…To account for 380 houses seized
…7 vessels loaded with crude oil
…Disposal of assets worth N37bn
…Pressure on for civilian to head EFCC
By Kingsley Omonobi, Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Dirisu Yakubu
Embattled Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, was yesterday confronted with more allegations.
The Justice Ayo Salami-led Presidential panel asked him to account for 380 houses and seven vessels loaded with crude oil, which he couldn’t account for. The probe panel also grilled him on the disposal of assets worth N37 billion.
Magu is being grilled, following allegations raised against him by Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN.
The panel, which started quizzing Magu on Monday after his arrest by detectives in Abuja, had also on Tuesday grilled him on cash discrepancies said to be N539 billion realized from sale of seized assets and N504 billion declared by the commission.
Both issues are part of the over 20 allegations levelled against the anti-graft agency chairman by the AGF.
Magu forcibly taken to Aso Rock
This is even as a source close to the panel told Vanguard last night that Magu was forcibly taken to appear before the panel at Aso Villa, having failed to honour several invitations to appear.
“That Monday, detectives were in his office to again invite him to appear before the panel, but he said they should allow him pray, only to pass through the back door and drove out of the commission’s head office.
Dictectives positioned at the gate outside immediately blocked and diverted him to Aso Villa to face the panel,” the source said.
The source also said the President was aware of the complaints and petitions against Magu, but asked the panel, which had been sitting for sometime, not to invite him yet.
According to the source, the President wanted to give him a long rope for his cup to get filled.
The source said it was in the course of investigating the allegations levelled against him by the AGF that more things were discovered.
“In other words, the AGF’s allegations opened more can of worms,’’ said the source, who disclosed further that even while before the panel, Magu refused to cooperate, insisting that he would not say a word unless his lawyer was present.
“This is the reason his lawyer was invited on Monday and had been accompanying him to the panel,” the source added.
Malami’s allegations against Magu
Some of the allegations made against Magu by the AGF include:
- Alleged discrepancies in the reconciliation records of the EFCC and the Federal Ministry of Finance on recovered funds.
- Declaration of N539 billion as recovered funds, instead of N504 billion earlier claimed.
- Insubordination to the Office of the AGF.
- Alleged late action on the investigation of P&ID, leading to legal dispute.
- Not respecting court order to unfreeze a N7billion judgement in favour of of a former executive director of a bank.
- Not providing enough evidence for the extradition of Diezani Alison-Madueke
- Alleged delay in acting on two vessels seized by the Navy.
- Alleged favouring of some investigators called Magu Boys.
- Reporting some judges to their presiding officers without deferring to the AGF.
- Alleged sale of seized assets to cronies, associates and friends.
- Alleged issuance of investigative activities to some media prejudicial to some cases.
The probe provoked anxiety which enveloped the commission’s headquarters over who takes over from Magu as acting chairman.
The anxiety stems from the fact that Magu’s suspension has not been officially communicated to the Head of Operations, Mohammed Umar, who, according to EFCC Act, is the next in command to the acting chairman, who should act in his absence.
Vanguard gathered last night that there appears a jostling between the Head of Operations and the commission’s secretary, Ola Olukayode, over who should act in absence of the embattled acting chairman.
Vanguard further gathered that despite a list of three nominees forwarded by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, President Muhammadu Buhari has intensified his search for a possible replacement for the suspended acting Chairman of EFCC.
This was even as a source disclosed to Vanguard last night that President Buhari, yesterday, gave the Head of Operations at the EFCC, Mohammed Umar, the nod to assume headship of the anti-graft agency in the interim, pending conclusion of security checks on some names brought to him for consideration.
Umar, a deputy commissioner of Police, is the second most senior officer at the EFCC and Magu’s second-in-command.
It was gathered that Malami was initially opposed to the idea of allowing Umar to hold fort in the absence of Magu, stressing that as head of Operations of the agency, he played a key role in some of the official infractions he complained about in the memo to President Buhari.
Multiple sources confirmed to Vanguard that Malami’s position was backed by some members of the Federal Executive Council, as they preferred to rather allow Secretary of the EFCC, Ola Olukayode, who is not a police officer, to superintend the affairs of the agency, pending the outcome of ongoing probe into activities of the commission under Magu.
“The argument was that since the allegation was that most of the alleged rot in the EFCC was perpetrated by a team of selected police officers referred to as ‘Magu-boys’, it would not be wise to allow a policeman to take over Magu’s office.
