…ready to prosecute them if…
By Soni Daniel and Levinus Nwabughiogu and
ABUJA – President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered investigations into the alleged acts of corruption leveled against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Engr. Lawal Babachir and Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
Apparently, this was in a bid to wash his hands off any complicity in the allegation of corruption against both men appointed by him.
For Babachir, who is touted as a member of the cabal controlling the government of the day, his woes came loud on Wednesday last week when the Senate unraveled his alleged complicity in the diversion of billions of Naira for the welfare of the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs in the North east through a report of an Adhoc Committee.
The Senate subsequently demanded for his summary dismissal from office as SGF.
But in a swift response, Babachir said that the Senate was talking nonsense.
Similarly on Thursday, the same Senate rejected the nomination of EFCC chairman, Magu and further declined to confirm his nomination as a substantive head.
The Senate relied on a security report by the Department of State Service, DSS which also indicted Magu on acts of corruption.
The two issues had caused a virulent division among Nigerians with many asking President Buhari to sack them while many are also asking the president to ignore the sack calls.
Expectedly, the matter had placed the presidency on tenterhooks as it became momentarily unsure of any possible option to take in the imbroglio.
This is so much so in the light of the anti-corruption drive of the federal government which the two appointees especially, Magu are very central to.
A source told Vanguard that Magu was in the Villa on Friday to meet with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Though the source stated that the meeting had no connotation of privacy but the usual meetings on the appraisals of the anti-corruption war, not a few persons still, were inclined to believe that.
Speculations had been rife that since the day of his rejection, Magu had made several attempts to meet with President Buhari but was blocked.
But in a statement last night, the presidency through the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu stated that President had directed the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF to commence investigation into the matter, saying that they would be prosecuted if found culpable.
“The attention of the presidency has been drawn to a number of reports in the media, in which various accusations of corruption have been levelled against some top officials in the administration.
“In that regard, President Buhari has instructed the Attorney General of the Federation to investigate the involvement of any top government officials accused of any wrong-doing. If any of them are liable they will not escape prosecution”, Shehu said in a tacit statement.
However some documents emerged last night to prove that the security agency lied in many respect against Magu.
Documents obtained by Vanguard show that contrary to the DSS report that a businessman, Umar Mohammed, a retired air force officer, paid and furnished Magu’s mansion, the acting EFCC chairman, actually lives in a rented apartment officially paid and furnished by the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, which is statutorily mandated to do so for all senior government officials, including those of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Vanguard was told by top officials last night that most top government functionaries, including the NASS, had also been given similar accommodation by the agency while others who are staying in their personal houses, had demanded and collected cash in respect of rent and furniture.
Findings by our correspondent shows that the Abuja Metropolitan management Council, AMMC, awarded the contract for the two-year rent and furnishing of the house to an Abuja-based company, Valcour SA Nigeria Limited on March 30, 2016 at the total cost of N43.8 million with a six-week period to complete the job.
Out of the amount, N28 million was meant for two years’ rent (N14 m per annum) while the balance of N15.8 was meant for furnishing.
The offer letter with ref. No. AMMC/Adm/907 and dated march 30, 2016, was signed by Ibrahim Ibrahim Gusau, the Secretary of the Tenders Board with the caption “Provisional Award of contract for rent of residential accommodation and furnishing for security operatives”.
It was addressed to M/S Valcour SA Ltd, 8, Kainji Street, Maitama, Abuja.
The AMMC said in the offer letter, “I am directed to inform you that provisional approval has been given for an emergency award of contract to your company in line with PPA Section 42 (1b and1f) for rent of residential accommodation for security operatives (EFCC) for two years and furnishing of same at the total contract sum of N43,800,000 with a completion period of six weeks for furnishing.
“Your are to proceed with the service and note that the notification of the provisional award is subject to ratification by the FCTA Tenders Board.
“Accordingly, I am directed to inform you also that the contract or any part thereof shall not be transferred, sublet or assigned to any person/body in any way.
“You are requested to indicate in writing your acceptance or otherwise of the award and thereafter report to the Coordinator of the AMMC for further instructions. The Legal department of AMMC is similarly informed by a copy of this letter for their information and record.
“Accept my congratulations, please,” AMMC wrote.
Based on the award letter, the management of Valcour SA Ltd, on March 31, 2016, wrote back to the AMMC, accepting the offer of the award, saying, “With great pleasure, we accept your award of contract for rent of residential accommodation and furnishing for security operatives dated March 30, 2016.”
The acceptance letter was signed by Allen Kezie, the Director of Finance and Admin of Valcour SA Ltd.
Documents with Vanguard also show that it was based on the award, the FCTA released a mandate to the Central Bank of Nigeria dated March 31, 2016 to credit Valcour with the sum of N39.6 million.
The payment was made from FCTA account with No. 3000054355 domiciled with Zenith Bank while the mandate was jointly signed by Isiyaku Ismaila and Zanna A. Hamza who are the authorised signatories to the account.
This development is in sharp contrast to the DSS memo that claimed that the cost of the rented apartment was N40 million at N20 million per annum.
The documents further debunked the DSS memo that the furnishing of the residence was awarded to a firm owned by the ex -Air Chief, Africa Energy – at the cost N43 million as it was only M/S Valcour SA Nigeria Ltd that handled the property.
The Senate had last week Thursday declined Magu’s confirmation on the grounds of what it called security report from the DSS, about six months after President Muhammadu Buhari forwarded his name to the upper chamber for confirmation.
The Senate did not screen Magu on the basis of alleged failure to pass what it called “integrity test” arising from the said ‘security report’.
Vanguard gathered that the property located in the Maitama District, where senior government officials and diplomats reside because of its urbane nature, is an official quarters and not a gift as stated in the leaked DSS memo and is known in FCTA’s parlance as ‘Safe House’ because of the security nature of Magu’s job.
According to an official of the FCTA, who sought anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, such property is usually secured for very important personalities like the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, service chiefs, ministers and other top government officials.
He said, “Some of us were surprised about the controversy over the property. It is an official residence. The FCTA offers secured property to certain categories of public officials. We will direct an agent to search and inform us when he has secured an acceptable one and we will inform the concerned official accordingly.
“I can tell you that two top elected public officials in the NASS rejected these Safe Houses accommodation and collected N150 million each in lieu of the property”.
“So the residence in which Mr. Magu is staying is a federal government property and does not belong to any individual.”
It was learnt that the DSS in a bid to shop for justification to nail Magu, who is considered to be too rigid in the fight against corruption, spread its dragnet across the country to establish whether he owns property in any part of the country but could not locate any after combing major cities of Nigeria and finding none.
Efforts to speak with the embattled Acting EFCC Chairman, Magu have proved abortive as he would neither pick his calls nor respond to sms sent to his phones.
Similarly, the Spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said he could not speak on any matter that his boss had not cleared him to comment on.
“What do you want me to say?” Wilson queried one of our reporters, who wanted his reaction to the rejection of Magu’s confirmation by the Senate.
Vanguard learnt that the rejection of Magu has sparked serious tension in the Presidency, with major camps defending their actions that caused Buhari such a public embarrassment before the world and putting a big question mark on his anti-corruption war.