Henry Umoru, Ben Agande, Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu, Gbenga Oke, Joseph Erunke,
The Senate has summoned the Director-General of the Department of State Services, DSS, Lawal Daura, to shed light on the agency’s indictment of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as an unfit person to head the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The Senate invitation was upon President Muhammadu Buhari’s formal rebuttal of the allegations made against Magu by the DSS and the resubmission of his name as chairman of the anti-graft agency.
Besides Magu, President Buhari in another letter to the Senate, also technically dismissed the Senate indictment of Mr. Babachir Lawal, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF arising from his alleged involvement in contracts awarded by the Presidential Initiative on the Northeast, PINE.
The president’s stance on the two men drew sharp reactions with Senator Shehu Sani, who led the investigations into the PINE contracts, saying the president had effectively conducted a funeral service on the administration’s anti-corruption war.
The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi on his part, said that whatever the Buhari administration does on Lawal would, like the Halliburton Affair, be opened up by succeeding administrations.
The two letters from the president were in response to the rejection of the president’s nomination of Magu as the substantive chairman of the EFCC and the indictment of Lawal in the award of PINE contracts and the Senate resolution that he should resign as SGF and be prosecuted.
As the Senate resumed from the weekend break, yesterday, senators immediately went into a closed door session where, Vanguard learnt, the letters on Magu and Lawal were deliberated.
Vanguard gathered that senators resolved to invite the Director General of the DSS to come and shed light on the report of the agency which stated that Magu was not a fit and proper person to head the EFCC.
A source at the meeting told Vanguard: “We discussed that the DG, DSS should be invited to know in what capacity he wrote the letter to the Senate on the issues relating to Magu. We will invite him to tell us why he wrote the letter and in what context and his synergy with the National Security Adviser as well as other security agencies.”
Vanguard further gathered that senators were miffed by the president’s decision to resubmit Magu for the position.
Following the return to plenary, the President of the Senate read the two letters for the records.
In the letter resubmitting Magu, the president said he had investigated the issues raised by the DSS and cleared the nominee of the allegations levelled against him.
Buhari’s Letter on Magu
The letter dated January 17, 2017, addressed to the Senate President and titled, “Re-nomination of Ibrahim Magu Mustapha as the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),” read:
“I write with reference to your letter no NASS /85/R/016 dated December15, 2016 where in you conveyed to me the resolution of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria reached on the same Thursday December 15, 2016 in respect of my earlier request for the confirmation and appointment of Mr. Ibrahim Magu Mustapha, the nominee as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
“I have taken due note of the contents of the aforesaid resolution as it concerns the nominee particularly the conclusion of the Distinguished Senate not to confirm the nomination of Mr. Magu due to a security report on the nominee issued by the Department of State Services (DSS) and addressed to the Senate via a letter dated October 3, 2016.
“Upon receipt of this said resolution, I took administrative steps within the Executive arm of government to ensure the speedy clarification of issues relied upon by the Senate in arriving at its decision. These steps included a request for the response of the nominee to the allegations contained in the report out of desire to ensure that the credibility of our anti-corruption campaign is not compromised or called to question.
“As the Distinguished Senate, you will recall the prosecution of the anti-corruption war in all aspects of our polity is a programme to which my administration has committed itself since our inauguration on May 29, 2015. In undertaking this campaign, we have been guided by the need for urgency, consolidation, and improvement of our present statutory framework for addressing the scourge of corruption in our country as well as taking the benefits of institutional memory and present capacity in taking the campaign forward.
“It is in the above context you will agree with me that there’s a need to maintain a current momentum and capacity of the EFCC since May 29, 2015. It is in the above context that I, therefore, request to crave the indulgence of this distinguished Senate to favourably accept my renomination of Ibrahim Magu Mustapha for the position of the EFCC (Chairman) having received adequate clarification considering the matter relied upon by the Senate in arriving at its decision.
“Mr. President of the Senate, I make this request for a favourable reconsideration by this distinguished chamber against the background of the critical role of the Senate in driving the anti-corruption campaign of the present administration through a proactive legislative agenda and adequate appropriation support for the important work of an agency such as the EFCC.
“I use this opportunity to reassure the distinguished senators of my determination to continue to pursue synergy between the executive and the legislative arms in our common mission to bequeath a more prosperous and value-driven country to the generation after us.
“Please accept, the Distinguished Senate President, the assurances of my highest consideration and esteem.”
The letter on BabachirLawal, dated January 17, 2017 read thus:
“You may recall your letter with reference NASS /8X/R/01/5 dated December 15, 2016 in respect of the Senate consideration of the report of its ad-hoc committee on the mounting humanitarian crisis in the Northeast that conveyed the resolution of the Committee as contained in paragraph 1 subsection 8 therein which reads as follows: Engr. Babachir Lawal having contravened the provisions of part one of the 5th schedule of the 1999 constitution as amended had breached his oath of office and should resign and be prosecuted by the relevant authority, S/075/02/01/16.
