There were indications yesterday that President Muhammadu Buhari will insist on Mr. Ibrahim Magu becoming the substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after the Senate has twice turned down his confirmation.
The President appears set to overrule the Department of State Services (DSS) whose report had said that Magu was not fit for the seat.
The President, it was learnt, will soon make his position on the embattled acting EFCC boss known.
A Presidency source who spoke with our correspondent in confidence yesterday said the President has a soft spot for Magu.
The source, an insider in power politics in the Presidency, said: “Personally, the President prefers Magu and he is standing by him. As at this week, the position of the President has not changed.
“There is no doubt that the President’s advisers have recommended the retention of Magu and he is likely to heed their advice.
“As I am talking to you, there is no fresh security report or any updated information which can make Buhari to turn against Magu. So, he is likely to stand by his letter to the Senate.
“At personal level, Buhari has confided in his key aides that he wants Magu in charge of EFCC.”
Responding to a question, the Presidency source said “the President will soon make his official position known on this matter. He has received a letter from the Senate, and he is studying why Magu was rejected by the chamber.”
Another source said the President might “overrule the DSS, but he will address the crisis of confidence among his strategic aides.”
At press time, it was learnt that the DSS was adamant in its opposition to Magu.
Although a memo on Magu from the DSS to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) leaked to the press yesterday, there were indications that it was part of the plot to stop Buhari from re-nominating the Acting EFCC chair.
In the memo, which Magu had responded to, the DSS attached 12 documents against Magu.
The memo, signed by Folashade Bello for the DG of DSS, said in part: “ I am directed to forward the attached documents in respect of the report earlier dispatched by this Service to the Presidency on the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim MAGU.
“They are marked annexures A to L and are highlighted as follows:
Annexure ‘A’ – This is a copy of minutes of the 20th Plenary Meeting of the Police Service Commission on 20th December, 2010, chaired by Mr. Parry B. O. OSAYANDE (DIG/Rtd) who was then Chairman of the Commission. The minutes indicate that MAGU was indicted after a disciplinary process and awarded Severe Reprimand for “Action prejudicial to state security, Withholding of EFFC files) Sabotage, Unauthorised removal of EFCC files and Acts unbecoming of a Police Officer.” It is worthy to note here that Severe Reprimand is the second highest punishment to be given to an erring officer, other than compulsory retirement or dismissal from Service.
Annexure ‘B’- This is a copy of the confessional statement of Air Commodore Mohammmed UMAR (Rtd), a suspect hitherto detained and currently being prosecuted by the Service. The statement affirms his ownership of Valcour S.A Nigeria Limited, a company awarded the contract of securing and furnishing an official residence for Ibrahim MAGU by the FCTA. Investigation revealed that this was facilitated after MAGU was earlier shown the residence by one Uche ALEKA, a close business associate of UMAR, who was introduced to MAGU by the former.
Annexure ‘C’- This is a forged Memo which supposedly originated from the office of the Vice President and addressed to Mr. President. This was recovered from the private residence of UMAR during a search operation by this Service. The document is a request for approval to commence further investigation into financial activities of Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources) Ibe KACHIKWU. Also attached to the Memo are two (2) genuine investigation reports .by EFCC on the Honourable Minister, dated 24th March, 2016 & 13th April, 2016 and duly signed by MAGU. One of the two (2) attachments indicates that the original investigation report earlier was purportedly received in the VP’s office by one Folabo KAY.
Annexure ‘D’- This is a letter from the Office of the Vice President affirming that Annexure “C” is a forged document.
Annexure ‘E’- This is a copy of Progress report with reference number SH/ COS/ 24/ A/7277 dated 25th May) 2016 on NNPC/ NLG Brass Investment Accounts in Nigerian Commercial Banks from Chief of Staff to Mr. President, Abba KYARI to the Acting EFCC Chairman. The letter is an official/classified document of’ the EFCC which was duly received by the Commission as indicated by the stamp on the document. However, it was recovered at UMAR’s residence.
Annexure “F’ – These are photocopies of Managers’ cheques of First Bank PLC and
Zenith Bank PLC) issued in favour of EFCC Recovery Funds Account on 13/05/2016 and 16/05/2016,n respectively. These are all sensitive official documents of the EFCC found in UMAR’s residence during the search.
Annexure ‘G’- A classified letter from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) to the EFCC Chairman titled Re: Request to Freeze Accounts Messers Bebey: Merchant Ltd and 20 others, dated 7th March, 2016. This document was also duly received by EFCC but found in Commodore UMAR’s house during the search.
