NIGERIA POLITICS: Ibrahim Magu Confirmation Rejected By Senate
Exactly three months after he was rejected by the Senate to have him confirmed as the substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu suffered the same fate on Wednesday when the Senate declined to confirm him for the second time, citing a damning letter by the Department of State Services (DSS) as reason for the decision.
The Senate also said Magu should cease to act as the chairman of the anti-graft commission and a replacement should be sent by the president for confirmation.
The letter of the DSS dated March 14, 2017, which was almost similar to the first one that led to his rejection last December, indicted him for corruption, living a double life, and concluding that Magu lacks the integrity and was not fit for the purpose to head the EFCC.
Following his rejection by the Senate last December, President Muhammadu Buhari re-nominated Magu in January, explaining that he had been cleared of wrongdoing, following investigations into the DSS’ allegations by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami.
However, Wednesday’s rejection came after almost two hours of grilling, during which Magu attempted to field questions bordering on the DSS report, his relationship with Air Commodore Mohammed Umar (rtd), internal corruption in the EFCC, allegations of human rights abuses, refusal to obey court orders, inter-agency rivalry and other issues.
The first indication that Magu was up against a brick wall came when Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central) made an allusion to the “Ides of March”.
The Ides of March refers to Wednesday ’s date, March the 15th, a day imbued with a sense of foreboding worldwide, because it was the same day when Roman Emperor, Julius Ceasar, was assassinated.
Sani demanded explanations into the circumstances that led to the death of one Desmond Anulogu in EFCC’s custody, since Magu had described the agency’s holding cells as similar to hotels. In his response, the acting EFCC boss said the death was unfortunate.
On the first DSS report, which was again raised by the senators, Magu initially said he was not prepared to defend himself against the report of the DSS, as he had already responded to the president in writing and preferred to “avoid a bad relationship with a sister agency”.
The Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, however, observed that one of the issues Magu raised after his initial rejection by the Senate was that he was not accorded a chance to explain himself. Also, while fielding other questions, Magu did not provide clear answers to some questions and claimed ignorance of some of the allegations against the EFCC bordering on corrupt practices.
He was also unable to provide a figure on the amount of money that has been recovered since he became acting chairman of the EFCC almost two years ago.
One of such questions was a query on how some Certificates of Occupancy (C-of-Os) seized during the raid on the home of an individual, were discovered in the “market”, after some EFCC officials allegedly tried to sell the land linked to the C-of-Os.
The issue, according to Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West), was now with the police and two of the C-of-Os had been returned to the owner.
Melaye also noted that the latest DSS letter referred the Senate to the earlier report, adding that Magu was being screened because of the president’s letter.
“I also want to inform you Mr. Magu, if you are not aware that for every nominee that comes to this Senate, we do request for screening by the DSS.
“It did not start with you, it will not end with you. So on the premise of this request that we have received this from the DSS, the DSS is to us what the FBI and CIA are to the United States of America, and we cannot ridicule, we cannot undermine, and we cannot put in abeyance the report of the DSS.
“Do you still think that after this report and as a result of what has happened to the C-of-Os of an innocent Nigerian, do you still consider yourself qualified to be the chairman of EFCC?” Melaye queried.
Senator Barnabas Gemade (Benue North East) further added that there was the issue of perception when Magu chose to associate with Air Commodore Mohammed, who according to the DSS report, was of questionable character.
Gemade also queried why some high profile cases appear to have endless lifespans in the EFCC.
Brandishing the DSS report, Magu reminded the Senate that two reports had been written about him by the DSS, but one of the reports was missing.
He also questioned the credibility of the DSS, alleging that the agency did not accord him fair hearing.
“Two different reports submitted the same day about the same person, that goes to tell you the credibility of such an institution. 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. It is a fundamental issue. It is a constitutional matter.
“On the case of the stolen C-of-Os, it is not everything that is done in the EFCC I have knowledge of. The EFCC is too big, if not for today, I did not know that there was a case pending against EFCC staff with the police.
“But I will now go back and investigate it and give you feedback after my investigation,” Magu said.