“Following a receipt of your letter, I set up a review team to consider the recommendations from the Senate Committee. I have also conducted further investigation based on Engr Lawal’s response to the allegations and issues raised in the Senate resolution. I have come to the following conclusion that I believe will guide the Senate in the proper review of its interim report and eventual resolution.
“The report forwarded to the presidency by the Senate which informed the decision that Engr Babachir Lawal should resign and be prosecuted by the relevant authority S/075/02/016 was an interim report as against a final report which ought to have been presented to the Senate in the plenary for adoption as a binding and final report before submission to the presidency given the weight of allegations made in the report.
“The Senate Committee set up to investigate the mounting humanitarian crisis in the northeast comprised of nine members namely, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Senator Mohammed Hassan, Senator Solomon Adeola, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, Senator Theodore Orji, Senator Yahaya A. Abdullahi, Senator Mallam Aliu Wakili and Senator Issac M Alfa.
“The review of the interim report shows that the interim report was only signed by only three out of the nine members namely Senator Solomon Adeola, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, and Senator Isaac M. Alfa
“The signing of the interim report by three out of 9 members of the committee makes it a minority report of the Senate committee and not a committee report being an interim report. Thus, presenting a challenge for the presidency to determine the weight to attach to the report as currently presented.
“I have also observed that the Senate ad-hoc interim committee report and the votes and proceedings of the Senate have not in its own right established that Engr Babachir Lawal was ever given an opportunity to appear before the committee and defend himself.
“It is also on record that the company linked to him- Rollervision Engineering Limited, was also not invited at anytime before the committee to defend itself against the allegations which eventually formed the fulcrum of the Senate’s case against the company.
“You are invited to note that non-application of principles of fair hearing by the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee is a clear contravention of section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and against all principles of rule of law as initiated in the Nigerian legal system as well as the roles of the National Assembly committees on handling of public petitions.
“Consequently, I am of the view that baring other consideration that may arise as a result of subsequent investigation of Engr Lawal by the interim ad-hoc committee. The current report as presented to the presidency in its own right does not meet the principles of fair hearing and compliance with the Senate rules for conduct of investigations in matters relating to abuse of office by public officers.
“In replying on the foregoing, I am not able to approve the recommendation to remove and prosecute Engr Lawal on the basis of the Senate ad-hoc committee report dated December 15, 2016.”
It’s funeral for anti-graft war — Sani
Reacting to the letter, Senator Sani, who served as chairman of the Senate Ad- Hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East, faulted all the claims made by the president in the letter, as he affirmed that the Senate committee did a thorough job.
Sani described the letter as a funeral service for the anti-corruption war of the president, adding that the presidency fights corruption in the Senate with insecticide, but uses deodorant to fight corruption in the presidency.
He said seven out of the nine members of the Committee signed the interim report contrary to the letter by the President that only three members signed, adding that in the listing of members of the Committee, his name was removed even as chairman of the Committee
“It is shocking to me that such a letter can come from the presidency with such misinformation and outright distortions. They lied by saying that the committee didn’t invite the SGF. The committee invited the SGF, and the letter was acknowledged by the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the SGF, Mr. Aminu Nashimu.
“To make sure that we buttress our point, we made a paid advert in three or four national dailies; one was published on Dec. 2, 2016, and the SGF is clearly mentioned as one of those that were expected to come and appear before the National Assembly.
“Secondly, issues were raised that only three members of the committee signed that interim report; that was also a second lie coming from the Presidency. I have a copy of the interim report which was initially signed by seven members of the nine members of that committee, and I am going to submit it to the clerk of the Senate.
“Even if it is three people that signed, we still have a quorum, but here I have seven people. I will also say that I listened to the list of the names that were read and they omitted the chairman which is me. This shows clearly how the SGF and his minions in the Presidency misinformed the President to sign this letter.
“I will say this clearly; this letter is a funeral service for the anticorruption fight of Mr. President. When it comes to fighting corruption in the National Assembly and the Judiciary and in the larger Nigeria sectors, the President uses insecticides, and when it comes to fighting corruption within the presidency, they use deodorants.
“I stand by the report of that committee and it is very clear to us: If we can allow this committee’s report to be shredded into pieces, then I think it would be in order for us to open all the 138 prisons in this country for all the convicts and awaiting trial inmates to go scot free.
“It is unfortunate that we have a political atmosphere where you have a saintly and angelic presidency and a devilish and evil society. We must in every respect fight corruption within the kitchen as we do in the veranda; if we don’t do that, then we are hypocritical”.
Briefing Senate correspondents following the plenary, Senate’s spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC Niger, North) said the Senate stood by its earlier stance on SGF.
Also speaking to Vanguard on the development, Senate Deputy Whip, Senator Francis Alimikhena, APC, Edo North said, “the President has the right to resubmit the name of Magu, but it is the duty of the Senate to look at the merit and demerit of the matter.”
