The Department of State Services has said the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has failed integrity test, warning that he will hinder President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war.
The Senate had on Thursday rejected the nomination of Magu by Buhari as the Chairman of the EFCC.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly cited “security reports” as the reason for the rejection.
The PUNCH, however, sighted a copy of the “security report” by the DSS in which Magu’s activities were alleged to have made him ineligible to hold the office.
The letter, dated October 3, was addressed to the Clerk of the Senate, in reference to a letter by the Senate, dated September 21, 2016, asking for Magu’s security check.
The report, which listed several alleged malpractices against the EFCC boss, said his confirmation would frustrate the anti-graft drive of the Buhari-led administration.
Part of the allegations against Magu was his being in possession of EFCC documents in his private residence during the chairmanship of Farida Waziri.
The DSS also made reference to the circumstances surrounding Magu’s arrest, detention and suspension by the Nigeria Police.
The secret service also alleged that the sum of N40m was paid for the rented apartment, which costs N20m per annum, where the acting EFCC chairman currently resides.
It added that the accommodation was not paid for from the commission’s account but by a presidential appointee, who had been under investigation.
The DSS alleged that after renting the apartment for Magu, the friend awarded a N43m contract for the furnishing of the accommodation.
The appointee, who is a retired Air Commodore, was said to be a close associate and ally of Magu, allegedly and “runs questionable business” and was once arrested by the service.
The report, which cleared the other four EFCC appointees, said Magu, flew a private jet owned by the retired military officer.
The service also claimed that the EFCC boss was once in the same flight to Maiduguri with a Managing Director of one of the new generation banks, who it alleged was under investigation.
It added that the bank chief had been linked with a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The DSS stated that after the arrest of service chiefs by the EFCC, including Badeh, Umar and Amosu, Magu’s ally, while under interrogation by the service, had confessed that he didn’t want Amosu to be probed, the reason why the EFCC arraigned Amosu after his friend’s interrogation.
The acting EFCC boss was also accused in the report of making false allegations against individuals “for personal reasons.”
The report said, “The circumstances surrounding the return of Magu to the EFCC and the role played by Lamorde and their close relationship are clear indications of his culpability in the allegation of corruption tendencies of the Lamorde-led EFCC.”
The DSS also alleged that “Magu uses only his police cronies to execute operations,” adding that the fact that the cronies had acquired landed properties “led credence to the questions about his integrity.”
The report added, “In this light, Magu has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.”
In rejecting Magu, the upper chamber of the National Assembly had cited “security reports” as the reason for the rejection.
The screening had been listed on the Order Paper as part of the activities at the chamber for the day.
The lawmakers were to conduct a confirmatory screening for Magu and four members of the EFCC on their nomination.
The plan to conduct the confirmatory screening had allegedly divided the senators.
It was reliably learnt that at the usual pre-session meeting by the principal officers on Thursday, which held at the Senate President’s office, the lawmakers engaged themselves in a shouting match.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, before the end of the closed-door session, announced that the lawmakers had rejected Magu’s nomination and would not screen him.
Abdullahi, who read from a statement while addressing journalists, said, “The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria wishes to inform the general public that based on security reports available to the Senate, the Senate cannot proceed and confirm the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as the Executive Chairman of the EFCC.
“Accordingly, the Senate hereby rejects the said nomination and has returned the said nomination to Mr. President for further action.”
In an attempt by journalists to ask Abdullahi questions, especially on the reported power play involving Magu, individuals and the Presidency and the Senate leadership, the Senator said, “There’s no confusion here. We have said it is based on security reports. Please, all of us – public officers – go for security screening. Everybody! And we are saying based on security reports, we cannot proceed and confirm (Magu) and we are rejecting it (the nomination) and returning it to Mr. President for further action. That is just the statement.’’
The report, it was gathered, had been with Senate President Bukola Saraki since October.
Saraki, who presided over the plenary, referred the other nominees to the Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes for screening.
Magu, who was appointed by the President as acting Chairman of the EFCC in November, 2015, following the removal of Ibrahim Lamorde, has remained in the acting capacity for over one year.
Apart from Magu, the confirmation of four members of the commission was also delayed.
The affected appointees are Moses Nda Sule, Mamman Lawan, Imam Najib Galadanchi and Adebayo Adeleke.
The letter for Magu’s confirmation was dated June 17, 2016, and signed by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was then the acting President while Buhari was in the United Kingdom on a 10-day medical vacation.
Sagay, others accuse lawmakers of fighting corruption war
Reacting to the rejection of Magu on Thursday, Sagay berated the Senate for refusing to confirm the acting EFCC chairman.
Sagay told The PUNCH during a telephone interview that the Senate acted for selfish reasons and not in the general interest of Nigerians.
He said, “The Senate doesn’t appoint a chairman of the EFCC; what it does is to confirm an appointment. If it doesn’t confirm, then, he will remain acting, he doesn’t become substantive but the powers of acting or substantive chairman are the same; it is just a difference in nomenclature.