Explaining his relationship with Commodore Mohammed, Magu said they did not know each other until their appointment as members of Arms Procurement Panel set up by the presidency.
He, however, did not address the allegations that he flew on a private jet owned by Commodore Mohammed, or other allegations raised on his association with the retired air force officer in the report.
Magu, nonetheless, clarified that his official residence belongs to the estate of the former Minister of Information, Prof. Dora Akunyili, now late, whose son needed money to return to the U.S. and rented the house to him.
“I was not involved in looking for the house. It was rented; they called it a safe house. Every key personnel of government stay in safe houses and it was actually rented and furnished by them.
“I don’t even know when my rent will expire. I was actually comfortable in Karu (where he owns a personal house), if not for the pressure from people in authority that said I must relocate or they will deal with me,” he said.
Explaining why the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, was still being held despite court orders granting him bail, Magu said the Administration of Criminal Justice Act allows for the application of an order to detain a person beyond the stipulated 24 hours.
“I try as much as possible to obey court orders, but if we have some reasons not to obey, we appeal. Sometimes when we invite someone, the disclosures from the interrogation could open new issues that need to be revisited, and sometimes if you allow the suspect to leave so early, there is a chance that it would jeopardise our investigations.
“But as much as possible, we try to comply with court orders. In fact, we do not detain people until we are absolutely and completely sure that an offence has been committed. We actually got Dasuki from the DSS,” Magu added.
Senator Abiodun Olujimi (Ekiti South) also accused the acting EFCC boss of not adequately handling the inter-agency rivalry between the DSS and EFCC.
She also wondered if the anti-corruption fight would be taken seriously with the “albatross hanging” around his neck.
Having interrogated Magu, the Senate then dissolved into the Committee on the Whole to deliberate on the matter. Following a voice vote, his nomination was rejected.
It concluded that to re-nominate Magu for a third time would amount to undermining the DSS and portraying the agency as incompetent, incapable of doing its job, and rubbishing the institution.
Aside the report of the DSS, the Senate also based its decision on what it described as Magu’s lacklustre performance during the screening exercise on Wednesday, abysmal attempts at answering questions, and not defending himself over the allegations raised against him in the report.
Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South), an avid supporter of Magu, however, raised a point of order indicating that the letter from the DSS was not signed by the director-general of the agency.
“I have two letters here. None of them is addressed to you (Senate President). One is addressed to the Clerk, one is addressed to the National Assembly.
“Number two, yesterday we got a letter from the Nigerian Customs Service signed by an Assistant Director to the Clerk. We said that was not the right thing to do.
“Accordingly, the DSS letter should have been written and signed by the DG DSS,” he argued.
Saraki, however, ruled him out of order, saying the matter has been concluded.
“It is important for us, we should not rubbish an institution for the process of a process. We are not here for individuals. So you are ruled out of order,” he said.
Speaking on whether Magu should continue in an acting capacity, Saraki added that the rejection of his nomination was indicative that the president should nominate another candidate, while someone else should continue the job in the interim.
Nailed a Second Time
The DSS, in its latest report to the Senate indicated that it was standing by its initial report dated October 3, 2016, where it stated that “Magu has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration”.
It read in part: “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 the 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.
“Investigations 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. Minister of State Petroleum.
“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 (DSS) 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.”
Briefing newsmen on Wednesday evening, Senate spokesman, Senator Sabi Abdullahi (Niger North), who presented the Senate’s reasons for the rejection, said it was also expected that Magu would no longer act as EFCC boss.
“There are actions that when taken, there are subsequent consequences. There is no provision for acting, but a substantive chairman,” he said, adding that someone who has twice been rejected by the Senate should not be eligible to act.
“Mr. President has respect for constituted authority. No one individual is bigger than an institution. We have done our part, we do not pre-empt anything, but there is a danger in saying the DSS is incompetent and incapable of doing its job.
“And I don’t think the president would do that. Nobody can occupy public office that the DSS has not cleared,” Sani said.
Magu: I’ll Fight Till the End
Despite his rejection by the Senate, Magu said on Wednesday that whether he was confirmed or not, he would keep fighting corruption until his last day in office.