Also speaking to Vanguard, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South said: “ the Senate only expressed an observation about the nominee that there was an observation by the DSS. The Senate referred the President to the report, and in resending the name to the Senate, it means that the President brushed aside what the DSS wrote. If the Senate must screen Magu, that letter from the DSS whether relevant or irrelevant must still be determined because somebody somewhere is either doing what is good or doing mischief.
Senator Tayo Alasoadura, APC, Ondo Central on his part, said: “We all know that Mr. President is incorruptible and will have very good reasons for re-nominating Mr. Magu. As a person, I have very high regards for Mr. Magu, and I support him.”
Also speaking, yesterday, Sunny Ogbuoji, PDP, Ebonyi South said with the two letters from the Presidency clearing Lawal of corruption and re-nominating Magu to the EFCC that he had shown that he lacks the will to fight corruption in the country.
Outside the Senate, reactions to the president’s resubmission of Magu for consideration as chairman of the EFCC and the clearance of the SGF of the allegations of corruption received mixed reactions.
Among those who reacted were the national chairman of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi; Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, Prof. Itse Sagay, the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Afenifere, Mr. Abubakar Tsav, former Lagos State commissioner of police among others.
Makarfi in his reaction said:
“It’s my opinion that the Senate should go ahead and screen him (Magu) for confirmation. All its observations and those forwarded to it by Nigerians should be discussed with him and ironed out. However his confirmation should not be seen to be over politicized.”
On the corruption allegations against Lawal, Makarfi said even if the Buhari government clears him, the issue will not be swept under the carpet.
“We should cast our minds back to Halliburton case for example. All such matters are subject to review in the future especially when there is a new leadership. Therefore, we may not have heard the end of the story,” he said.
Governor Ayodele Fayose, speaking through his Special Assistant on Public Communication and New Media, Mr. Lere Olayinka said:
“This further demonstrates that the Federal Government is not fighting any corruption. It shows that only the people they don’t like that are corrupt.
The charges against him are frivolous—Sagay
Sagay on his part said: “The case of Mr. Magu is straight forward. Apart from doing an excellent job in the struggle to eradicate corruption, he has shown much integrity and commitment. The so-called charges have all turned out to be frivolous. For that, there is no basis for not re-presenting him in fact; the president has no choice than to represent him. There is no choice other than for him to be re-nominated and it is in the best interest of this country.”
“On the SGF, from what I heard though I am not familiar with that case, what the president said was that the man had not been given fair hearing by the Senate. That is what I thought I heard and if that is the case, the Senate has to give him fair hearing and then after that, you can judge him.”
I believe nothing substantial was found—Tsav
Retired Police Commissioner, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav said: “It is likely that nothing substantial was found in the allegation against Magu and the Secretary to the Federal Government. That was why the President wrote the letter to the Senate. It is a good development because an allegation needs to be established as truth before it could be used in making decisions.”
It’s an error of judgment—Afenifere
Also reacting, National Publicity Secretary of the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin described Magu’s re-nomination as an error of judgment.
“The re-nomination of Magu sounds a death nail on the anti-corruption war. How can a man whose moral integrity has been damaged by the DSS report continue to chase anybody for corruption? Are we saying we cannot find any other person to do the job? Magu is a baggage, and it is an error of judgment to insist that a man with a huge mark on his credibility is the one to lead our anti-corruption war.”
On the SGF, the Afenifere spokesperson said: “The clearing of Lawal on cheeky technical point is unfortunate. What is the finding of the presidency on his grass cutting activities that was riddled with corruption? You want to cover such monumental fraud at the nose of presidency and be chasing other folks for corruption? That is the definition of hypocrisy.
There is an abnormality —Osuntokun
Akin Osuntokun, Political Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, faulted the stance of the presidency. “What I find wrong about the re-nomination is the dysfunction in the office of his principal-the presidency. The DSS ultimately reports to the Chief Security Officer of Nigeria namely the president, yet the DSS went ahead to countermand the president by discrediting his nominee for the EFCC chair at the Senate confirmation hearings. Look, I served as presidential adviser before, so I should know what I am talking about. The earlier indictment of Magu at the Senate by the DSS is actually tantamount to disobedience and insubordination to the president.”
Buhari is trying to put hands in the Senate’s eyes — Maeba
Senator Lee Maeba said by resending Magu’s name, the President is trying to put his hands in the eyes of the Senate. He said: “The Senate cannot confirm Magu as EFCC Chairman because any matter the Senate has thrown out or concluded cannot be revisited again. So the Senate will be wrong to clear Magu and what happened during President Obasanjo where a ministerial nominee’s name was resent should not happen now because the integrity of the Senate must be respected.”
Magu’s renomination in order—Lagos APC
Also speaking, Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Lagos State, Mr. Joe Igbokwe said Magu’s re-nomination was in order. Igbokwe said: “His re-nomination is in order given the obvious and painful truth that he is the President’s nominee. He was not allowed to appear before the Senate to defend himself of the said allegations. He, therefore, cannot be rejected, and if I wanted to be strict, I would tell you that Magu can continue to work as EFCC chairman in acting capacity till 2023.”