In response to the query President Muhammadu Buhari ordered, the embattled acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, questioned the sincerity and motive of the State Security Service, SSS, which accused him of integrity deficiency and professional misconduct, official correspondence reviewed by PREMIUM TIMES showed.
The SSS’ allegations blocked Mr. Magu’s confirmation as the substantive chairman of the EFCC, twice, as the agency repeatedly advised the Senate to reject his nomination because “MAGU has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.”
After the Senate first rejected Mr. Magu’s nomination by Mr. Buhari in December 2016, citing the allegations made against the nominee by the SSS, the President authorised the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to investigate the validity of the allegations.
President Muhammadu Buhari
In compliance, Mr. Malami on December 19 asked Mr. Magu to “respond within 48 hours” to the SSS’ allegations.
In his response, on December 21, Mr. Magu said he considered all the issues raised against him and provided “point-by-point response.”
MISSING FILES AND DISMISSAL FROM EFCC
Mr. Magu admitted official documents relating to cases under investigation were found in his private home when raided “on the order of Mrs. Farida Waziri when she succeeded Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as the chairman of the EFCC.”
But in defence, he said at the time, he had not formally handed over to Umar Sanda, his successor as head of Economic Governance Unit; and carrying out his duty at the time was impossible without working from home.
“The documents found in my house were actually found in my office bag where I kept documents relating to investigations,” he said. “I was in the process of handing over and it would be wrong to suggest that I wilfully kept the Commission’s files at home.”
Following the matter, Mr. Magu was placed on suspension without pay for 20 months during which the police was carrying out investigation, he said.
“But in the end, I was reprimanded, recalled and promoted to Assistant Commissioner of Police.”
He continued: “It is important sir, to draw your attention to the fact that some of us that worked closely with Ribadu were victimised after his exit. And my ordeal was orchestrated as punishment for being the chief investigative officer for most of the high profile cases involving politically exposed persons some of whom became very influential in government at the time.”
Mr. Magu later returned to the EFCC upon the exit of Mrs. Waziri. But the SSS said his “close working relationship” with and how he was brought back by Ibrahim Lamorde, Mrs. Waziri’s successor, indicated “his culpability in the allegations of corrupt tendencies of LAMORDE led EFCC.
Replying, Mr. Magu said it was “preposterous” for the SSS to allege he was recalled, in 2012 when he was serving in the Anambra police command, to do hatchet job for Mr. Lamorde.
“My job schedule as Deputy Director, Department of Internal Affairs, under Lamorde, was simply handling issues of professional responsibility in the Commission. I had no inputs in core operations duties of the Commission,” said Mr. Magu.
HOUSE RENT, EXTRAVAGANCE, CONTROVERSIAL TIES
Contrary to the claim by the SSS that the residence Mr. Magu currently occupies was rented for him by “a questionable business man” at N40 million for two years, with another N43 million to “lavishly furnish” the apartment, the acting EFCC boss said, “The entire cost for both two-year rent and the furnishing of the house is N39.628million.
Director General of SSS, Lawan Daura
“Details of the transaction are contained in the contract award letter and payment schedule which are attached to this letter.”
The SSS had claimed the house was gotten from Mohammed Umar, a retired air commodore, now being tried for money laundering and illegal possession of firearms,
Mr. Magu denied “penchant for air travels” in private jet belonging to Mr. Umar, but admitted he had flown the said aircraft on two occasions: one, offer of ride from Kano to Abuja after an official assignment with two EFCC directors; two, when he was traveling to Maiduguri to see his sick mother.
“These, for me, were harmless gesture as we were both members of the presidential investigative committee on arms procurement. At the time I had no knowledge that he was under investigation for any alleged crimes,” he said.
He also denied he flew with the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonwko, who is under investigation by the EFCC, to Maiduguri in Mr. Umar’s private jet, stressing he had never flown in a private aircraft with any bank chief.
Further debunking claims he is flamboyant, he said in one instance he flew on a first class ticket with Emirate Airline to perform the lesser Hajj in Saudi Arabia, but argued that was not enough for the SSS to conclude he keeps extravagant lifestyle.
Moreover, he said he opted for first class because tickets for other classes had been sold out at the time, and that he funded the trip from his private pocket.
He did not disclose the cost of the trip for the pilgrimage, but SSS said it was N2,990,196 (about N3 million).
He said his relationship with Mr. Umar had been one of “professional acquaintance devoid of issues of conflict of interest” since their paths crossed when they became members of arms procurement probe panel.