“So, any act of bad faith to slow down the corruption war is misplaced and it won’t work. It is sad that people will go to that extent of rejecting what is good for the country for their selfish reasons because they think it is not convenient for them. So this is preference for self-preservation at the expense of the nation and the people of the country.”
He asked Nigerians to rise up and join the fight against corruption and condemn the action of the Senate.
“They must show that they are interested and affected by the misery and poverty that have been caused by looting. They must come out and fight and join in the struggle; otherwise, they will wake up one day and realise that there is no country again.”
Also, human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), believed the Senate had not rejected Magu officially.
He said, “What the law says is that the Senate shall confirm an EFCC chairman; not an executive session, not a committee and the Senate has not done this.
“So, the Senate has not rejected him and if you look at what has been done, they are saying they received a security report for which reason they are not considering his nomination.”
Also, a group of lawyers, under the aegis of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers, demanded the disclosure of the nature and content of the “security report”, which the Senate relied on to reject the nomination of Magu.
In a statement on Thursday by its President, Mr. Luke Aghanenu, NADL said it was curious that the Senate would reject Magu in spite of the good performance of the EFCC under his watch as acting chairman.
The group said, “Perhaps it is to save its face from what obviously seems to be outright bias that it embarked on this rejection by invoking unexplained security reasons.
“As the power to confirm or reject a nominee for the Chairman of the EFCC is a constitutional duty, we demand that the Senate should immediately disclose to Nigerians what the ‘security report’ on Mr. Ibrahim Magu, is to justify the announced rejection of his nomination.
Groups condemn EFCC boss rejection
Also, civil rights groups, in separate interviews with The PUNCH condemned the rejection of the EFCC acting chairman by the Senate.
The President of the Nigeria Voters Assembly, Mashood Erubami, said there was a context in which the Senate had been reluctant to accede to the confirmation of the EFCC Chairman before the rejection.
He stated, “The context is that corruption is strongly fighting back albeit vindictively. The rejection is not only targeted at stepping on the toes of the executive in its dogged fight against corruption but also to pull down the institutions being used and to rubbish the President’s efforts to strongly put up a good fight against unethical practices.
“Indeed, the direction in which the legislators are going to either end the fight against corruption or crush its fighting legs is well known to Nigerians but it will be left to Nigerians to rise to bail themselves from the menacing acts of their tormentors.”
A member of the House of Representatives in the Second Republic, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, described the Senate’s rejection of the nomination of Magu as a blow to democracy.
Mohammed said, “I find the whole development rather curious. I do not accept that in a democracy, the legislature should presume and deliberately delay the confirmation of such an important position in the government, and now, belatedly, advance some funny reasons such as adverse security report.
“My suspicion is that some members of the cabal around the President and their friends in the Senate, who are determined to make sure that Magu does not get confirmed, are responsible for this situation.
“Secondly, since Magu has served in this capacity for six months and has not been found wanting, the normal routine is to confirm his appointment. The government of the day, in conjunction with Senators, has refused to confirm him. I feel this is a blow to democracy.”
The President, Campaign for Democracy, Bako Usman, said the lawmakers might have rejected Magu for being too close to the Presidency.
“The irony behind the tragedy of not confirming (Magu) may not be far away from the fact that Magu has been seen by the majority, not just the Senate, as being selective in his quest for bringing citizens to justice.
“The romance that exists between Magu and the Presidency is glaring, the National assembly will rather want a different person in that position,” he added.
But a lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said the action of the Senate re-asserted the independence of the legislative arm of government.
He stated, “It is wrong to build our institutions, especially the anti -corruption agencies, around individuals. We should strengthen the institutions rather than the individuals.
“In this regard, the rejection of Mr. Magu should have no impact on the work of the EFCC, ordinarily. In a country of about 180 million people, the President should shop for a replacement that can perform the job as much or even better than Mr. Magu.”
Magu will not be removed –PACAC boss
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, has said Magu will not be replaced by any other person.
Sagay, who stated this in the current edition of The Interview, said Magu’s appointment would be renewed whether he was confirmed or not.
In the interview conducted by The Interview before Magu’s rejection on Thursday, Sagay said, “Corruption is fighting back. The people who are supposed to confirm him, many of them are under investigation and, somehow, they think if they don’t confirm him, the investigation will gradually fade away, forgetting that an acting chairman is a chairman. There is no difference in powers. He is going to be there.
“Whether they like it or not, he will be there. His chairmanship will keep on being renewed.
“Since Nuhu Ribadu left, we have not had a man with such sterling qualities as Ibrahim Magu, and whether they like it or not, Magu is going to be there until he completes all the terms he is supposed to under the law.”
Story by: Niyi Odebode, John Alechenu, Fidelis Soriwei, Friday Olokor, Eniola Akinkuotu, Leke Baiyewu, Oladimeji Ramon and Samson Folarin