Fresh lobby has begun in the presidency for who takes over from embattled acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
Magu was suspended on Tuesday after being grilled for about seven hours by a presidential panel chaired by former president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami.
The panel was constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari to probe sundry allegations against Magu contained in a petition by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the Department of State Service (DSS).
He had spent the night in a police cell at the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) Headquarters in Abuja.
LEADERSHIP gathered yesterday that qualified senior officers, including deputy commissioners, commissioners, and assistant inspectors-general of police, are among front line officers angling for the anti-graft agency’s top job.
While no name has been settled for, it was however learnt that there are proposals from top presidency officials and close associates of the president urging him to look beyond the police in making the nomination for Magu’s replacement.
A top presidency official told our correspondent that President Buhari is yet to consider the names suggested to him as he was more focused on the outcome of the ongoing investigation by the presidential panel than Magu’s replacement.
The source who did not want his name in print said, “Police officers who believe they are qualified for the job have started speaking to top people in government to get the lucrative job. But the president is note keen about who takes over from Magu for now.
“What is uppermost in his mind at the moment is the investigation carried out by the panel because Mr President is so particular about the sanctity of the anti-graft agency. He believes that you can’t use corruption to fight corruption”.
Another top presidency source said the probe of Magu was an affirmation that nobody under the present administration is above scrutiny.
The source who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter noted that anyone occupying a position of the acting chairman of the EFCC should not be suspected of any fraudulent activity.
The source explained that the interrogation of the anti-graft boss was to give him the opportunity to clear himself of weighty allegations.
The source added that the investigation of the embattled EFCC boss confirms the commitment of the Buhari administration to transparency and accountability.
He assured that the administration will not prejudge anyone as it could be counted on to uphold justice and fairness.
He noted: “The panel investigating allegations against the suspended acting 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’s administration, nobody
is above scrutiny. I 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 prejudgment; absolutely none. The Buhari administration can be counted on to uphold fairness and justice at all times.”
Magu’s travail started recently when the Attorney-general of the federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, accused him of gross infractions in one of his memos.
Magu was also accused of travelling to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates without the authorisation of the president during the COVID-19 lockdown, and when he was queried, he said he went for an investigation.
Also, the DSS in a 2016 report had accused Magu of living in N40m mansion paid for by one Umar Mohammed, a retired Air Commodore who is allegedly involved in shady deals.
Magu was also accused of occupying a residence rented for N40m at N20m per annum.
It was alleged that the accommodation was not paid (for) from the commission’s finances, but by one Umar Mohammed, a questionable businessman who was subsequently arrested by the secret service.
The DSS report further alleged: “For the furnishing of the residence, Magu enlisted the Federal Capital Development Authority to award a contract to Africa Energy, a company owned by the same Mohammed, to furnish the residence at the cost of N43m.
“Investigations show that the acting EFCC chairman regularly embarked on official and private trips through a private jet owned by Mohammed.
“In one of such trips, Magu flew to Maiduguri alongside Mohammed with a bank MD who was being investigated by the EFCC over complicity in funds allegedly stolen by the immediate past petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
“Furthermore, the EFCC boss has so far maintained a high-profile lifestyle. This is exemplified by his preference for first-class air travels. On 24 June, 2016, he flew Emirate airlines first-class to Saudi Arabia to perform lesser hajj at the cost of N2.9m. This is in spite of Mr President’s directive to all public servants to fly economy class.
“Magu has fostered a beneficial relationship with Mohammed who by his confession approaches clients for possible exploitation, favours and associated returns”.
Part of the report also stated that in December 2010, the Police Service Commission (PSC) found Magu guilty of actions prejudicial to state security, including withholding of EFCC files, sabotage, unauthorised removal of EFCC files and acts unbecoming of a police officer, and awarded him severe reprimand as punishment.
Some of the allegations against Magu by Malami include alleged discrepancies in the reconciliation records of the EFCC and the Federal Ministry of Finance on recovered funds, declaration of N539billion as recovered funds instead of N504b earlier claimed, insubordination to the office of the AGF by not seeking his approval on some decisions, not providing enough evidence for the extradition of ex-Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Others are alleged late action on the investigation of Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) leading to legal dispute, not respecting court order to unfreeze a N7billion judgment in favour of a former executive director of First Bank, alleged delay in acting on two
vessels seized by Nigerian Navy leading to the loss of crude, alleged favouring of some investigators called Magu’s boys, reporting some judges to their presiding officers without deferring to the AGF, alleged sales of seized assets to cronies, associates and friends and
alleged issuance of investigative activities to some media prejudicial to some cases.
Meanwhile, it was gathered last night a crack team of operatives of the State Security Services (SSS) and riot policemen stormed the residence of the suspended EFCC boss.
Unconfirmed reports noted that Magu security operatives were detailed to conduct searches at Mr Magu’s private home in Karu and his official residence in the Maitama District.
The security operatives were said to have arrived Magu’s house in four vehicles and spent over an hour searching the house. LEADERSHIP