For the second time in three months, Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, is rejected by the Nigerian Senate based on the allegations in a letter from the Department of State Services accusing him of corruption and lacking integrity to lead the government’s anti-corruption war
PERHAPS, a good number of well-placed Nigerians saw it all coming. Nevertheless, the rejection of Ibrahim Magu as chairman of EFCC, by the Senate hit the nation as something unexpected on Wednesday, March 15. Just like his initial rejection by the Senate in December last year, the last Wednesday rejection was also hinged on a letter from the Department of State Services, DSS.
The unexpected letter, the second of its kind from the DSS said based on its findings, Magu would be “a liability to the anti-corruption fight of the present administration.”
But reports actually have it that some high-placed Nigerians stopped Magu’s confirmation as the EFCC chairman. Magu was said to have stepped on many precious big toes. According to the news making the rounds, the EFCC under Magu actually provided the all evidences and witnesses at the ongoing trial of Bukola Saraki, president of the Senate, before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT. Magu was also said to have helped to frustrate of all efforts by Saraki to stop the trial.
As if that was not serious enough, the EFCC invitation of Toyin Saraki, wife of the Senate president, for questioning on corruption-related charges is also seen among Nigerian senators as another major affront on leadership of National Assembly. A highly-placed source said: “The Senate has had its grudges against Magu since the invitation of the wife of the president of the Senate for interrogation. The senators saw it as a desecration of the chamber.
“Despite the fact that the president of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has purportedly forgiven Magu, the questioning of his wife has been a lingering memory. There are always fears that Magu could be more drastic in his action if confirmed.”
The anti-graft boss similarly stepped on the toes of about seven governors and some high-profile Nigerians who eventually joined forces to plot his rejection because of his uncompromising stance against corruption. The anti-graft boss was said to have invoked the wrath of the governors over the ongoing probe of the alleged diversion of N19 billion from the London-Paris Club loan refund.
It was learnt that the N19billion was deducted from the N388.304billion, which was part of the N522.74 billion released to 35 states as refund of over-deductions on the London-Paris Club loans. President Muhammadu Buhari approved the release of the first tranche to states as refund pending a reconciliation of records after protests by states against over deductions for external debt service between 1995 and 2002.
Each state was entitled to a cap of N14.5 billion being 25 percent of the amount claimed. But through its intelligence, the EFCC intercepted how the N19billion was diverted to the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, accounts and some private accounts.
This, prompted the governors to find a way to prevail on Magu to drop the investigation. A source said: “All attempts to prevail on Magu to halt the investigation failed and the governors have no choice than to engage in lobbying to truncate the confirmation. Although a governor from the North-East did his best to persuade his colleagues to spare Magu, some of the governors vowed not to take the risk.”
Besides, he said the governors at a point sent emissaries to Magu to the halt the investigation, but he refused to yield ground.
“The position of the governors was that the Presidency was in the picture of the deductions from the loan refunds but the EFCC’s probe was seen as an embarrassment to them.” Hence, it was decided to go after Magu before he would disgrace them.
Luckily, the governors found willing partners among some leaders of the National Assembly who were also implicated in the loan refund and decided to work together to cut the anti-graft boss to size.
One of the emissaries sent by the governors to Magu was quoted as saying: “This chap almost secured confirmation but he bungled it by probing the loan refund. Each time a commitment was secured from him, the more he has been intensifying investigation of the N19billion. We told him it was a sensitive case.”
The governors’ fears were confirmed during the lobbying for confirmation when the acting EFCC chairman refused to yield ground. Magu and a few others reportedly met with some of the senators, led by a former governor from the North-East, who demanded to know what EFCC would do on their cases.
“The PDP senators did not mince words that the acting EFCC chairman will not be confirmed because of alleged tilting of investigation towards opposition leaders. The ongoing subtle probe of the Senate minority leader, Godswill Akpabio, and his wife by the EFCC was considered as an affront after Magu had lobbied the PDP Caucus.
