By Henry Umoru, Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu, Wahab AbdullaGbenga Oke & Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Acting Chairman of the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, was for the second time in three months, rejected by the Senate, yesterday, as the upper chamber refused to confirm him as the substantive chairman of the anti- graft agency after screening him for about one hour forty minutes.
The lawmakers anchored their decision on the Department of State Service, DSS report on Magu and his poor performance at the screening. They consequently, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to forward a fresh nomination for the prime anti-corruption post.
On a day that Magu accused the DSS of not giving him fair hearing with the security agency insisting that he failed the integrity test and would constitute a liability to the anti-graft war, the decision of the Senate elicited mixed views in the polity. While a host of senior lawyers and some eminent Nigerians said Magu cannot be re-nominated for the position, the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, SAN, disagreed and added that the non-clearance of Magu will not stop him from operating as EFCC acting chairman.
Also, while some hailed the legislators’ decision, others said it would impact negatively on the anti-corruption crusade, adding that the EFCC is being weakened gradually.
Eminent Nigerians and lawyers, who spoke on the issue yesterday included: Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN; Mr. Babatunde Fashanu, SAN; Malam Yusuf, SAN; Chief Ebenezer Babatope; Senator Lee Maeba; Mr. Debo Adeniran; Mr. Yinka Odumakin; Dr Junaid Mohammed; Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN; Mr. Femi Falana, SAN; Mr. Sebastin Hon, SAN; and Mr. Kayode Ajulo.
Why Senate rejected Magu
The Senate’s refusal to confirm Magu came three months after they rejected him citing the DSS report once again as the major reason.
According to the report, Magu was accused of corruption as well as lacking the integrity needed to carry out the responsibility of the number one corruption fighter of the country.
Magu arrived the National Assembly at about 11.45 am and went straight to the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang and was later led into the Senate Chambers at 11.55am.
At exactly 11. 57 am, Magu stood at the rostrum where he told the Senators about himself and shortly after that, there was a question and answer session with the first question fired by Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu. He was grilled for about two hours by the Senators before he was asked to take a bow and leave.
Soon after he left the chambers at 1.37 pm, the Senate in the committee of the whole rejected his nomination.
According to the report of the DSS, Magu failed the integrity test and his confirmation would shackle the EFCC from effectively tackling corruption in the country and hampering the anti- corruption drive of the President Buhari administration.
Briefing journalists, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media & Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, said apart from the DSS report, Magu was not confirmed because of his lacklustre performance in answering questions and poor defence on the 14 points raised by the DSS. Indeed, Abdullahi said the DSS, in a letter, yesterday, confirmed its position on the earlier report and if there is any ambiguity on the supposed two reports, yesterday’s letter pointedly referred to the one of October 3, 2016.
He also said that it is a question of protecting institutional integrity because as an institution the DSS is greater than the acting chairman, adding: “Are we saying the DSS is incompetent? Are we saying the DSS should be rubbished? Doing anything to rubbish the DSS would amount to rubbishing Nigerians. Doing so would also amount to rubbishing the institution. But I think the President knows better.”
Before putting Magu’s nomination to a voice vote, Clerk of the Senate, Nelson Ayewor, told the legislators that the Senate received only one letter from the DSS as against two letters reported in the media.
Put to vote, majority of the lawmakers voted nay against Magu’s confirmation against the backdrop of the DSS report, which according to the upper chamber, was too weighty to be ignored.
Saraki asks Buhari for a new nominee
In his remarks, thereafter, Senate President, Bukola Saraki asked President Buhari to present a new nominee for the position, stating: “What we have taken by this decision goes to show that the President has to re-nominate another candidate and in the interim, somebody else would have to carry out that exercise.”
DSS not credible – Magu
Earlier, while answering senators’ questions, Magu said the DSS lacks credibility as an institution, stressing that the agency had submitted two different reports against him, on the same day, and has not accorded him fair hearing.
His words: “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. …There are two reports, and that tells you about the credibility of the institution.”
According to him, in spite of the DSS findings, no attempt had been made by the agency to invite him so as to make way for fair hearing on any of the issues raised, adding: “There’s right to fair hearing, and I have that right. Until now, I’ve not been invited by DSS to come and respond to any issues raised.”
Magu was severely grilled over the commission’s continued detention of Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser under President Goodluck Jonathan; former Minister of FCT, Bala Mohammed; and former Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Uche Secondus.
