Fate of embattled EFCC Chairman, Magu hangs in balance

Acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu

This is not a good time for the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, as his fate to continue serving in that capacity hangs in the balance.

After hours of being grilled by the Justice Ayo Salami-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) on Monday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, reports said Magu was taken into a “custody” by the operatives of the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) where he faced another round of interrogation.

The interrogations are expected to continue today.

It would be recalled that the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, has been having some running battle with Magu in the last few months.

This led the minister to write an official letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, recommending the sacking of EFCC Acting Chairman.

In the memo to the President, Malami based his recommendation on several grounds “ranging from diversion of recovered loot to insubordination and misconduct” by Magu.

Little wonder, the Salami panel quizzed Magu on Monday over various allegations, including discrepancies in the reconciliation records of EFCC and the Federal Ministry of Finance on recovered funds; declaration of N539 billion as recovered funds instead of N504 billion earlier claimed; and insubordination to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, by not seeking his approval on some decisions.

Other allegations are: Magu’s alleged refusal to provide enough evidence for the extradition of ex-Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke; deliberate late action on the investigation of Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) leading to legal dispute; non-respect of court order to unfreeze a N7 billion judgement in favour of a former Executive Director of First Bank; deliberate delay in acting on two vessels seized by Nigerian Navy leading to the loss of crude; favouring of some investigators called Magu’s Boys; reporting some judges to their presiding officers without deferring to the AGF; sales of seized assets to cronies, associates and friends; and issuance of investigative activities to some media prejudicial to some cases.

While there were hues and cries over his purported arrest on Monday, a member of PACAC, Prof. Femi Odekunle, rose in defence of Magu, saying “those sent to invite him for whatever reasons best known to them invited some press along and made it look like an arrest.

“That mischief has been confirmed by some apparent afterthought denial by the DSS (Department of State Services) that it was not an arrest,” he said.

Odekunle described his statement as “a preliminary reaction of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) to the alleged ‘arrest’ of Ibrahim Magu, Acting Chairman the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).”

But, PACAC, in a statement on behalf of the committee by its Communications Officer, Aghogho Agbahor, described Odekunle’s press release as his “personal opinion.”

“The attention of the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) has been drawn to a statement circulating in the media space credited to one of its members Professor Femi Odekunle.

“The press release is the personal opinion of the member under whose name it was released and not that of the committee. If the committee consistent with its mandate has any view on the matter, it will be channeled to the President and not to the media,” Agbahor said.

Odekunle, while further defending Magu, explained that the real information was that EFCC Acting Chairman was only invited to appear before a panel “set up not long ago concerning some alleged memo by Malami, regarding some alleged malfeasance by Magu, along with nominations for his replacement.”

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.”

From all indications, Magu may be forced to step down as the EFCC Acting Chairman. For now, the intrigues and power play continue over Magu’s replacement.