The heat on the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, a Commissioner of Police, increased wednesday as his interrogation by the Justice Ayo Salami-led presidential panel entered the third day, with the Police high command insisting that it is against its service rule for him to be under investigation and still function in office.
The Police, THISDAY learnt last night, has, therefore, directed the most senior police officer in the commission, Mr. Mohammed Umar, a deputy commissioner of police, and the commission’s director in charge of operations to stand in, pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation of Magu.
As Magu continued to tell the panel his own side of the story wednesday, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, denied an allegation by “Jackson Ude that he collected N4billion from the EFCC boss”.
A statement by his media aide, Mr. Laolu Akande, said the allegation was false and had been referred to the appropriate authority for investigation.
A reliable security source told THISDAY last night that the Police high command had decided to subject Magu, a serving commissioner in the force, to its service rules, which does not allow an officer who is under investigation to function in the office.
“Magu is essentially a policeman and he is subject to police rules. So, the police are holding him and insisting that he must stand down,” the highly placed security source said.
However, THISDAY gathered that Magu might be suffering from his perceived arrogance and stubbornness, and having failed to give respect to his seniors in the security services, which had brought him on a collision course with very senior officers of the force, including his superiors as well as the Department of State Security (DSS), which wrote the damaging report that did him in at the Eight Senate that refused to confirm his nomination as chairman of the commission.
“Magu certainly allowed his position to get into his head. Many senior officers of the force have issues with him and feel this is an opportunity to get even with him,” he said.
THISDAY also learnt that there had been no love lost between him and the DSS.
“Apart from his arrest and investigation of a former director-general of DSS, Mr. Ita Ekpenyong, Magu also clashed with the secret service over the acquisition of 14, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi Lagos, as the commission’s annex office, which used to be owned by the DSS,” the security source said.
Part of Magu’s problem, explained another source, is the lack of clarity in his submissions to the press and the authorities on the commission’s recoveries.
One of the allegations against the anti-graft boss was that whereas he claimed that the commission had recovered N980 billion worth of assets while what is in the account is less than N100 billion.
But Magu had laboured unsuccessfully to explain that most of the assets and monies recovered were under litigation and could not be posted to the account of the federal government until the litigations are concluded.
Meanwhile, his interrogation continued yesterday for the third day.
However, as it was the situation on Monday and Tuesday, journalists were again barred from accessing the venue of the meeting as a security official at the gate of the venue turned them back.
THISDAY learnt yesterday that Magu, who had been in police custody since Monday night was brought before the panel at 11.44 am by the FCID.
He was later joined by his lawyer at the investigation panel sitting.
Osinbajo Denies Collecting N4 billion from Magu
In a related development, Osinbajo last night denied an allegation by one Jackson Ude that Magu gave him N4 billion from alleged looted funds.
The allegation against the vice-president said to have been published by Ude online claimed that Magu stole N39 billion and gave N4 billion of the sum to Osinbajo.
But a statement by the vice-president’s spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, last night, described the allegation as sheer falsehood and a mere concoction by Ude with the intention of smearing the image of the vice-president.
He said Ude is known for fabricating fake news, and in accordance with his stock in trade, concocted the story to create the impression that the allegation is one of the revelations before the presidential panel probing Magu’s alleged corrupt practices.
According to Akande, Ude is noted for criminal defamation of character and has been referred to law enforcement agencies to investigate it and promptly bring it to move against it as the case may be.
He stated: “The attention of the Office of the Vice President has been drawn to a series of tweets and online publications by [an online medium] today 8th July 2020, credited to the same person, one Jackson Ude.
“In essence, Ude’s story is that ’embattled former Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, allegedly embezzled over N39 billion and gave Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (sic) N4 billion, after the VP gave instructions to him to release some of the recovered loots…’
“The same Jackson Ude has also been circulating a video on YouTube with a female commentator, peddling the same lies.
“With all emphasis at our disposal, let it be firmly stated that these are totally false and baseless fabrications purporting to reflect goings-on at the probe panel investigating Mr. Ibrahim Magu. They are indeed completely absurd in every respect.
“Sadly, such mindless, vicious and reckless publications have now become the preferred tool of unscrupulous and reprobate elements in our society who are procured with monetary inducement to peddle blatant falsehood, tarnish the image of upright public officials and mislead unsuspecting Nigerians.
“Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, will of course not be distracted by these obvious campaigns of lies and calumny. The online publications, being criminally defamatory in nature, have been referred to the relevant law enforcement agencies for investigation and necessary action.”
Magu’s Case, Moral Disaster for Buhari, Says Falana
A human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, wednesday said the arrest and suspension of Magu was a moral disaster for the anti-corruption drive of Buhari.
Falana, while speaking on ‘Your View,’ a programme on TVC, said it was expected that the person prosecuting others for corruption should not be enmeshed in the same crime.
He said the president has the right to order the investigation in the wake of a petition against the anti-graft boss alleging corrupt infractions.
“There is no doubt that this is a moral disaster for the anti-corruption crusade of the regime but we also have to appreciate the fact that the head of EFCC must be free from corruption.
“And I believe that Mr. Magu will be given the opportunity to address the allegations. If he is found culpable the law will take its course, if it is the other way, the law will take its turn,” he stated.
The human rights lawyer said all the chairmen of the EFCC had left office under controversial circumstances, noting that some were accused of corruption while some were removed on the basis of insubordination.
Falana, however, said that Magu’s case was different because he is being tried by the regime that appointed him into office.
He refused to comment on the substance of the allegations levelled against the EFCC boss, stating that it would be a breach of Magu’s right to a fair hearing because the case is under investigation.
Asked if he would defend Magu if approached, Falana said: “I have not been asked but I believe he is entitled to a lawyer.”
But giving reasons why it would be difficult for him to act as Magu’s lawyer, he said: “I have never taken a case against the EFCC and I have never prosecuted a case for the EFCC because I also want to maintain my own independence so that I can join issues with the EFCC if I believe that it is going outside the provisions of the law.”