By Ibrahim Modibo
THE Nigerian media space was agog on July 6, 2020, when the news broke of the arrest of Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. He was arrested by a combined team of the Department of State Services, DSS, and the Force Criminal Intelligence Department, FCID.
Although, the DSS has since denied being party to the arrest of the anti-corruption czar, many Nigerians have questioned why the head of a government agency should be extended an invitation by investigating agencies on the road, redirect his movement and still say he wasn't arrested. Reports say that operatives of the DSS had accosted Magu while he was about driving out of the Wuse II, Abuja annex office of the EFCC, informing him of an invitation from the presidential panel sitting at the Presidential Villa, before he was subsequently, whisked away.
For quite some time now, Magu has been in the eye of the storm for his doggedness and resilience in fighting corruption. It is this doggedness and sheer commitment to the anti-graft cause may have resulted in him at one time or the other stepping on powerful toes in discharging the onerous responsibility heaped on his shoulders by the Buhari administration whose main focus is fighting corruption in Nigeria.
But, in a rather wicked twist of fate, the same forces that Magu taught he was fighting their cause are the same powerful friends now turned enemies who are hell bent on humiliating him and kicking him out of office, forgetting and ignoring the tremendous goodwill and successes recorded by Magu as an anti-corruption crusader, who took over the EFCC from Ibrahim Lamorde in November 2015, making it almost five years of leading the agency.
After succeeding Ibrahim Lamorde in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari submitted Ibrahim Magu's name on December 15, 2016, before the Senate for confirmation, but it was rejected on account of damning report by the Department of State Services, DSS.
According to the then Senate spokesman, Sen. Aliyu Sabi the DSS report indicted Magu of gross human rights violation and corruption allegations that make him unfit to be the nation’s anti-corruption czar.
But, convinced about the integrity and character of his nominee, in spite of the DSS report, President Buhari, re-presented him for confirmation by the Senate and was again rejected for the second time on March 15, 2017.
At the Senate confirmation hearing, Magu was grilled by senators on the allegations contained in the DSS report and he responded to all queries raised in the report. When Buhari retained him in office, mainly on an acting capacity, many began to wonder if Magu is the proverbial cat with nine lives.
The million dollar question begging for answers is what so drastically changed between then and now under the same administration that the poster boy of the administration’s avowed war against corruption has turned from being the hunter to the hunted?
Magu’s current travails were triggered by Abubakar Malami, the nation’s chief law officer, who oversees the EFCC. The minister accused Magu of 22 infractions, including insurbodination and went ahead to recommend his sack to Buhari. Thereafter, events began to move at a fast pace, with Buhari announcing Magu’s suspension from office and was made to appear before the Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets, PCARA, chaired by retired Justice Ayo Salami.
No matter his current travail, one fact remains indisputable; that Nigerians cannot shy away from the huge successes Magu recorded in the anti-graft war, especially in the area of recoveries and convictions.
And based on these, he can be named as the most outstanding anti-corruption czar since the inception of the agency in 2003 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Let’s take a peep at the statistics under Magu. In June, he told newsmen that the commission had secured about 2,448 convictions from 2015 till date and still counting. The convictions include high profile personalities some of whom are former governors, top military officers, captains of industry and other politically- exposed persons.
The roll call of corrupt officials jailed includes former Governors Jolly Nyame, Taraba State, and Joshua Dariye, Plateau State, who are serving their jail terms at the Kuje Prison. The commission also secured the conviction of Orji Uzoh Kalu, former Abia State governor, until the Supreme Court recently set aside his conviction on technical grounds and ordered his retrial.
Also, Olisa Metuh, the former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is cooling his heels in prison, following his conviction over N400 million money laundering, Paul Nwobike, SAN, was convicted for perverting the course of justice, pension thief, John Yusuf, the former federal civil servant who stole N22.9 billion, former acting director general of NIMASA, Calistus Obi, Air Vice Marshal Tony Omenyi (rtd) and Chairman, Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industries, Kano State chapter, Munir Sagagi.
Others are Prof. Benjamin Ogunbodede, former Director-General, Institute of Agriculture Research and Training, IART, Ibadan, Oyo State as well as two expatriates, Haytham Aldahrah, Lebanese amd Li Yan Pin, a Chinese.
