The suspended boss of Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, has complained about the “unfortunate” handling of his investigation for alleged corruption, saying he has consequently been “paraded like a common criminal”.
Mr Magu, 58, was arrested in Abuja on Monday by a team of police officers, who dragged him to the State House to appear before the Justice Ayo Salami-led Presidential Investigative Committee.
With documents obtained, the police officers were led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Gabriel Elaigwu. They acted on the instruction of the investigative committee.
The police team held a letter from the committee telling Mr Magu he had featured “prominently” in certain offences and that “the need to obtain clarification from you has become very urgent and necessary.”
President Muhammadu Buhari set up the committee, chaired by Mr Salami, a retired Justice, to investigate alleged mismanagement of recovered assets by the EFCC between May 2015 and May 2020.
A petition by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, who announced Mr Magu’s suspension on Friday, is believed to have triggered the investigation.
Since Monday, Mr Magu, originally a police officer, has been in detention at the Force Criminal Investigation Department’s Area 10 Abuja headquarters from where he had throughout the week been appearing before the investigators sitting at the State House. The investigative committee is set up based on the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, a government statement said on Friday.
Not given petitions against him
However, speaking through his lawyer, Wahab Shittu, in a letter directed to the investigative committee on Friday, Mr Magu said he had not seen the petitions containing the allegations against him, nor had the committee availed him with their terms of reference.
“Mr Chairman, since the 6th of July when our client honoured your invitation, he has been consistently applying to the Committee to be given the petitions containing the allegations of CONSPIRACY, CORRUPT ENRICHMENT, ABUSE OF POWER/OFFICE, which request has not been honoured or obliged till date,” read the letter.
“Our client has also informed us that he remains unaware of the terms of reference of this distinguished Committee.”
The letter also related Mr Magu’s discomfort with his continued detention at the FCID “without being informed of the allegations against him and the deserved opportunity to timeously study and respond to same.”
The letter further contained a complaint that, “witnesses are called and examined by the Committee behind his back and without allowing him and counsel of his choice to participate in the proceedings involving these witnesses.”
He said he had been a target of campaigns of calumny by the media taking advantage of his detention to spread damaging, false and prejudicial allegations.
Among such “unfounded allegations which never featured in the proceedings of the Committee thus far,” the letter said, were that Mr Magu gave Vice President Yemi Osinbajo four billion naira (an allegation Mr Osinbajo has denied); that he ran secret accounts; procured cronies to front for him;, and that he acquired properties in Dubai.
“These campaigns of calumny have greatly affected the morale of our client and damaged his hard earned reputation and that of the Commission (EFCC),” the letter read.
“It continued, “that our client as a result of this campaign of calumny has been paraded like a common criminal and subjected to all manners of insults and embarrassment just for serving his nation diligently and efficiently as the arrow-head of the anti-corruption campaign of this administration.
“This unfortunate development is happening even before the determination of the petitions before this Honourable Committee with prejudicial consequences.”
“Failed integrity test”
Mr Buhari, who rode to power on a promise to fight corruption – which fuels Nigeria’s barely changing development crises – appointed Mr Magu acting EFCC chairman in November 2015 following the removal of Ibrahim Lamorde.
And twice, late 2016 and March 2017, the president requested the Senate to confirm his appointment. On both occasions, Mr Magu was rejected by the Senate, following repeated State Security Service’s reports that he had “failed the integrity test and will eventually be a liability to the anti-corruption fight of the present administration.”
But Mr Buhari brushed aside the SSS’ reports and kept Mr Magu to continue leading the EFCC in acting capacity. Mr Magu had then denied the allegations in the SSS’ reports and also most of the allegations were fact-checked and found inaccurate by PREMIUM TIMES at the time.
Prayers to the Salami-led committee
Back to his Friday’s letter; Mr Magu, then made seven requests from the committee, including its terms of reference; access to the petitions against him to “enable him study and prepare a robust defence”; intervention of the committee to facilitate his release from the FCID detention; and adequate time to respond to the allegations against him with necessary materials and evidence.
He also sought an opportunity to confront the petitioners with his own defence; and requested that witnesses be examined in his presence and his counsel. He then asked the committee to guarantee “his right to fair hearing including his right to liberty in the course of the proceedings of this distinguished Committee.”
The investigative committee could not be reached to comment on Mr Magu’s complaints as it does not have any known person with a responsibility for public relations role.
In the most likely event of a failure to return to his position, Mr Magu, the fourth chief executive of EFCC, will be leaving the anti-graft agency rather unceremoniously, suffering a similar fate as his three predecessors – Nuhu Ribadu, Farida Waziri, and Ibrahim Lamorde.
The attorney-general, Mr Malami, said in a statement on Friday that Mr Magu’s suspension, approved by Mr Buhari, was to enable an “unhindered” investigation. Mohammed Umar, the director of operations under Mr Magu, has been appointed to act as the chairman of the commission.
Security operatives attached to Mr. Magu’s private and official houses were withdrawn Friday evening, a family source expressed fears over the safety of the immediate family of the embattled anti-corruption fighter because of “enemies” made in the course of his job.
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