New Telegraph

Presidency on EFCC chair’s probe: Magu not above the law

…says allegations too weighty to be ignored

The on-going investigation into the allegations of corruption levelled against the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, a Commissioner of Police, has been described as a confirmation that under the current administration, nobody is above the law.

Magu had, on Monday, appeared before the Presidential Investigation Panel, which is probing the allegations of money laundering and gross misconduct levelled against him. A reliable source in the Presidency who craved anonymity said Magu’s travails affirmed that no one in Buhari’s administration was above scrutiny.

He affirmed that the holder of an elevated office such as the chairman of EFCC must be above suspicion. According to him, the Buhari administration would not prejudge anyone as it could be counted on to uphold justice and fairness. The source said: “The panel investigating allegations against Ag. EFCC Chairman had been sitting for some weeks now. “In consonance with the principle of fairness and justice, it was needful that the acting chairman be given opportunity to respond to the allegations, which are weighty in nature. Under the Muhammadu Buhari administration, nobody is above scrutiny. Repeat: Nobody. “The investigation is to reinforce transparency and accountability, rather than to vitiate it. Accountability for our actions or inactions is inalienable part of democracy.

In such elevated position as that of EFCC chairman, the holder of the position must be above suspicion. “There’s no pre-judgement. Absolutely none. The Buhari administration can be counted on to uphold fairness and justice at all times,” our source said.

The source maintained the interrogation of the anti-graft agency’s boss was to give him the opportunity to clear himself of the weighty allegations. New Telegraph reliably learnt that police yesterday searched Magu’s personal residence in Karo, an outskirt of Abuja. Sources said that police were looking for docuoments on some of the properties allegedly acquired by the EFCC chair. Magu moved to a rented house in highbrow Maitama, Abuja shortly after he became acting chairman of EFCC.

The panel, which is chaired by Justice Ayo Salami, a former President of the Court of Appeal, was set up following a damning memo authored by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, conveying the allegations of infractions at EFCC. The probe panel, which sat at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, grilled Magu for several hours on Monday and demanded explanations on the allegations.

The interrogation, which dragged far into the night, did not end until about 10.30p.m. This necessitated the detention of Magu at the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) headquarters from where he was brought to face the panel the second day at the Presidential Villa.

The panel concluded its sitting before 9p.m. yesterday. Magu was taken into custody at the FCID for the second night. “Immediately after the panel interrogated Magu uptill about 9p.m., the embattled EFCC chairman was moved to the FCID headquarters in Abuja, where he was detained for the second night,” a source told New Telegraph last night. There were speculations that Magu had been suspended from office. However, this could not be confirmed as at press time.

Similarly, there was no official statement on what transpired at the panel on Tuesday, but findings indicated that Magu was unable to defend himself satisfactorily on a number of allegations against him. The panel, New Telegraph learnt, was set up to probe Magu’s stewardship at EFCC following reports that there were some discrepancies in the remittance of the loots, which the agency claimed to have recovered from some corrupt Nigerians. According to a source familiar with the case, a huge chunk of the recovered loot appears to have been “re-looted” as the figures of recoveries do not seem to tally with records of remittances.

Besides the missing loot, the panel was said to have questioned him about the allegations that he recently acquired four posh properties and have been laundering money in some bank accounts overseas, through cronies. Meanwhile, the current ordeal of Magu has created some cracks in the ranks of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC).

Signs of possible crack in PACAC emerged Monday when a member, Prof. Femi Odekunle, issued a statement on behalf of the panel, accusing the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Malami, of “being an arrowhead or major agent of a power bloc that is not really interested in,or in support of Buhari’s anti-corruption fight.”

Odekunle’s statement came as a surprise to many, considering the fact that all previous official releases from PACAC had been authorised/signed by its Chairman, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), New Telegraph reports that this is the first time this seeming confusion will beset the panel set up to advice the president on corruption-related matters.

Odekunle said: “Of course, the real information reaching us is that Magu was only invited to appear before a panel set up not long ago concerning some alleged memo by Malami, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, regarding some alleged malfeasance by Magu, along with nominations for his replacement.

“The alleged originating Malami memo, up to the current “arrest” seems an outcome of power-play by power blocs in the corridors of power in which Malami appears to be an arrowhead or major agent of a power bloc that is not really interested in, or in support of Buhari’s anticorruption fight.

“One can recall the earlier non-confirmation experience of Magu by the 8th Assembly, orchestrated by a power bloc and supported by the DSS’ ‘security’ reports. “One can also note the non-resubmission of Magu for confirmation since May 2019 despite the apparent willingness of the 9th Assembly to consider it this time around.” But PACAC, in a statement by its communications officer, Mr. Aghogho Agbahor, said the member’s position was personal, as it had yet to make any official reaction.

“PACAC has not released an official statement with regards to the Acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu,” Agbahor said. The statement reads: “The attention of the Chairman of PACAC has been drawn to a statement circulating in the media space credited to one of its members, Prof. Femi Odekunle. “The press release is the personal opinion of the member under whose name it was released and not that of the committee. “If the committee consistent with its mandate has any view on the matter, it will be channelled to the president and not to the media,” the statement said.

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