Twice, in three months, Senate, has rejected President Muhammadu Buhari’s nomination of Ibrahim Magu as substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Buhari appointed Magu in acting capacity, in November 2015.
He was first rejected on December 15, 2016, based on a report submitted to the Senate by the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura.
President Buhari re-submitted Magu’s nomination to the Senate on January 24, 2017, despite a damning report from the DSS.
Announcing the rejection, yesterday, after over 90 minutes grilling by the Senate, lawmakers claimed that another report from the DSS indicted Magu. In the letter signed by an operative of DSS, F.O. Adams, on behalf of the Director-General, the Service said the only difference between the old and the new report was the cover note. In the cover note of the new report, sighted by our correspondent, the DSS boss said the Service was standing by its earlier claims.
“We want to stand by our earlier report, dated October 3, 2016. Everything in the earlier document stands,” part of the cover note of the new report read. Trouble started when Senator Dino Melaye from Kogi State drew the attention of lawmakers to Page 5, paragraph 14 of the resubmitted security report.
Quoting the portion of the report, he said: “Magu has failed the integrity test and may constitute a liability to the anti-corruption fight.” Melaye was soon followed by the Deputy Minority Whip, Biodun Olujimi. She asked Magu if he was qualified to still lead the anti-corruption agency, based on the new report from the DSS.
Magu, who appeared infuriated by Melaye’s revelation, lashed out at the DSS and accused it of not giving him a fair hearing. He said: “The DSS report you are talking about, was I given any fair hearing? Before you indict me, you ought to have invited me. Up till date, I have not been invited by the DSS to hear my own side of the story. Is that one fair hearing?”
Magu left the chamber at about 1.38pm.
Saraki, in his concluding remarks said: “I want to urge the President to nominate another person since Magu can no longer act as the chairman of EFCC. Today, democracy has worked. We followed due process. We hope the executive will send in a new name so the anti-corruption war can go on,” Saraki.
A belated attempt by Senator Ali Ndume to salvage the situation proved abortive. Ndume protested the approach adopted by the senate president. He said Saraki erred by accepting a new report not signed by the Director-General of DSS, Daura.
Referring to a similar letter written to the Senate President by an Assistant Controller-General of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) on behalf of Col. Hameed Ali, Ndume queried why Saraki declined to read the letter, but accepted a similar one from the DSS. He was called to order by Saraki who said the letter from NCS was not written on behalf of the Controller-General, unlike that of the DSS which was signed on behalf of Daura.
Daily Sun, however, gathered that the DSS refused to vacate its earlier report. It was learnt that the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani Omololu, was instructed by Saraki to write to the Director-General of DSS. In the letter, it was learnt Saraki urged the DSS boss to forward a new report to the senate to enable it take a position on Magu. Daura, it was learnt, declined to vacate the earlier position, taken by the senate. Sources familiar with the development, said Daura declined to vacate the earlier report in order not to rubbish the Service.
Meanwhile, Magu has given more insights into the ongoing investigation of the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison Madueke. He told senators that the former minister has escaped to the United Kingdom (UK) with some of the people who served as directors in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
“We are still conducting investigations and I do not want to make further disclosure on that. All I can say is some NNPC directors, who served then, are currently being investigated by the EFCC,” Magu said. He dispelled claims that the anti-corruption war was selective and, also, defended president Buhari over allegations that he is shielding some top government officials from facing prosecution.
He admitted the EFCC has corrupt officials.
“There are corrupt people in EFCC. There is corruption everywhere in the country, including the EFCC. We have arrested some officials within the agency. “We have had reasons to hand over some staff to the police for prosecution. Some officials have been dismissed from the agency and they have been taken to court for prosecution,” he said.
Meanwhile, senators have alleged that Magu is plotting vengeance against them.
•Non-confirmation won’t stop me -Magu
Magu, who addressed a coalition of civil society groups at the entrance to the National Assembly shortly after his screening, said he will not be deterred by his non-confirmation as the battle against corruption in the country is ‘a fight to finish.’
“The greatest violation against human right is crime against the society and the humanity, but everybody has a duty and responsibility to fight corruption. I assure you that we will fight to finish,” he stressed.
•DCP Abdulrahman may emerge new EFCC boss
Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in-charge of Operations at Kaduna Command, Ahmed Abdurahaman may succeed Magu.
Daily Sun gathered that Ahmed is favoured by the Presidency and other stakeholders “because of his performance when he was the Deputy Director (Investigation), at the Headquarters of EFCC in Abuja.”
It was also gathered that most of the cases currently being handled by the EFCC are brain works of Abdulrahaman, described by many of his colleagues as a fearless and upright officer in the commission. Another source close to the EFCC Kaduna office, also, disclosed that when Abdulrahaman was deputy director with EFCC, it was a popular joke among members of staff that; ‘the fear of Abdulrahaman is the beginning of wisdom’.
•Reps mull special court for EFCC
In a related development, a bill to set up a special court for the EFCC, yesterday, passed second reading at the House of Representatives.
The bill also seeks to make the removal of members and chairman of the commission more stringent. Sponsored by Bassey Ewa and three others, the bill seeks to amend the EFCC Act and has as its short title: “Economic and Financial Crimes Act Amendment Bill and the Establishment of an Economic and Financial Crimes Court 2016.”
The anti-graft court, if established, shall have divisions in the six geo-political zones and handle all cases of financial crimes emanating from investigations by the EFCC. It is expected to conclude all corruption cases within 180 days.
The court will have a judge, a retired permanent secretary with not less than 15 years cognate experience on financial and procurement matters and a forensic financial expert, with not less than 17 years cognate experience.