Days after it commenced investigations into sundry allegations initiated against the suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, Justice Ayo Salami-led presidential panel has concluded its sitting. TUNDE OYESINA reports
Baring last minute change, Justice Ayo Salami-led Presidential Panel may be submitting its reports to President Muhammadu Buhari over its findings in the probe which started about a month ago.
However a top source who prefered anonymity hinted that the probe panel may recommend the sack and subsequent prosecution of Magu to the President. The travails of Magu followed a memo written by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
In the memo, Magu was alleged to have mishandled the recovered loot and sold seized assets to his associates. Magu was also alleged to have purchased a property in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, using a pastor as a conduit pipe. Magu is also accused of violating the code of conduct law by allegedly failing to declare all his assets when he assumed office in 2015. He had since denied all the allegations which he described as “nonsense” saying “what I am going through is a case of dog eats dog”.
The former acting chairman of EFCC has also accused the panel of not giving him fair hearing. Magu through his counsel, Wahab Shittu was reported to have written several letters to the panel, demanding to be served a copy of the charges against him in order to prepare for defence.
In one of the testimonies before the panel, a businessman, Donald Wokoma was reported to have played a tape recording before the panel on how some operatives of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), popularly known as ‘Magu boys’ used a lawyer to demand bribery of N75million to be paid into different accounts. Wokoma of Damijay Integrated Services Limited, was reported to have equally tendered an affidavit of fact in support of a petition he wrote against ‘Magu Boys’ for extortion before unfreezing his account.
It was recalled that EFCC had in 2018 refused to obey the order of Justice O.C. Agbaza to lift the restrictions on the account of Damijay Services Limited, after the firm had filed a suit for fundamental rights enforcement at the FCT High Court.
However, an Abuja-based lawyer, Victor Giwa who was allegedly involved in the deal, it was gathered did not deny his voice in the 27 minutes’ tape recording that was played before the panel where he mentioned names of suspended Chairman of EFCC, Magu among other operatives over the bribery allegation. Giwa was said to be the former lawyer to the company on the case with the EFCC.
In the affidavit filed the before the panel, the businessman alleged that on or around 20th of May, 2020 Barrister Victor Giwa asked him to sign three blank cheques valued at N25 million each, which he would hand over to the people in EFCC to enable them unfreeze the account.
The petitioner had revealed that the said “Magu boys” had sent three different bank accounts namely Cikin Gida Nigeria Limited with account number: 1771773211 at Polaris Bank; Black and Black Global Concept Limited with account number: 0259011841 with Gtbank and Amina Kigbu with account number: 2176716071 with Zenith Bank for the payment of the alleged bribe.
When the cheques were not honoured by the banks, the Magu boys requested that the businessman should execute an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (on the company’s official letterhead) in favour of the three bank accounts and later demanded for 40% of the money in the company’s account which aggregates to one hundred million naira which the businessman outrightly rejected.
After rejecting their last demand, the businessman said that “On the 9th of July, 2020, Mr. Mohammed Goje of EFCC called me to come to their office the next day being 10th July, 2020 (Friday). I honoured the invitation and stayed for long hours only for me to be informed by him (around 5: 09pm after I had left) that I have been charged to Court by sms and that I was to appear before the F.C.T. High Cout sitting at Lugbe by 8:30 am on Monday, 13th July, 2020 to be with a copy of the charge and arraigned simultaneously.
“He warned me via the sms to ‘endeavour to come to avoid unnecessary embarrassment.’ On the 13th of July, 2020 while at the Lugbe High Court, I was served with an Amended Charge dated and filed on the 19th day of June, 2020 (exactly 2 days after I outrightly rejected their fresh demand of 40% of the total sum of the money in the company’s account).
“The said amended charge was signed by one ABBA MUHAMMED of Legal and Prosecution Department of the EFCC with Supreme Court No: (SCN046977). Upon going through the documents served on me in Court, I discovered to my chagrin that there is an earlier charge dated the 3rd day of January, 2019 and filed on the 4th day of January, 2019 signed by one AISHA A. T. HABIB from the Legal & Prosecution Department of the EFCC with Supreme Court No: SCN014045.
This particular charged of 4th January, 2019 (which is over a year and five months) was never served on me.” It went on to add that “after presenting the petition to the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and specifically on Monday, the 6th day of August, 2020, I called Barrister VICTOR GIWA and informed him that a copy of the correspondences he has been exchanging with the operatives of the EFCC would be needed at the office of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation in support of the petition.
“In response to my request as per the preceding paragraph, Barrister VICTOR GIWA told me over the phone that he has been receiving calls from agents of the EFCC and that in particular one AISHA of the EFCC was crying and pleading with him not to expose them else her career would be ruined.
“He (Barrister VICTOR GIWA) further said that some other EFCC officials, which he has been corresponding with, called him to query him on why he allowed me to write the petition to the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and demanded that the said petition (Exhibit Dami 1) be withdrawn else there would be consequences after the storm currently buffeting the Commission.
“Barrister VICTOR GIWA further told me that those EFCC officials reminded him that he is a young Lawyer and that he has a lot before him and that he should not forget that what is happening at the EFCC at the time was a tussle between the Honourable AGF and the suspended Acting Chairman of the EFCC and boasted that things would soon return to normal at the EFCC.
They thereafter asked him to call me so we could have a meeting where the matter would be effectively resolved. “On 7th August, 2020, I instructed Barrister Johnmary Jideobi to call Barrister Victor and remind him of the request I made on him the previous night.
Barrister VICTOR GIWA told Barrister Johnmary Jideobi that he was not going to make the correspondences yet available to me because he had those discussions with the EFCC people in confidence and that we should not join the fray of what was/is happening because no one knows tomorrow.
That he would not want to offend the people who gave him the information in confidence since he should be honourable enough not to do things that would offend them.
Barrister VICTOR GIWA later told Barrister Johnmary Jideobi that he would call him back and hung up but never did that day.” Meanwhile, counsel to Magu, Wahab Shittu dismissed the allegation that operatives under the supervision of the embattled official demanded N75 million from the business man. Shittu submitted that witnesses could not substantiate the bribery allegations against him.
A businessman, Donald Wokoma, had reportedly presented an audiotape, before the panel Tuesday last week, revealing how agents of the EFCC tried to extort him after freezing his company’s bank account.
Giving his own version, Shittu was reported to have said that at the cross-examination session with the witnesses, “it was revealed that the N75 million allegedly linked to Magu and his boys, belonged to a third party lawyer, Fatima Hassan, who was employed by Giwa to help retrieve Wakoma’s frozen money.”