Speaking with some civil society organisations in Abuja, Magu said the rejection has not changed his priority to fight corruption, reported online news medium, The Cable.
“My priority is to fight corruption. My non-confirmation has not changed anything, I will work until the last day whether confirmation or no confirmation,” Magu said.
“The greatest violation against human rights is crime against the society and the humanity… everybody has a duty and responsibility to fight corruption, and I also have a responsibility. I assure you that we will fight to finish.”
He said the allegations by the DSS “cannot stand the test of time”.
“You know, you can’t just raise mere allegations without giving the person the opportunity to respond. There is also the issue of fundamental human rights, the right of fair hearing,” he said.
“Up till this time, DSS has not called me, and I am even surprised that the same report is coming back. I doubt the genuineness of that report, but I think we need to identify those who have the interest of this country at heart.”
He said the aim of the anti-graft war was to “recover what got lost before and protect the future of our children”.
“We must all wake up, wherever you find yourself, fight corruption, and anytime you discover that I am corrupt, please expose me,” he said.
N49m Stunt at Kaduna Airport
But even as Magu attempted to cry out over his indictment by the DSS and the breach of his fundamental human rights, a principle he has repeatedly abused in his position as head on the EFCC, sources in the Senate informed THISDAY on Wednesday that they had discovered that the discovery of N49 million at the Kaduna airport on Tuesday by agents of the commission was a publicity stunt pulled off by the EFCC.
According to a source, the N49 million was allegedly planted by officials of the EFCC at the airport exactly one day before Magu’s screening and confirmation by the Senate to give the semblance of an agency head that was competent and one with a wide dragnet.
He said: “We have it on good authority that the N49 million was planted by the EFCC to create the impression that Magu is working and a major crime-bursting czar.
“But it was such a lousy job, because of the manner it was carried it out. For one, why would someone moving cash runaway if it was legitimate? It is not a crime to move about or travel with large volumes of cash and a lot of traders in this country do so.
“Second, even if the person who was travelling with the N49 million was trying to conceal it, he would not have used plain sacks as the money would have been very easy to detect on the scanners at the airport.
“If the person was concealing the N49 million, he would have used suitcases and tried to use clothes or books to cover the cash. Even at that, the scanners at the Kaduna airport, which you should remember is currently the cynosure of all eyes, would have still picked up the money.
“Besides, the fact that all the cash was in fresh mint wraps and in some cases small denominations of N50 notes, showed that the cash was taken out of the CBN by a government agency, because no sensible person would accept that volume of cash from his bank in N50 denominations, as smaller denominations are more difficult to handle and carry due to the volume.
“Magu was simply trying to pull the wool over our eyes with that stunt. That is why the phantom owner of the N49 million was never caught.
“Otherwise, the EFCC should explain to us how the so-called owner got to know that EFCC operatives were coming to seize the cash and was able to make a quick getaway in a public place like the Kaduna airport.”
Amendment to EFCC Act
Meanwhile, a bill seeking to reduce the power of the president to remove the chairman of the EFCC scaled the second reading on Wednesday in the House of Representatives.
The bill, an amendment to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission Act, 2004, sponsored by Hon. Bassey Eko Ewa and three other members of the House, also calls for more stringent ways of removing members and chairman of the commission.
It is also seeking to establish an asset confiscation and recovery unit as well as a financial investigation and intelligence unit, even as it seeks to strengthen the agency to provide quick recovery procedures for stolen assets, ensure adequate funding, and establish the Economic and Financial Crimes Court to adjudicate over related matters.
The bill also seeks to amend Section 18 of the Act to lengthen the term of sentence for violators to a minimum of 20 years from the present provision of two years and not exceeding three years to serve as deterrence to public office holders.
The bill, which appeared to have the overwhelming support of the House, also provides for a plea bargain that would allow accused persons to enter a plea bargain arrangement by refunding looted funds and having their sentences slashed to not more than two years.
It also proposes that 0.1 per cent of the total value of contracts awarded by the federal government to be credited to the commission’s account in order to improve its funding.
– This Day