“Although two of the PDP senators met with Magu on Tuesday to assure him of likely clearance but the game plan changed overnight when the caucus took a position against Magu,” a source closed to the governors said.
He said further: “So, the governors refused to spare any efforts to lobby their senators to reject Magu. And don’t forget that most of these governors are godfathers of many senators. Again, 2019 is around the corner, no senator wants to take a bet on Magu and lose the opportunity of returning to the Red Chamber in the next general election.”
What, perhaps, did the acting chairman of the EFCC in was the fact that as many as 10 senators who are already on trial on corruption charges could not get any assurance from Magu to sustain the trial.
Added to all that, Magu, it is believed has no real godfather in the Buhari administration except the support of president and the likes of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Aisha Buhari, wife of president; Babachir Lawal, secretary to the government of the Federation; Babagana Monguno, a retired brigadier general and national security adviser, and Itse Sagay, SAN, a professor of law and chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, among others.
Unfortunately, Monguno, who recommended him for the job, is also facing challenges with some members of the kitchen cabinet who see Magu as doing the bidding of his benefactor.
It is thus, believed that Magu’s closeness to the NSA, who has issues with the DSS, must have aggravated the proxy war, which resulted in the two damning reports against Magu.
If that should be the case, the acting EFCC chairman is invariably the victim of power play in the Buhari kitchen cabinet.
That, indeed, has put the Buhari administration in a bad light among prominent Nigerians, including some former leaders.
A report by Premium Times on Thursday, March 16, said that by allowing the DSS to undermine his government the way Magu’s nomination was rejected showed that President Muhammadu Buhari had lost control of his government and should consider overhauling his administration immediately.
The newspaper interviewed two past commanders-in-chief, who spoke on strict anonymity, saying that Buhari should be very worried about the direction his administration was headed.
“I strongly reject the notion that Buhari is helpless in his own cabinet,” one of the former leaders said. “I would never have allowed such humiliating insubordination in my administration. It was unthinkable that my own appointee would oppose my nominee at the National Assembly. No one could have tried that with me. He or she would have paid dearly for it. What happened showed clearly that Buhari is not in charge.”
The second leader was similarly quoted that what happened in the Magu case was “entirely inconceivable in a presidential system anywhere in the world.”
Trying hard to make sense of the development and convey his “rude shock”, the former leader said Buhari might actually be the one behind the “repeated humiliation of his own nominee.”
“Unless he is the one behind the whole controversy by deliberately double-dealing with his own nominee and other subordinates, there’s no way I would have thought a situation like this will play out as someone who had been privileged to hold that position.
“As far as I am concerned, things seem to have fallen apart. It is also possible that he has never been in control. It is very unfortunate.”
Weighing in further on the controversy, one of the former leaders said the intrigues were a clear indication the president had lost grip of his government. “For me, it’s clearly disrespectful,” another former commander-in-chief said. “His (Buhari’s) appointees are hostile towards him and I think that’s not something we see regularly in governments across the world.”
The former leader said “not a single one” of his appointees ever made any attempt that could “remotely be deemed an act of insubordination. Never did any of my appointees even tried to override a decision that had been concluded.”
One of the leaders recommended that heads should roll if Buhari must regain control of the government. “I will recommend an urgent cabinet shake-up if there’s a way he could go about that before it’s too late,” the former leader said.
Femi Falana, SAN, described the Senate’s rejection of Magu as a ridicule of the office of the president and Buhari’s commitment to the fight against corruption.
Falana said that the DSS clearly undermined the office of the president and also described the screening of Magu as illegal, noting that some of the senators who voted against his confirmation were under EFCC investigation.
“With respect to the Senate, the confirmation hearing hurriedly conducted today is illegal in every material particular. The participation of many senators who are either under investigation or being prosecuted by the EFCC has vitiated the entire proceedings of the Senate on the ground of conflict of interest.
It is also a contravention of the Rules of the Senate which stipulates that matters which are sub-judice shall not be discussed by the Senate.
