The suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu’s problems worsened on Wednesday as the presidential panel investigating corruption allegations against him shifted its focus to properties he allegedly acquired in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.
The suspended EFCC boss, who has been in the police custody since his arrest on Monday, was interrogated for the third time on Wednesday.
The PUNCH also gathered that fresh allegations emerged against Magu as the panel continued its sitting just as he was again detained after Wednesday’s interrogation.
Magu was accosted by security agents in plain clothes in front of the old EFCC headquarters on Fomella Street, Wuse 2, Abuja, at noon on Monday and compelled to appear before the panel.
He has been in police custody at the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Garki, since Monday from where he has been appearing before the panel to respond to questions on the allegations raised against him by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
Like what happened on Monday and Tuesday when the panel quizzed Magu for several hours, journalists were again on Wednesday not allowed access to the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, venue of the interrogation.
Some State House reporters who attempted to enter the press gallery located inside the building were politely turned back.
Even those who attempted to park their vehicles in the car park of the facility were asked to make use of other parks within the Presidential Villa.
The PUNCH gathered that the Justice Ayo Salami-led panel was interested in establishing if indeed Magu bought properties abroad, particularly in Dubai, where he was said to have travelled to several times on official and private visits.
It was further learnt that the panel also was preoccupied with allegations that N39bn had been diverted from the recovered loot.
Sources said the panel would carry out forensics on documents recovered from Magu’s house as well as an analysis of his earnings and bank records.
A source stated, “The panel is working to verify allegations that Magu has properties in Dubai and other parts of the world. It is also probing an allegation that funds were diverted from recovered loot.
“I don’t know how far the panel has gone in exploring these interesting angles, but real estate titles and bank records would leave a trail that cannot be hidden. The panel planned to subject documents recovered from Magu’s residence and office to forensic analysis.”
After being questioned for eight hours on Wednesday, Magu was taken back in police custody, where he spent Monday and Tuesday nights.
Magu faces fresh allegations
The PUNCH learnt that fresh allegations have continued to emerge in the course of investigation which had caused the investigation to linger.
For instance, Magu was alleged to have sold off or mysteriously released about 157 oil tankers without following due process.
The vehicles were alleged to have been seized by the Port Harcourt zonal office of the EFCC.
The money was said not to have been remitted to the government’s coffers while those released were said to have been done after bribes were given to senior EFCC officials loyal to Magu.
A report by the Auditor-General of the Federation last year also noted that about N13.96bn reported as salaries and wages in the consolidated financial statement of the EFCC were not in the anti-graft agency’s trial balance submitted for reconciliation.
Besides, the EFCC was listed as one of the agencies with “doubtful cash balance” of over N315m. These allegations are also being looked into.
A top government official said, “Magu is not just the chairman but the chief accounting officer of the EFCC. So, every allegation regarding diversion or misplaced funds must be directed at him.
“There are allegations that about 157 oil tankers seized by the Port Harcourt disappeared. Some were sold while some were returned to the owners after massive bribes were given through operatives we believe to be Magu’s proxies.
“We are also working on some reports from the Office of the Auditor-General and the Federal Inland Revenue Service regarding some financial lapses in the EFCC. For some of the allegations, Magu was not able to explain while for some, he offered explanations.
“Whenever he gives explanations, we investigate and cross-check and based on the outcome of the investigation, more questions are asked.”
When asked if it was not against the law to hold Magu beyond 48 hours in line with the constitutional provision, the source said Magu was being held by the police and he remains a member of that organisation.
He said, “Magu is a senior policeman. The police are also represented on the panel in the person of DIG Ogbezi. Magu is being kept in police custody in line with police rules just like the way other senior officers are detained during a probe. This is not an illegal detention.”
Besides Salami other members of the presidential panel investigating Magu are a Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Mike Ogbizi representing the Nigeria Police Force; Hassan Abdullahi representing the Department of State Services and Douglas Ekwueme who is an official of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit.
Others include Mallam Shamsudeen representing the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mohammed Abubakar from the Federal Ministry of Justice and Mr. Kazeem Atilebi representing Civil Society Organisations.
The six geopolitical zones in the country are also represented on the panel.
We’ll apply for bail today, says lawyer
Meanwhile, Magu’s lawyer, Mr. Tosin Ojaomo, has said he would be applying for the bail of the EFCC boss on Thursday (today).
Ojaomo told The PUNCH that he had approached the police on Wednesday but was asked to return on Thursday morning to seek his client’s bail.
