Olusola Fabiyi, John Alechenu and Leke Baiyewu
The embattled acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has been unable to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari since the beginning of the crisis that engulfed the confirmation of his appointment.
Reliable sources told Sunday PUNCH on Saturday that Magu had made spirited efforts to see President Buhari in the aftermath of the Senate’s refusal to confirm his appointment. The Senate, on Thursday, had based its decision on a security report by the Department of State Service which accused Magu of abuse of office and corruption.
The report by the DSS says Magu’s antecedents and his conduct after his appointment as the anti-corruption czar, made him ineligible to hold the office in full capacity.
The DSS report concludes, “Magu has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.”
SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that the embattled EFCC chairman, who is said to be at loggerheads with some members of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet, tried to see the President on Saturday night but his efforts were futile.
Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, handles the President’s appointments and determines, in most cases, who gets to see him.
There have been reports that Magu is involved in a power struggle with the Director General of the DSS, Mr. Lawal Daura, and some top aides of the President, who are said to be against his confirmation. The acting EFCC chairman is said to be an ally of the National Security Adviser, Gen. Babagana Monguno.
Magu was conspicuously absent at the Saturday’s wedding of the President’s daughter, Zahra, to Ahmed Indimi. However, other heads of security agencies including the former chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, were present at the lunch which held inside the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.
Multiple sources in the presidency confirmed to our correspondent on Saturday that Magu was sighted in the Presidential Villa around 6.30pm on Friday.
While he failed to see the President, Magu attended the Asset Recovery team meeting which holds weekly at the Presidency. The meeting had Vice President Yemi Osinbajo ; the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; the Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed, and others, in attendance.
SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that Magu has written a letter stating his side of the story over the allegations levelled against him by the DSS. A source, who said the letter would be delivered to the President during the week, added that Magu defended himself and also detailed his running battles with some of the president’s closest aides.
Magu, it was gathered, had wanted to issue a statement through the agency to respond to the DSS allegations, but later had a change of mind.
Meanwhile, this newspaper gathered that the confirmation crisis had polarised the President’s cabinet.
A source in government told one of our correspondents that some ministers who are in support of Magu visited the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, before the Senate session on Thursday. The source said the ministers tried to prevail on Saraki to ensure that Magu was confirmed. Saraki was said to have told them that he did not have the sole power to confirm the EFCC’s acting chairman.
Some ministers who are however staunchly against Magu reportedly reached out to the senate president and urged him not to make the mistake of ensuring Magu’s confirmation or it could come back to haunt him.
He can only be reconsidered if DSS clears him — Senators
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, has said that the senate may review its decision on the acting chairman if he clears himself of the allegation contained in the security report on him.
Anyanwu, who spoke on Saturday, said, “The presidency has the right to present him for screening again if it is satisfied that the allegations against him in the report are baseless. The senate will do its constitutional duty by adequately investigating petitions against any nominee so that a wrong person will not be appointed.
“Mr. Magu should clear himself of the allegations leveled against him otherwise senate will refuse to screen him if Mr. President should forward his name again,” he said.
Asked if the senate would reconsider the nomination of Magu if Buhari re-presented him, Senator, Sunday Ogbuoji (Ebonyi South), said it was up to the executive.
He said, “The business of the legislature is to screen and confirm nominees but before we do that, we first of all do background checks and these background checks are carried out by institutions authorised by our constitution which in this case, is the Department of State Services.
“The DSS gave us a report upon which we based our decision. If he (Ibrahim Magu) is re-presented, it means they have sorted out their issues at the executive level and a report will so say.”
The lawmaker representing Oyo South Senatorial District, Senator Adesoji Akanbi, said the implication of the rejection of Magu by the legislature was that he would cease to be the acting chairman of the EFCC.
Akanbi said, “For how long is he going to act? His name was nominated and had been rejected. And the reason for the rejection is not biased; it was based on the information made available to the Senate.”
“It is not over yet. The President can re-present him. By then, he would have filed his defence and communicated it to the senate. The President can re-present Magu to the senate even as much as four times if he chooses to. But before he can do that, the clog in the wheel of Magu’s nomination and legislative approval must have been addressed.”
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, while speaking to our correspondent on Saturday, said the upper chamber of the National Assembly, being the lawmaking arm of the government, would not be responsible for the interpretation of the law.
Abdullahi said, “By our democratic arrangement and structure, whatever we do and whatever the executive does are subject to interpretation by judiciary. If anybody is aggrieved with it, we have done our own part and I can only comment on what we do in our work and how we do it.”
Speaking on the same matter on Friday, lawyer and human rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, had called for the replacement of the embattled acting chairman.
According to the lawyer, the issues raised in the DSS report cannot be overlooked. The legal expert noted that with the various allegations against the EFCC acting boss, it would not be proper for him to continue to head the agency.
He said, “We cannot have such weighty allegations of corrupt enrichment hanging over a man who is to investigate and prosecute others.
“Prior to Mr. Magu’s appointment, a serious allegation of corruption was made against his predecessor in office, but we have never heard of any effort made by the EFCC since Magu took over, on that case.” (Punchng.com)