Regardless of Senate’s rejection, Falana said Buhari could still re-present Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation or allow him to continue to act as the EFCC boss pursuant to section 171 of the Constitution.
Similarly, Sagay said no law stops Buhari from re-appointing Magu as the EFCC’s acting or sending his name again to the Senate for confirmation.
Besides, Sagay said it was possible that some senators were not comfortable with Magu due to his enthusiastic crusade against corruption.
But contrary to Falana’s submission saying the screening of Magu was illegal, Sagay said since the Senate only has a constitutional role to confirm and not to appoint, the person who has the right to appoint could still do so again. His words: “They know that Magu has been outstanding in the fight against corruption, and that his achievements have simply been extremely praiseworthy. He’s been consistent; he’s committed. He’s a man of high integrity and his productivity has been high.
“The only reason they will refuse to confirm him is that they decided to be perverse on this occasion for reasons best known to them. Probably, it’s known to everybody.
“Maybe it’s because he’s just too good for the job, and a lot of people are uncomfortable with people like that who are committed and determined to root out corruption from the country. That’s what it is.
“They have done their own part of the job – very good. They don’t appoint, they merely confirm. So, the appointor will continue to appoint.”
Asked if Magu’s name could be re-submitted to the Senate for confirmation, Sagay said: “There is nothing stopping that. There is no provision in the EFCC Act that prohibits a man’s name being brought up again and again and again.”
But Mike Ozekhome, SAN, a human rights lawyer, holds a divergent view. He said the president could no longer re-present Magu ‘s name to the Senate “because of the serious moral burden, ethical challenges and legal impediments thus imposed on him with this second definitive rejection, this time after a full screening.”
Perhaps, Ozekhome’s stance could be viewed against the fact that he is currently being tried by the EFCC for receiving N75 million from Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State. The lawyer insists that the funds were meant to defray the costs of legal services his chambers rendered to the governor, while the charge against him is that he helped the governor to launder money.
He said re-presenting Magu’s name will raise more questions than answers as to why the insistence on one man.
Ozekhome argued: “Magu’s tenure should have nothing to do with efficiency and effectiveness alone, which he apparently possesses. The role of the number one anti-corruption czar should be more. It should also embody the finest and most edifying virtues of nobility in terms of observance of citizens’ fundamental rights and the all-important rule of law concept.
“The anti-corruption war has so far been fought without a human face, in the most crude, most bizarre, most discriminatory and most degrading manner that diminishes the humanity.
“It is high time for President Buhari to look for another competent Nigerian out of about 180 million population, after all, there was once a Nuhu Ribadu, a Mrs Waziri and a Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde. The cliché goes thus: ‘soldiers go, soldiers come, Barracks remain.”
In a similar argument, Yusuf Ali, SAN, said that since the Senate had rejected Magu twice, some other person should be considered. “The Senate has the constitutional duty to confirm the EFCC chair. It has rejected Magu twice on account of negative security report by the Department of State Services.
“I don’t believe Mr. Magu is the only capable, honest and qualified person for the job in our country! We should move on,” Ali said.
Indeed, the DSS’ letter the Senate relied on to reject Magu’s nomination was dated March 14, 2017, and addressed to the Clerk, Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It was received by the office of the Senate Clerk at 5.02pm on Tuesday.
It is entitled: “Re: Nomination of Mr. Ibrahim Magu Mustapha as Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) security report on the nominee.”
The three paragraph letter said in part: ”The security report being requested for on Ibrahim Magu Mustapha, the nominee for the Executive Chairmanship position of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has already been submitted to the Senate via Services’ letter No. SV114/2 of 3rd October, 2016, containing fourteen (14) paragraphs.
”Please accept once again the assurances of the esteemed regards of the DGSS.”
The letter was signed by F.O. Adams for director-general, SS.
Asked to tell the Senate his response to the DSS report that made President Buhari resubmit his name for confirmation, Magu told the Senate that his response was made in writing. He said that he would have made a copy available if he knew the issue would come up during his screening.
Magu said some senators knew how the EFCC started and how some of them were chased away.