In terms of recoveries in the last five years, the EFCC announced in excess of N800 billion as funds recovered. A Areakdown of the recoveries shows the amounts in different currencies; N828.6billion, $271.3million, £1.9million, €8,3million and 87,000CFA.
Aside cash recoveries there are real estates, fuel stations, lands, automobiles, jets, shops, vessels, hospitals, petroleum products, barges, tugboats and dredgers.
Others include farmlands, plazas, electronics, bank accounts, equipment and machinery, hotels, jewelry, restaurants, trucks, gold, radio and television equipment etc.
Another plus recorded by Magu is the introduction of the whistle-blowing policy, which on December 21, 2016, led the EFCC to the discovery of $9.8 million cash hidden in the slums of Sabon Tasha, Kaduna State.
EFCC also recovered humongous cash of $43million, £27,000 and N23million from the Osborne, Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, all of which have now been forfeited to the federal government.
Also in Kaduna State, a whistle-blower led the commission to intercept N250 million hidden in sacks at the Kaduna International Airport. In Lagos, a tip from a whistle-blower also led to the interception of another N250 million in various currencies at a popular textile market in the city. And in a shopping mall, located in the highbrow area of Victoria Island, Lagos, another sum of N500 million was also uncovered.
The investigation of arms procurement fraud in the military also led to a number of recoveries, including $1million cash belonging to the late retired Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, former chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
Air Marshal Adesola Amosun, also lost his choice properties and funds to the federal government.
These include N2.24 billion, a house located on Adeyemo Alakija Street, Ikeja GRA, a set of houses in the Badagry area of Lagos, and an ultra-modern hospital, St. Solomon Health Care Limited, located on Adeniyi Jones Avenue in Ikeja, also in Lagos.
In the same vein, Melrose General Services, a firm linked to the immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki in the final forfeiture ruling by the Court of Appeal in Lagos lost N1.4 billion Paris Club Refund to the federal government. Saraki also forfeited N220million, allegedly obtained from the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) through false consultancy claims and traced to Wasp Networks Limited and Thebe Wellness Services.
Properties recovered from the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison- Madueke, from 2015 to date are 76 housing units and two parcels of land In Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt valued at N4.82 billion and $41.7 million, two houses in Aso Drive and Asokoro, Abuja valued at N995 million and one mansion and twin duplex in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State valued at N602.5million. Jewelry valued at $40million were also recovered from the former petroleum minister. The sum total of the properties recovered from Diezani amounts to N40.47 billion.
In Magu's resolve to burst cyber crime syndicates, the commission in December 2018, launched 'Operation Cyber Storm' to tackle rising incidences of cyber crime, better known as 'Yahoo Yahoo' and this has to the arrest and prosecution of more than 50 suspected cyber criminals across the country.
The arrest and ongoing prosecution of a social media celebrity and internet fraudster, Ismaila Mustapha (otherwise known as Mompha) and his Lebanese accomplice, Hamza Koudeih, is a landmark achievement in the sustained fight against internet-related fraud and money laundering in the country.
Noteworthy of mention is the joint EFCC/ FBI operation, codenamed, 'Operation Rewired' across the globe aimed at tackling the menace of cybercrime that eventually led to the arrest of celebrity fraudster, Ramoni Igbalode, aka Hushpuppi.
For a man who has brought so many high flyers in society to their knees must ordinarily have admirers and enemies including people envious of his intimidating achievements and therefore, are desirous of pulling him down.
Like every human, Magu is certainly not a saint. But, the manner the entire episode of his arrest, detention and interrogation over sundry allegations in a clear indication that powerful forces opposed to his continued reign as EFCC chief executive are pulling the strings behind the scene.
To restore the confidence of Nigerians in the anti-corruption crusade, the Buhari' administration must conduct the Magu probe in an open and transparent manner devoid of any secrecy.
This would put a lie to claims that Magu is only caught in the cross fire of the intricate and intriguing power play by entrenched interests within the Buhari administration fighting to take control of the government.
The government must rethink it's entire strategy in the war against corruption and graft.
This idea of humiliating deserving citizens who give their all in the service of their fatherland would have a negative impact on those saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting the fight against corruption, when all they will get is their names and reputation being dragged in the mud.
– Jul. 17, 2020 @ 16:12 GMT |