“They noted that some of the needed proof of evidence could be covered up under esprit de corps, saying it would be better to allow a neutral person head the commission in the interim, pending conclusion of the ongoing investigation by the Justice Ayo Salami-led panel”, the source told Vanguard on ground of anonymity.
Meanwhile, attempt by Vanguard to get Malami’s reaction proved abortive, as he neither answered calls placed to his line nor responded to text messages.
One of his aides told our corespondent around 7:30pm that his principal was still at the Presidential Villa and was yet to return from the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting.
It will be recalled that Malami had in an earlier memo to President Buhari, wherein he highlighted about 22 alleged sins of Magu, recommended three persons to head the EFCC.
The AGF had assured President Buhari that his nominees have all it takes to drive the anti-corruption war home.
Top on Malami’s list of possible replacement for Magu is a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Sani Usman, who is believed to have been vetted by President Buhari for the job.
Others, according to reports not disputed by the AGF, included the current Commissioner of Police for the FCT, Bala Ciroma. Ciroma had previously served as the EFCC Head of Operations.
Malami was said to have also pointed out a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, AIG, from Kebbi State, as a good candidate for the EFCC top job. Besides, President Buhari was said to have also considered a retired commissioner of Police in Niger State, Ms. Diseye Nsirim-Poweigba.
Malami insisted that Magu was no longer fit to retain his position as the anti-graft czar, accusing him of sundry infractions ranging from alleged diversion of recovered assets, insubordination and gross misconduct.
He had earlier decried Magu’s alleged refusal to transmit some sensitive criminal case-files to his office, notwithstanding the fact that the EFCC is under the supervisory watch of the Federal Ministry of Justice.
Family allowed to visit Magu
Vanguard also gathered yesterday that on the ground floor of the Federal Criminal Investigation Department, FCID, Area 10, Abuja, where the EFCC boss is being held, his family members were allowed to visit him.
Recall that DIG Agbizi, in charge of FCID, was ordered by IGP, Mohammed Adamu, to arrest the EFCC boss after he refused to honour invitation of the Justice Ayo Salami’s panel to defend himself , following allegations levelled against him by the AGF. As was the case on Monday and Tuesday, journalists were again barred from gaining access to the venue of the meeting.
An attempt by a journalist to park his car in the car park of the old Banquet Hall venue of the meeting was resisted by a security officer at the gate. He was advised by an official in charge of the vicinity to make use of other car parks. Another reporter who attempted to access the press gallery, was also politely turned back at the gate.
A Presidency source had said on Tuesday that the probe was an affirmation that nobody under the present administration was above scrutiny. The source had also explained that the interrogation of the anti-graft boss was being done to give him the opportunity to clear himself of the weighty allegations levelled against him.
Vanguard gathered that Magu was brought to the venue at about 11:14am from the Force Criminal Investigation Department, FCID, building where he had been held since Monday. He was also joined by his lawyer at the panel for interrogation.
Prosecute Magu — PDP
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has charged the Federal Government to prosecute suspended acting chairman of the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu.
The party said Magu’s indictment reinforces its position that the much-hyped war against corruption by the EFCC, under his watch, has been a huge scam by corrupt individuals to cover the plundering of public resources, harass political opponents, intimidate and extort money from innocent Nigerians.
In a statement signed by Kola Ologbondiyan, its spokesman, the PDP alleged that “the revelations of diversion of recovered funds and fraudulent sale of assets seized by the EFCC among other sleaze, as detailed in the memo by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, as well as the report of the Department of State Services, DSS, on Magu’s activities, have further exposed the racket that the fight against corruption had become under the All Progressives Congress, APC, government.”
It added that “the development has also exposed why corruption has worsened under the Buhari administration, as documented by credible international organization, including Transparency International, TI.
“It is a big embarrassment to our nation, that the head of anti-corruption agency in an administration led by the African Union, AU, anti-corruption champion and which prides itself on zero tolerance for corruption, is being dragged into allegation of looting recovered funds and other barefaced frauds.
“Now that the racket has been exposed, the onus lies on President Muhammadu Buhari to clean his Augean stable by not sweeping the matter under the carpet or seeking to provide soft landing for the indicted EFCC boss and shield him from prosecution.
“What Nigerians expect at this moment is for President Buhari to enforce the law by directing relevant agencies to commence actions that would lead to Magu’s prosecution in the court.
“Anything short of this will not be acceptable to Nigerians.”