The nominee said he was detained for two weeks and placed on suspension for 20 months on the claim that he kept official files. He said he was later recalled and given double promotion.
Then, Saraki reiterated that Magu’s response to the DSS report was important and the Senate would want to share his response to the report.
Magu said there were two reports and that the claim that he was living in a house paid for by an Air Force officer was false. The house, he said, was secured and paid for by the Federal Capital Development Authority. Magu said he did not even know when the rent would expire.
Asked how much the commission had recovered from corrupt officials, he said it was difficult for him to be specific. The agency, said Magu uses the technique of tracing, identification and recovery to recover looted funds.
He said recently some officials went to Dubai and United Kingdom in search of looted funds.
The tone of the screening changed, however, when Dino Melaye (Kogi West) read the DSS letter reaffirming its report that Magu should not be confirmed.
Melaye specifically referred to paragraph 14 of the controversial report which states: “In the light of the foregoing, Magu has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.”
To this, Magu promptly fired back saying the DSS lacked integrity to indict him. He said: “What does it say of an agency that submitted two varying reports on the same person, the same day? Up till now, the DSS has not given me a chance to hear from me. I have not been given fair hearing by the DSS.”
Eventually, Magu’s nomination as chairman of the EFCC was rejected for the second time in three months by the Nigerian Senate.
The senators hinged their decision on the DSS report, which portrayed Magu as “a liability to the anti-corruption stance” of the Buhari administration.
The DSS had last year written a similarly indicting letter to the Senate as its response to the Senate’s request for security appraisal of Magu in the confirmation process.
In the October 2016 letter, the DSS said Magu was involved in controversial matters including living in a house allegedly paid for by a man being prosecuted for corruption. Thus, it advised that Magu not be confirmed.
Based on that, senators did not even bother to screen the nominee for confirmation.
But in another letter in January, Buhari requested that the Senate reconsider its position and clear Magu as substantial chairman, saying the allegations against him were false and baseless.
Magu has been operating in an acting capacity since he was first appointed by Buhari in November 2015.
Observers say the botched confirmation could be a fallout of a long-drawn battle for supremacy between different blocs in the Buhari cabinet. The cabal in the Buhari government, it is believed, are up in arms to see that the corruption war does not succeed.
Despite his trouble, Magu himself has vowed not to be intimidated in his fight against corruption. Speaking after the Senate rejection, he said to reporters: “My priority is to fight corruption. We have always been on duty. I will work until the last day whether confirmation or no confirmation.
“The greatest violation against human right is crime against the society and the humanity but everybody has a duty and responsibility to fight corruption and I also have a responsibility. I assure you that we will fight to the finish.
“We will never be deterred because what we are doing is trying to investigate what has gone before and protect the future of our children and our future generation. So, if we don’t work today and fight against corruption, the future is not guaranteed, the future of our children is not guaranteed.
“So, we must wake up, where ever you find yourself, fight corruption. Anytime you discover that I am corrupt, expose me.”
Monday Ubani, second vice president of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, staid he was not surprised by the Senate decision not to confirm Magu considering his seriousness with the fight against corruption.
In the time being, the Presidency said it would give communicate its reaction to the Senate in due course. Femi Adesina, special adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, tweeted that President Buhari would duly respond to the rejection when the Senate sends him an official letter.
That notwithstanding, it is hoped by many Nigerians that the rejection of Magu should not be a death sentence for the anti-corruption war in Nigeria. Nigerians also expect the Buhari to lead the way, but how hevis going to achieve the onerous task without portraying some persons as untouchable is left to be seen.
Box to Cover:
Full Text of Department of State Services’ Report on Magu
“Investigation on the chairmanship nominee, Magu Ibrahim Mustapha revealed that in August 2008, following a search at his residence during the tenure of Farida Waziri (AIG/rtd) as the commission’s chairman, some sensitive EFCC documents which were not supposed to be at his disposal were discovered.