The lawyer also described as untrue reports that Magu had been suspended and the Director of Operations, Mohammaed Umar, had taken over.
“The truth will soon be out. I was there today (Wednesday) but I couldn’t see him. They said I should come early in the morning so I will be there to apply for his bail. The news that someone has been appointed to replace him or that he is under suspension is not true. There is no letter of suspension. You will be shocked how this will end,” Ojaomo said.
“I asked for the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge, to ask for information about what was going on and possibly applied for his bail, but I was told he was not on seat.
Magu’s probe continued to generate reactions on Wednesday. A group, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, attacked Malami.
The group, which contended that the method adopted in Magu’s probe left much to be desired, accused the AGF of “building a network of people opposed to accountability and transparency in governance.”
The group said this in a statement, titled, “Corrupt politicians must not celebrate over Magu’s ordeal,” signed by one of its promoters, Sina Odugbemi.
The group described as a mockery of the rule of law Magu’s detention by the panel meant to conduct an impartial probe into the allegations against him.
The CSNAC also faulted what it called the short notice given to Magu to appear before the panel, saying it was the same way the pioneer Chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, was humiliated out of office by a network of corrupt politicians.
But the Coalition for Good Governance and Justice urged those criticising investigation of Magu to allow the Salami-led presidential panel to complete its tasks.
The Convener of the CCGC, Mr Emmanuel Umohinyang, told journalists on Wednesday that the investigation was an indication that the Buhari regime would not spare or sweep anything under the carpet.
He said, “I think the issue of Ibrahim Magu is a case of the hunter becoming the hunted and it also gives credence to the fact that the Buhari-led administration will not spare or sweep anything under the carpet.”
Another civil society group, the Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative, faulted the reactions of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Femi Odekunle, to the probe of Magu.
The anti-graft group said SERAP and Odekunle should encourage Magu to prove allegations levelled against him by Malami wrong.
The ARDI Executive Secretary, Chief Dennis Aghanya, in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday, said it was inappropriate for Odekunle, a presidential appointee on anti-graft, to condemn the action taken to investigate alleged corruption and misconduct.
This was contained in a statement dated July 8, 2020, titled, ‘PACAC, SERAP should appreciate Malami for living up to his constitutional responsibilities as the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation,’ signed by Aghanya.
SERAP and Odekunle had, in separate reactions to the arrest of Magu, criticised the action which they described as the result of the power play in the Presidency.
But responding to the criticism, Aghanya said, “Odekunle described the weighty allegations enunciated by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, in his memo to Mr President and the quizzing of Magu for interrogation by a presidential panel, chaired by a former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami as (implying) a witch-hunt.
“Odekunle’s outburst against the office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation, in our considered opinion, is the actual act of sabotage of Mr President’s fight against corruption, openly antagonising another constituted authority of the Federal Government.”
The group said SERAP should encourage Magu to debunk the allegations levelled against him.
PDP demands Magu’s prosecution for fraud
On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party on Wednesday demanded the prosecution of the suspended EFCC boss.
The opposition party said this in a statement titled, ‘Fraud: Magu Must Face Prosecution, says PDP, insists indictment reinforces graft allegations.’ The statement was signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan.
The party said after reviewing the reported circumstances surrounding the investigation of the indicted acting chairman of the EFCC, it was demanding his prosecution.
It explained that Magu’s indictment reinforced the PDP’s position that the war against corruption by the EFCC, under his watch, had been a huge scam by corrupt individuals to cover the plundering of public resources, harass political opponents, intimidate and extort money from innocent Nigerians.
Ologbondiyan said, “The revelations of diversion of recovered funds and fraudulent sale of assets seized by the EFCC among other sleazes, as detailed in the memo by the Attorney -General and Minister of Justice, as well as the report of the Department of State Services on Magu’s activities have further exposed the racket that the fight against corruption has become under the All Progressives Congress government.”
“The development has also exposed why corruption has worsened under the Buhari administration, as documented by credible international organisations, including Transparency International.
Umar assumes duty as EFCC acting chairman
The Head of Operations at the EFCC, Mohammed Umar, has resumed as the acting chairman of the agency.
Until his assumption, Umar, a deputy commissioner of police, was the second most senior official at the agency.
The PUNCH gathered that there was a push from some quarters in government for the Secretary of the EFCC, Ola Olukoyede, to be appointed as acting chairman pending the completion of the ongoing probe of Magu or the appointment of a new helmsman
However, the move met with stiff opposition and couldn’t succeed because Olukoyede is a civilian.