He said: “The claim that EFCC documents, including EFCC letters addressed to the Vice President and being investigation reports on the activities of Emmanuel Kachikwu and his brother Demebi Kachikwu, were found in his home during a search by the DSS came to me as a surprise.
“If that is correct, he should be made to disclose how he came by such documents. I never discussed my official duties with him let alone give him documents pertaining to investigations being conducted by the Commission.”
RELUCTANCE TO ARRAIGN FORMER AIR CHIEF AMOSU
“ Indeed, among the suspects arrested over the arms procurement scandal, he (Adesola Amosu) was most cooperative. The Commission recovered N2.835billion cash from him, aside from property worth One Billion Five Hundred and Eighty-One Million Naira (N1,581, 000, 000), Two Million One Hundred and Fifty Thousand United States Dollars ($2,150, 000) and One Million Pounds Sterling (£1, 000, 000),” said Mr. Magu, explaining that Mr. Amosu’s arraignment was delayed because he cooperated with the EFCC in the process of recovery of proceeds of crime.
Since a key focus of the investigation was to recover as much proceeds of crime as possible, Mr. Magu added, the EFCC took its time to ensure it had recovered what was possible before arraigning the suspect in court.
“This had nothing to do with the wish of any individual.”
Mr. Magu also denied vendetta against Stanley Lawson, whom the SSS report described as one “working in the interest of the Federal Government.”
According to the anti-graft chief, Mr. Lawson was arrested in relation to the investigation into the mismanagement of $118 million public funds for electioneering campaign involving former petroleum resources minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Denying “a bid to settle personal scores” as SSS alleged, Mr. Magu said: “It was discovered that he (Mr. Lawson) made payment of $25 million into Fidelity Bank and also facilitated the purchase of Ogeyi Place Le Meridien Hotel in Port Harcourt for Mrs. Alison Madueke, for which he collected Ninety-Four Million Five Hundred and Sixteen Thousand Naira (N 94, 516,000) as commission.
“Lawson was arrested and he made a refund of the N94.5million traced to him. He was never placed on any watch list.”
He also challenged the SSS to expose any EFCC operative “working closely with me” who is found to have indulged in unethical practices or living beyond legitimate means. That was a response to the allegation that he uses police cronies who have acquired “a lot of landed property” to “execute operations” and “cover his tracks”.
The anti-graft chief then questioned “the fact that DSS authored two separate reports on me.”
PREMIUM TIMES saw the two SSS reports – one to the Senate and the other to the Presidency – released same day, October 3, 2016 and signed by one official, Folashade Bello, on behalf of the Director-General, Lawal Daura.
However, while the two reports discredited Mr. Magu, the one to the Senate asked that he should not be confirmed, while the other one to the presidency said, “it may be expedient to give him benefit of doubt and be considered.”
“The two reports emanating from same agency raises question of sincerity and motive,” Mr. Magu said. You will want to find out why they came up with two conflicting reports on the same subject on the same day.
“It is important to note that in all this, I was not given the opportunity of fair hearing.”
Following Mr. Magu’s response to the attorney general’s query ordered by Mr. Buhari, Mr. Malami reported back to the President.
Acting on the feedback and advice by the attorney general, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the Itse Sagay-led anti-corruption advisory council, Mr. Buhari wrote back to the Senate in January, re-nominating Mr. Magu and clearing him of any wrongdoing in respect of the allegations by the SSS.
By re-nominating Mr. Magu and telling the Senate allegations against him were false, the SSS’ competence and capacity was brought to doubt. But the President did not query the SSS headed by his kinsman, Lawal Daura, over the service’s claims.
Consequently, on the eve of Mr. Magu’s confirmation hearing following the second nomination, the SSS
wrote the Senate reaffirming its position that Mr. Magu lacks integrity and should not be confirmed, brushing aside the clearance from the Presidency.
With the SSS’ reaffirmation and Mr. Magu’s below-par performance at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, the Senate again rejected his nomination.
While Senate President Bukola Saraki expressed expectation that Mr. Buhari should consider it normal to replace Mr. Magu immediately, the presidential advsiers on anti-corruption campaign led by Mr. Sagay said the president should either re-nominate Mr. Magu for third time or keep him in acting capacity “because he is the best man for the job”.
But many have accused the president of losing control of his own government in view of the SSS action, and questioned his sincerity about Mr. Magu’s confirmation.