He was subsequently redeployed to the police after days of detention and later suspended from the Force. In December 2010, the Police Service Commission found Magu guilty of “Action prejudicial to state security, withholding of EFCC files, sabotage, unauthorised removal of EFCC files and acts unbecoming of a police officer,” and awarded him severe reprimand as punishment.
“Notwithstanding, sequel to the appointment of Ibrahim Lamorde as chairman of the EFCC in 2011, he made the return of Magu to the EFCC a top priority. Both men had worked together at the commission when Lamorde served as head of Operations of the agency. Magu remained a top official of the commission until he was appointed to succeed Lamorde.
“Magu is currently occupying a residence rented for N40m, at N20m per annum. This accommodation was not paid for from the commission’s finances but by one Umar Mohammed (Air Commodore/Rtd), a questionable businessman and ally of subject who has subsequently been arrested by this service. For the furnishing of the residence, Mohammed enlisted the Federal Capital Development Authority to award a contract to Africa Energy, a company owned by the same Mohammed to lavishly furnish the residence at the cost of N43m.
“Investigations show that the Acting EFCC chairman regularly embarks on official and private trips through a private carrier, Easyjet, owned by Mohammed. In one of such trips, Magu flew to Maiduguri, alongside Mohammed and the MD of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo, who was being investigated by the commission over complicity in funds allegedly stolen by the immediate past Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
“Furthermore, the EFCC boss has so far maintained a high profile lifestyle. This is exemplified by his preference for First Class air travels. On 24th June, 2016, he flew Emirate Airlines’ First Class to Saudi Arabia to perform the Lesser Hajj at the cost of N2,990,196. This is in spite of Mr. President’s directive to all public servants to fly Economy Class.
“Investigation also revealed that Magu parades a twin personality. At one level, he is the czar who has no friends, no favourites and is ready to fight corruption to a standstill. However, with a key friend in the person of Umar Mohammed (Air Commodore/Rtd), a controversial businessman, he has betrayed the confidence reposed in him by the present administration. Whereas Magu portrays himself as very secretive, he has fostered a mutually beneficial relationship with Mohammed who, by his confession, approaches ‘clients’ for possible exploitation, favours and associated returns. This was facilitated with official secrets divulged by Magu and from which dealings he is believed to have been drawing considerable benefits.
“This was evidenced by the number of official and classified documents he made available to his associates, especially Mohammed. After a search of Mohammed’s premises, a forged letter of the Office of the Vice President, dated 20th May, 2016, was recovered. The letter was a fictitious investigation report from Vice President to Mr. President, requesting for approval to commence further probe into a matter allegedly involving Hon.
Attached to the letter were two EFCC letters dated 13th April, 2016, and another 24th March, 2016, addressed to the vice president being investigation reports on the activities of Emmanuel Kachikwu and his brother Dumebi Kachikwu. Similarly recovered during the search were information on assets and personal details of Kachikwu.
“Also, following the arrest of three former Air Force chiefs by EFCC, namely, Alex Badeh, Umar and Amosu from whom huge sums of money and property were recovered, Umar and Alex Badeh were arraigned in court. It was only after the arrest of Mohammed by this service that the EFCC hurriedly arraigned Amosu. Mohammed later confessed that he never wanted Amosu tried, describing him as his former boss and he saw in Magu, a willing accomplice.
“Furthermore, findings revealed that in a bid to settle some personal scores, subject placed one Stanley Inye Lawson on a Security Watch Action, while in actual fact Lawson was working in the interest of the Federal Government. However, the action was later expunged following the discovery that Lawson was falsely accused by Magu for personal reasons.
“The circumstances surrounding Magu’s return to EFCC at the instance of the former chairman, Lamorde, and their close working relationship ever since is a clear indication of his culpability in the allegations of corrupt tendencies of the Lamorde led EFCC.
“To cover his tracks, Magu uses only his police cronies to execute operations. This, coupled with discoveries that such police cronies have acquired a lot of landed property, lends credence to the questions about his integrity.
“In the light of the foregoing, Magu has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.”