He also answered questions on his reported relationship with Air Commodore Mohammed Umar, retd, internal corruption in the EFCC, allegations of human rights abuses, refusal to obey court orders and inter-agency rivalry among others.
The DSS, in a letter addressed to the Clerk of the Senate dated March 14, 2017, and signed by F.O. Adams for the Director- General, said that it was standing by its initial report dated October 3, 2016, which was signed by Folashade Bello for the Director-General, where it noted that “Magu had failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.”
Magu could not provide clear answers to some questions, and claimed ignorance of some of the allegations against the EFCC bordering on corrupt practices.
One of such questions was a query on how some Certificates of Occupancy (Cs-of-O) seized during the raid on the home of an individual, were discovered in the ‘market’ after some officials allegedly tried to sell the land.
The issue, according to Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) was now with the police, and two of the Cs-of-O have been returned to the owner. Melaye who noted that the latest DSS letter, referred the Senate to the earlier report, said that Magu was being screened because of the President’s letter. He also told Magu that every nominee is screened by the DSS before being confirmed by the Senate, stressing that the process did not start with Magu.
Reading paragraph 14 of the DSS report, which read: ‘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,’ Melaye told Magu that the report indicted him.
He continued: “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 and we cannot ridicule, we cannot undermine and we cannot put in abeyance the report of the DSS. Anyone who wants to be chairman of EFCC must have the character and characteristics of the wife of Caesar. You must be unblemished, you must be pure, you must be stainless. From the questions and answers that have been going on, from my own myopic point of view, I conclude that there is a case in the police station which you are aware of where EFCC people raided a particular house, Cs-of-O were taken and those Cs-of-O were found in the market and police have investigated and two of the Cs-of-O have been returned to the owner. Under your watch as EFCC chairman do you still think, you, after this report and as a result of what has happened to the Cs-of-O of innocent Nigerians, do you still see yourself qualified to be the chairman of EFCC or we take you to Golgotha?”
Also, Senator Barnabas Gemade, APC, Benue North -East, asked Magu: “I saw in the DSS letter three major accusations, one, which is dealing with security fact and the second one is that one Air Commodore Umar Mohammed secured an accommodation for you and the third one is an issue of integrity. They say that perception is very important and this issue of integrity, the same Umar whom I do not personally know is a dubious personality and this report therefore tends to show that your friendship with this Umar Mohammed therefore indicates that your integrity is also in question and you have not responded to that matter. As a senator who is Umar Mohammed and what is your relationship with him?
Answering the question, Magu said: “This paper is the same paper, the document that was here before that time, verbatim, I have read it. One is missing, in those days there were two reports of such submitted to this office the same day and there were two of such reports submitted by the same law enforcement agency. Two different reports submitted the same day about the same people. That goes to tell you the credibility of such an institution.
“I have respect for everybody in this hall and I have senior brothers in this hall. Elder Gemade, please what does it mean if an institution submits two varying reports of the same person on the same day? Dino is my friend and we are fighting corruption together until he came to this house here and abandoned us. I have to be open.
“The case with the stolen Cs-of-O, it is not everything that is done in the EFCC I have knowledge of. The EFCC is too big, believe you me, if not now, I didn’t know there was a case pending against EFCC staff in a police station. I will make sure whoever is involved is dealt with. So I will now go back and investigate it and give you a feedback after my investigation.
“My relationship with Air Commodore Umar Mohammed (rtd) — I didn’t know him from Adam until we were appointed members of the Armed Forces Investigation Panel. The house I am staying actually belonged to the late Dora Akunyili. After the burial, her son was staying in the US and was looking for money to go back to the US, that was how the house was got. It was rented, they call it safe house. Every key personnel of government do stay in safe houses and it was actually rented and furnished by them. I didn’t know when my rent will expire. I was actually comfortable in Karu if not for the pressure from people in authority that I must relocate or they will deal with me.”
Senator Attah Idoko, PDP, Kogi East asked why the EFCC under Magu disregards court orders by refusing to release the former NSA and others still in detention.
Senator Isah Hamman Misau (APC, Bauchi South) also asked why the commission was yet to make further arrests of public officials at the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
According to him, the exoneration of some public officials from ongoing investigations involving the former NSA and former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, both who served under President Jonathan, was reflective of a skewed anti-corruption fight by the commission.
