By Eric Elezuo
The last few days have proved decisive in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari as he battles to convince the Nigerian public of his sincerity in the fight against corruption and graft. The president has been inundated with crises from not a few ministries and agencies, which happen to be neck deep in corruption induced rot.
Setting aside the stories of most senators, who have been convicted and jailed as well as those who escaped prosecution by whiskers as a result of their connections with powers that be, Alhaji Danjuma Goje coming speedily to mind, and those that got freedom after months of incarceration because of yet to be explained reasons bordering of legality of the trial judge among others, there is the mother of all corruption cases involving the boss of the most profound anti-graft agency, Mr. Ibrahim Magu. This is one case the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) boss himself has described as a case of ‘dog chop dog’. The understanding is very obvious among Nigerians.
Earlier in the month, Nigerians woke to the news that Magu has been arrested by the Department of State services (DSS), and taken into custody. The DSS quickly denied the report. It must be noted that Magu has failed to become the EFCC chairman since he was appointed in acting capacity in 2015. He was rejected by the eight senate, who based their judgment on a damning report by the DSS. Among the reasons the senate cited for not confirming him is the DSS report which accused Magu of various forms of misconduct including living in a N40 million mansion paid for by one retired air commodore who is allegedly involved in shady deals.
The news of his arrest by the DSS, therefore, was not easily faulted.
Magu was however, invited not arrested, by the Presidential Panel headed by Justice Isa Ayo Salami of the Court of Appeal through a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) from the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID). He was intercepted on the road along Fomella Street while moving out of the Wuse II office Annex of the EFCC in Abuja.
Further revelations hinted that the anti-graft boss, who failed to make the position of chairman in five years, possibly the longest served acting chairman in any position, was haunted by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, who accused him of 22 weighty allegations, including re-looting recovered loots.
A source reportedly told Thisday that “I can authoritatively tell you that though Magu has survived previous plots to remove him, the AGF’s legal opinion remains the deadliest plot to get Magu out of the EFCC as AGF’s letter to the president contained 22 weighty allegations that require Buhari’s decision on whether or not to send Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation or replace him.
With denials and counter denials from all quarters, it was later confirmed that Magu was in custody being grilled by the Police at the instance of the Presidency. He spent a whopping 10 days in detention during which he made statements that depicts the rot in the administration of Buhari.
Some of the 22 allegations are as follows:
- 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
- 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
- Alleged issuance of investigative activities to some media prejudicial to some cases.
In addition, he was alleged to have purchased a property in Dubai, United Arab Emirate using a pastor as a conduit and laundered over N500 billion through a bureau-de-change in Kaduna.
While Magu’s interaction was ongoing, two events took place that put paid to his EFCC career: Mohammed Umar was appointed as his replacement while twelve directors of the EFCC were suspended, lending credence to the fact that more can of worms were unearthed. Unconfirmed report also suggested that the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, benefitted N4 billion from the so called Magu ‘re-loot’.
In a twist of fate, the smell of another rot was oozing out of the Justice Ministry, where Malami was accused of ‘illegally’ approving the auctioning of the sea vessels holding crude oil and diesel, an offence capable of landing him in jail for at least five years. Malami admitted to approving the sale of oil assets seized by the EFCC, but said the sale followed due process. However, revelations have it that most of the directors of EFCC affected by the suspension were allegedly involved in investigating Malami but the office of the AGF linked the exercise to the probe of Ibrahim Magu. Stakeholders continue to wonder what the Honorable Minister is hiding.
But as if it is a season of revelation of rots, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) sprouted to the front even as the Magu and Malami saga fetter. In the tag team showdown, there was the former Acting Managing Director, Mrs Joy Nunieh against the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Godswill Akpabio, with both accusing each other of maximum stealing of the commission’s funds.
Nunieh’s replacement, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, has not fared any better as he is engrossed in the misappropriation of N40 billion. Events however, took a drastic turn when Prof Pondei and his team walked out on the legislators probing the alleged irregular expenditure in the commission. Pondei accused the chairman of House of Representative committee on NDDC, Olubumi Tunji-Ojo (APC-Ondo) of corruption, and was not comfortable having him chair the committee.
In his words, “We in the NDDC are not comfortable with the Chairman of this committee, presiding over the matter. He is an interested party and we do not believe that the NDDC can have justice because he cannot sit on his own case.”
“We have no issue of appearing, we appeared before the Senate ad hoc committee, and as long as he remains, we will not make any presentation,” he said. Consequently, the lawmakers issued a warrant for his arrest. His outburst paints a corrupt image of some members of the legislature.
Pondei had shocked the senate committee earlier when he admitted that the commission spent N1.5 billion for staff as ‘COVID-19 relief funds’ despite paying them salaries.
“We used it to take care of ourselves. We are NDDC, we need to take care of ourselves too,” Pondei boldly said.
The Senate had on May 5 set up a seven-man ad-hoc committee to investigate the “financial recklessness” of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the commission.
The lawmakers said, within the last three months, the commission has spent over N40 billion of the commission’s fund “without recourse to established processes of funds disbursement which has opened up further suspicion among stakeholders of the Niger Delta Region.”
In the report detailing the financial recklessness, chairman of the committee, Olubunmi Adetunmbi, said “N10 million was paid to one person, N7 million to two people, N5 million to three people, 148 people took N3 million each, 157 people got N1.5 million each, 497 people got N1 million each and 464 people were paid N600,000 each.” He added that another N475 million was given to the police to purchase face masks and hand sanitisers. among others.
The avalanche of recurring issues of graft in the open has caused Buhari to issue a caveat via his official handle @MBuhari, promising to get to the root of the problems bedevilling the development of the Niger Delta region.
“I am determined to get to the root of the problem undermining the development of the Niger Delta, in spite of the enormous national resources dedicated to this annually. This administration remains committed to bringing rapid, even and sustainable development to the region,” the tweet read.
He called on investigating agencies and audit firms working with the National Assembly Committees to act “with urgency and a sense of purpose” and keep him informed on their actions and progress.