By Chris Onuoha
Mr. Dennis Amachree left the Department of State Services (DSS) as Deputy Director. Amachree speaks, in this encounter with Sunday Vanguard, on the linkage of the DSS to the invitation extended on the street to EFCC’s Ibrahim Magu to appear before Salami panel.
What do you make of the manner the Acting Chairman of the EFCC Ibrahim Magu was invited to face the Salami panel on the street and the initial insinuation that he may have been arrested by the DSS?
People must have thought about what happened two years ago when the EFCC asked their people to go and search the house of a former DG of a security outfit. When this happened, they saw security agents in plain clothes and they believed they were DSS operatives.
And they were actually sent by Magu’s former boss, Larmode, who is AIG in charge of the FCID. When you listened to the spokesman for the EFCC, the first thing he said was that his boss was arrested and he later came back to say he was not arrested but invited. All the same, it was not the DSS that invited him; it was a panel that wanted him to explain certain allegations that came out.
In the midst of these, it wasn’t too clear at that time what happened. Officials of the EFCC didn’t even have details. It was said that a combination of DSS operatives and policemen blocked Magu’s convoy. Why do you think had to be invited to the panel on the road and forced to go to the Presidential Villa?
It was an investigative panel and I think Magu also has some blame on his part because apparently he was operating as a law unto himself. He must be reporting to someone which he was not doing. Even in the United States, the FBI reports to the Department of Justice.
….and in this case, he should have been reporting to the AGF…
Of course, the AGF was the originator of the report and the allegations. So, when these things came up, he had a case to answer.
The allegations are the subject of the current grilling of the Acting EFCC Chairman and we may not be able to ascertain the veracity, but there was a certain report by the DSS upon which the 8th Senate rejected his confirmation…
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Well, I don’t know if the panel is actually investigating that report. But whether or not they are going to investigate it, questions are going to come out of it. And he (Magu) knows. But I think he has bigger problems in the sense that, being the anti-corruption czar, so to say, there has been this problem of successfully prosecuting certain high profile cases by the EFCC. We find out that many international or high profile cases are being lost in court because of lack of evidence or improper investigation. You can see what happened in the case concerning Hushpuppi; before they arrested him, it took them (FBI and Dubai police) time, and after the arrest, within 24 hours, he was in court. But here, we are very good in parading suspects, doing media trials, and when cases go to court, they are lost.
Each of these security agencies now at loggerheads is directly under the Presidency. What’s the problem?
When you look at the EFCC, you could even say that it is a department of the police because all the heads of the EFCC have been police officers. And of course the EFCC is under the Attorney General because if they have any case to investigate, they consult the AGF before going to court. If you are not following that channel and you go to court on your own, when you lose a case, it becomes a problem.
So the problem borders on poor collaboration…
Some of the agencies report to the President. This does not happen only in Nigeria. Even in the United States, they do it. But that’s where the problem comes in. The national security adviser is the clearing house to get all these intelligence services to work together.
In the Salami panel probing the EFCC Acting Chair, there are representatives of several security agencies. When you are faced with this kind of scenario, what are the chances of you coming out unscathed?
If you are to occupy such a position, you must have an impeccable integrity in dealing with things. Nigeria has corrupt people all over the place. Sometimes, you don’t get very clean individuals, so, when you look at the EFCC itself, Nuhu Ribadu (a former EFCC Chairman) was bribed and he brought out the money and confronted the people who bribed him. If you are fighting corruption, corruption will also fight back. But if your hands are not clean, it becomes a problem.
Would you say the Magu probe is a blow to the fight against corruption or a win?
We can say that it does not speak well about us especially in the international scene that the head of our anti-corruption is being investigated for corruption. That is not a very good picture also when you look at it among Nigerians. But it also tells us that no matter where you sit in Nigeria, the long arm of the law or the accountability part of it must happen, whereby no matter who you are, you can be brought to question. They are still investigating the allegations, but, at the end of the day, let us see what result will come out.
Is there any possibility that corruption is fighting back?
Corruption will always fight back because some of these people that EFCC is fighting are billionaires and millionaires. That is why you have to be very diligent when you are investigating people like these. That is why we have not succeeded. I remember when Magu was once asked about Hushpuppi and he was like ‘we are on it’. And this did not happen until FBI and Dubai police arrested him after their investigation and took him to United States. That’s an opportunity that we lost. Because if there is a suspect like that who is also a Nigerian that we are very much aware of, why don’t we bring it to book? I know that the FBI has been very helpful to the EFCC. It would have been us instead of the Dubai police arresting Hushpuppi.
The thinking in some quarters is that the Magu probe should be open and possibly be covered by the media. What do you think?
It is not a situation where you call pressmen to question the head of an anti-corruption agency. Let us leave them until they finish what they are doing. For example, if there is a case that I want to investigate in-house, I won’t call the press. Remember, this is still in-house.
But the issue here is the process. First, the way the man was brought into the panel was faulty. He was on his way to a meeting and was forcefully diverted to the panel sitting venue. Is it not suspicious?
I don’t think so. That is media judgment and that is not where we should go. When we start having media judgment or trial, you see people taking sides when they are not supposed to.
But 20 allegations to answer tell a lot…
When the authorities bring a case to court, if it is one or two counts, lawyer will deal with it. But if it is up to 15 counts, before you will get yourself out, it will take a long time, because one will hook you whether you like it or not. But for 22 counts, I think he has a problem there.
What do you make of this case and how do you think these allegations would rub off on the President?
The first time he (Magu) was presented for confirmation at the Senate, they said no, but the President re-submitted his name. I was worried because the Senate was supposed to confirm people from you as President but now they are saying no, and you are re-submitting him. Is there anything special about this fellow to make the President to keep on re-presenting him, and, after rejecting him the second time, you still left him in the acting capacity? But I feel it is the President’s prerogative to appoint or to fire anybody. But in this case, I don’t know.
Do you still see him carrying on after this investigation even if the panel clears him?
If I was Magu, I go to the panel and they give me a clean bill, what I would do is to resign.