indication of political undertone is a recent letter written by Professor Femi Odekunle, a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), headed by Professor Itse Sagay (SAN). According to Odekunle, the alleged memo from Malami, and current arrest of Magu, seem 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.
Odekunle said, “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. ”
The professor also said 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.
“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 said in the letter.
PACAC’s head, and renowned Law Scholar, Itse Sagay (SAN), has said Prof Odekunle was speaking for himself and not representing the panel. “If the committee, in consistence with its mandate has any view on the matter, it will be channelled to the President and not to the media,” Sagay said in a statement released on Tuesday.
One of the early indications that Magu would not have a smooth ride atop the EFCC was the refusal of the National Assembly to confirm his appointment. Attempts by the Presidency to get him confirmed had been rejected twice by the Senate as a result of petitions written against him, by the Department of State Services (DSS).
The former DSS boss, Lawal Daura, had through a security report released in 2016, accused Magu of corruption and urged the Senate to reject his confirmation.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) and Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), have publicly declared that the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu does not require the confirmation of the Senate to be in office.
Perhaps, Osinbajo’s one time support for Magu may have led to the accusations from a controversial blogger, Jackson Ude, alleging that the Vice President once took N4 billion from the embattled former EFCC boss. Reacting to the unproven allegations against him, the Vice president has vowed to sue Ude for defamation of character and has written to the Inspector-General of Police to investigate him.
With the confirmation of his suspension by the federal government, Magu’s fate seemed to have been sealed. Yet, the can of worms to be opened up by his probe may generate fresh controversies.