By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Charles Kumolu, Gbenga Oke and Joseph Erunke
ABUJA- THE Senate yesterday refused to confirm Ibrahim Magu as substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, upon a security report by the Department of State Services, DSS, sparking a verbal backlash from supporters of Magu.
The 14-paragraph confidential report said that Magu has failed the integrity test and that if confirmed, he could eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the administration.
The Senate, however, gave approval for the screening of the four members of the EFCC board whose names were sent alongside Magu by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo for confirmation in July while President Muhammadu Buhari was away on medical vacation.
The DSS security report, among others alleged that Magu is occupying a N20 million per year accommodation, allegedly rented for him by someone under EFCC investigation; lives a flamboyant lifestyle and flouted the President’s order against public officers flying first class when he went on pilgrimage. Some of the accusations were last night being pooh-poohed by associates of Magu.
One associate particularly debunked the accommodation allegation, saying that Magu lives in a house provided for him by the Federal Capital Territory.
Addressing journalists after a closed-door session, which lasted for about three hours, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi said that the rejection was based on security reasons.
Reading a prepared statement, Senator Abdullahi said: “The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria wishes to inform the general public that based on security reports available to the Senate; the Senate cannot proceed and confirm the nomination of Ibrahim Magu Mustapha as Executive Chairman of EFCC.
“Accordingly, the Senate hereby rejects the said nomination and has returned the said nomination to Mr. President for further action.”
It would be recalled that the Senate had last week deferred Magu’s confirmation hearing to yesterday.
Vanguard gathered that the 14 paragraph DSS report signed by Folashade Bello for the Director- General of DSS was read on the floor of the Senate by Senate President Bukola Saraki. Copies of the highly classified document were, however, not circulated to senators.
The report was dated October 3, addressed to the Acting Clerk of the Senate and titled, “ Re: Request for Security Vetting your letter NASS/CS/SA/01/16/08/1 dated September 21, 2016 requesting for the vetting of the Chairman and members of the EFCC.
The report said: “Investigating the Chairman nominee; Ibrahim Magu revealed that in August 2008, following a search at his residence during the tenure of Farida Waziri, AIG, retd, as a Commissioner, some sensitive EFCC documents which were not supposed to be at his disposal were with him. 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, unauthorized 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 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 N40 million at N20 million per annum. This accommodation was not paid for from the Commission’s finances.
“Investigations show that Magu regularly embarks on official and private trips through a private carrier, EasyJet, In one of such trips, Magu flew to Maiduguri alongside the Managing Director of a bank, who was being investigated by the Commission over complicity in funds allegedly stolen by the immediate past Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
“The EFCC boss so far maintained a hog pigs profile life style. This is exemplified by his preference for first class air travel. On June 24, 2916, he flew Emirates Airlines first class to Saudi Arabia to perform the less Hajj at the cost of N2,990,196.00. This is in spite of Mr. President’s directives to all public servants to fly economic class.
According to the report, in the classified and official documents:
“To cover his tracks, Magu uses solely 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 its submission, the DSS said, “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.”
Senators exchange hot words
Earlier yesterday during the closed-door session, the Senate was sharply divided at the commencement of the session, with Senate Leader, Ali Ndume and Senator Dino Melaye exchanging strong words over the matter
While Ndume who is from the same Borno State as Magu was in support of the confirmation, Melaye was vehemently opposed to it.
The division was calmed after Senate President, Bukola Saraki was said to have told his colleagues that he had a report from the DSS on Magu.
Magu had arrived at the National Assembly and stayed in the office of the Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang.
Responding to the development last night, an associate of Magu said that the issues raised were allegations of crime which were, however, not committed.
“Were all these not allegations of crime? So, why were the allegations not lodged at the ICPC or with the Police? Shouldn’t the Senate have challenged him with the allegations? Has he been reported to the president? Why was he not screened?”
The source claimed that the Senate instead of confronting Magu with the allegations raised against him in the DSS report rather told him that the Senate would get back to the president on his nomination.
Magu’ll remain, says Sagay
Meanwhile, the presidency said yesterday that it would not react to the development until it gets a communication from the Senate. That is not expected until next January as the Senate proceeded on Yuletide Break, yesterday.