Misau said: “I want to make reference to Dasuki’s detention over $2.1bn. We heard he received money from the Central Bank without due process. How come nobody in CBN, who was the approving authority has been detained?
“Also, it was reported that so much was recovered from Diezani, how come nobody from the NNPC has been detained by EFCC in connection with this?”
Responding, Magu however explained that in view of ongoing investigations into the $2.1 billion arms deal involving the former NSA, invitations have been extended to suspects within the apex bank and it is not an information to be disclosed publicly.
On alleged human rights abuses by the commission, Magu said: “The EFCC does not arrest, we conduct preliminary investigations before inviting a suspect. This helps us do away with abuse of human rights as we apply to the court for a warrant to detain a suspect beyond the period of 48 hours.
“During investigations, the commission may stumble across information that may require that they reappear. If you allow them go too early, it may jeopardize investigations. So, we don’t just invite and detain a suspect without preliminary investigations. I was once detained while investigations were going on, so that’s how it works.”
Ndume kicks, alleges double standard
After Magu was rejected, immediate past Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume protested and faulted the Senate President, alleging double standards, while citing his ruling on Tuesday, following receipt of a letter not signed by the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service.
According to Senator Ndume, none of the two letters written by the DSS to the Clerk of the Senate and Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate) was addressed to the Senate President or signed by the Director-General of the Agency.
Ndume said: “Mr. President, the decision has been taken and I have no business with that. But my right as a senator to reflect and to state that ab initio, the issue of letter from DSS has been read. I have two letters here, and none of them was addressed to you. One is addressed to the clerk, and one is addressed to the National Assembly SSA.
“Yesterday, we got a letter from the Customs, signed by an assistant director to the clerk. We said that was not the right thing to do. This letter, if it’s worth it, should have been written and signed by the D-G of DSS. By the wishes of God and nature of democracy, majority will have its way, and minority its say”.
We did not err – Saraki
Responding, Senate President Saraki said: “Distinguished Senator Ndume, that was why I recognized you to speak and that was why it was important that the Clerk referred the issues. If there were two letters written to the Clerk, I will totally agree with what you are saying. One letter was written to the Clerk, one letter was written to the Adviser to the National Assembly. Yesterday, the same agency referred to one of the letters. But as you rightly said this is a matter that we have ruled about. And I think 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.”
In his concluding remarks, Senate President Saraki said, “Let me first of all thank all of you on your contribution on this matter and the way the matter was carried in an open and transparent manner. What we are seeing here is democracy at work. I believe that what we have done on our own part, we have followed the constitution and due process. And we hope that the Executive will quickly act and bring in a new name as soon as possible so that the activities of the agency is not deterred.”
Hailing the move, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said: “Going by sections 2(1) and 2(3) of the EFCC Act, he (Magu) ceases to be the Executive Chairman of the commission. Having left his ‘acting’ position during his proposal to the Senate, he also loses his ‘acting’ capacity. It is simply a bad case.The Senate is the only repository of confirmatory powers of the EFCC Chairman. And it has spoken. That is the beauty of the doctrine of separation of powers between the three Arms of government, the Executive, the legislature and the judiciary, as ably propounded by Baron De Montesque in 1748.’’
Options open to President Buhari — Falana
The rejection of the nomination of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by the Senate on the basis of a security report compiled by the State Security Service is the height of official ridicule of the office of the President. It is high tim the State Security Service was restrained by President Buhari from sabotaging the fight against corruption by the federal government.
With respect to the Senate the confirmation hearing hurriedly conducted today (yesterday) 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 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.
However, notwithstanding the rejection of the nomination of Mr. Magu by the Senate the options open to President are clear and straight forward. They are as follows:
- Mr. Magu’s nomination may be re-presented to the Senate if and when the Federal Government decides to put its house in order.
- Alternatively,the President may allow Mr. Magu to remain the Acting Chairman of the EFCC since he was appointed in that capacity pursuant to section 171 of the Constitution.
- But if the President is not satisfied with Mr. Magu’s performance he is at liberty to appoint another person whose nomination will be forwarded to the Senate in accordance with section 2 (3) of the EFCC Act, 2004.
The DSS report against Magu
The DSS 14- point report reads in part: “However, 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. On one of such trips, Magu flew to Maiduguri, alongside the MD of a bank, 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. 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.
“10. 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.
“11. 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.
“12. 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.
“13. 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.
“14. 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.”