Nonetheless, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, SAN, has pooh-poohed insinuations that non-confirmation would remove Magu from his position. Speaking in an interview with The Interview monthly magazine, Sagay said “whether they like it or not, he (Magu) will be there. His chairmanship will keep on being renewed.
“Since Nuhu Ribadu left, we have not had a man with such sterling qualities as Ibrahim Magu and whether they like it or not, Magu will be there until he completes his term under the law,” Sagay said in published excerpts of the interview conducted before yesterday’s rejection of Magu by the Senate.
EFCC Act unclear on acting capacity
The EFCC Establishment Act 2004 is silent on the appointment of the chairman in acting capacity. It expressly provides that the chairman has to be confirmed by the Senate.
Section 2 (3) of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004 provides that the ‘’Chairman and members of the Commission other than ex-officio members shall be appointed by the President and appointment shall be subject to the confirmation of the Senate.
It also provides in Section 3 (1) that ‘’the Chairman and members of the Commission other than ex-officio members shall hold office for a period of four years and may be re-appointed for a further term of four years and no more.’’
I’m not surprised, says Ubani
Commenting on Magu’s rejection by the Senate, Second Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr. Monday Ubani, said: ‘’I am not surprised that he was not confirmed because of the level of seriousness he has exhibited in the fight against corruption. There is an elite gang up against his confirmation, and it cuts across all parties because Magu is serious about the fight against graft in the country. What I would have expected the executive to do was to engage in lobbying. The lobbying I am talking about is not financial but by reaching out to the lawmakers and telling them why Magu should be confirmed. The development is a setback for the war against corruption even though I expected it to happen but that does not stop the President from appointing him.’’
He can’t continue in acting capacity – Ikokwu
Second Republic politician and lawyer, Chief Guy Ikokwu said the Senate had the right to reject Magu’s nomination, adding that the anti-corruption war czar would have to leave the post because ‘’he cannot continue to act in acting capacity.’’
Averring that the reason the senators adduced for rejecting Magu could be resolved by the Executive and Legislature to pave the way for the President to re-nominate Magu, the politician, however, said many people perceive the anti-corruption war as selective. ‘’There is a lot of partisanship in the way the anti-corruption war is going.’’
Confirmation ought to have held long ago – Ngige
To senior lawyer, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN, the rejection of Magu was expected. Commenting on his Facebook page, Chief Ngige said: ‘’Surprised? No. He has stepped on so many toes. The confirmation hearing ought to have taken place a long time ago before he assumed office not now. It’s unfortunate.”
Anti corruption war in danger — Mohammed
In his reaction, Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Mohammed, said with the rejection of Magu, the Buhari anti-corruption war is in danger.
“The rejection of Magu portends the complete collapse of anti- corruption war, and it also shows that the Buhari government is in danger too. The rejection shows that the Senate is not serious and the cabal around President Buhari is also working closely with the Senate to reject Magu.
“This development portends a bad omen for this country and it is an embarrassment for President Buhari because some cabal around him are not doing this country any good. I am ashamed of what transpired in the Senate today (yesterday), and it shows the Nigerian Senate is shameless and have no respect for President Buhari.”
My take, by Falana
“Section 2 (3) of the Efcc. act 2004 provides that “The chairman and members of the Commission other than ex officious members shall be appointed by the President subject to the confirmation of the Senate.” Since it was the executive session of the Senate that took the decision not to confirm Mr. Magu, the Senate has not taken a decision on the matter. In the entire history of the Senate an executive session or Committee of the Senate has never been allowed to usurp the statutory power of the Senate with respect to the confirmation of nominees of the President of the Republic
“The announcement credited to the Bukola Saraki-led is that Mr. Magu’s confirmation could not be considered based on a security report. The purported security report was not presented on the floor of the Senate. To that extent the refusal of the executive session of the Senate to circulate the report and allow the Senate to take a decision is an insult on the integrity of the entire Senate.
“Since the said report was prepared by the management of the State Security Service it is crystal clear that the refusal of the Senate to consider the nomination of Mr. Magu is a confirmation that the forces of corruption have decided to rubbish the anti corruption crusade of the Buhari administration. The President owes the nation a duty to flush out all the well known corrupt elements in the government and their cronies without any further delay.”