Annexure ‘H’- A document which emanated from Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and addressed to the EFCC Chairman on 6th May, 2016 with the subject, Re: Stop Debit Order on all NNPC Accounts and Subsidiaries- A case for Joint Venture & NNPC Pension Funds Accounts. The document was recovered at UMAR’s residence.
Annexure ‘I’- NNPC Letter GED/ F&A/08.26 dated 5th May, 2016 addressed to the EFCC Chairman and titled Re: Stop Debit Order on all NNPC Accounts and Subsidiaries. This was also discovered during the search of
Annexure ‘J’- This is a copy of NNPC correspondence with reference number GED/F&A/08.26 dated May 5th, 2016 and titled Re: Stop Debit Order on all NNPC Accounts and Subsidiaries- Transfer of FCT Balances to NNPC’s TSA Accounts, addressed to the EFCC Chairman. The document was found in UMAR’s residence.
xi. Annexure “‘K’ – A copy of an NNPC letter with reference number GED/F&A/08.26 dated May 5th, 2016 and titled Re: Stop Debit on all NNPC Accounts and Subsidiaries- Critical Accounts for immediate operations to the EFCC Chairman. The document was also recovered during the search of UMAR)s house.
xii. Annexure ‘L’ Copy of Confessional Statement by UMAR to the Service stating that his trip to Maiduguri for condolence visit to Ibrahim MAGU, sequel to the loss of a close relative, was made on behalf of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Arms Purchase. Cross examination of the Chairman of the Committee, AVM John ODE (Rtd), revealed that the committee did not send any of its members on such an assignment. The visit of UMAR to MAGU is therefore assessed as an expression of their close sinister relationship at the detriment of National Security interests.
In his response to a query by the AGF based on the DSS memo, Magu had, however, faulted all the allegations and the documents.
He said Commodore Mohammed Umar (rtd) never served as a front for him.
He said: “Sir, it is important to situate my relationship with Commodore Mohammed Umar (rtd), in proper perspective.
“Our paths crossed when we became members of the Presidential Committee on the investigation on arms procurement. He was instrumental in getting some of the information that helped the committee to make significant breakthrough in its assignment.
“Beyond that, the relationship between Umar and myself is one of professional acquaintance, devoid of issues of conflict of interest. So, it comes to me with shock, the imputation by the DSS that we have a “mutually beneficial relationship”.
“This appears suggestive that Mohammed and I were involved in activities that could be said to be untoward. I certainly have no knowledge of such activities.
“The claim that EFCC documents, including EFCC letters addressed to the Vice President and being investigation reports on the activities of Emmanuel Kachikwu and his brother Dumebi Kachikwu, were found in his home during a search by the DSS came to me as a surprise.
“ If that is correct, he should be made to disclose how he came by such documents. I never discussed my official duties with him let alone give him documents pertaining to investigations being conducted by the Commission.
“Interestingly, Mohammed was detained for several months by the DSS. In all those months, did he claim that I mandated him to commit any crime or that I was an accomplice to any crime? If there is any such claim, I will wholeheartedly like to be confronted with the allegation.
“It is interesting to note that when Mohammed was eventually charged to court, the charges against him were money laundering and illegal possession of firearms, and nothing related to my purported “shady” relationship with him.”
Magu explained the circumstances in which EFCC files were found in his house after the removal of the pioneer Chairman of EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
He said: “It is true that my residence was searched on the orders of Mrs. Farida Waziri, shortly after she succeeded Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as Chairman of the EFCC and some documents relating to cases under investigation were found in my house. At the time of the raid, I was yet to formally hand over to my successor, Umar Sanda, as head of the Economic Governance Unit.
“My schedule at the time warranted that I worked round the clock and it was impossible to conclude all assignments without working at home.
“The documents found in my house were actually found in my office bag where I kept documents relating to investigations. I was in the process of handing over and it would be wrong to suggest that I willfully kept the Commission’s files at home.
“Nevertheless, the incident was thoroughly investigated by the police as I was placed on suspension without pay for 20 months. But in the end, I was reprimanded, recalled and promoted to Assistant Commissioner of Police.
“It is important, sir, to draw your attention to the fact that some of us that worked closely with Ribadu were victimised after his exit.
“And my ordeal was orchestrated as punishment for being the chief investigative officer for most of the high profile cases involving politically exposed persons some of whom became very influential in government at the time.
On the N39.8 million apartment rented for him, Magu said it was false that the house was also furnished for N43 million.
He added: “I live in the official residence of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). This accommodation, contrary to the report of the DSS, is not my private home, neither was it rented and furnished for me by Commodore Umar Mohammed (rtd).
“It was rented and furnished by the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory through the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council, under the safe house scheme.
“It is also false that the house was rented for N20 million per annum and furnished for N43 million. The entire cost for both two-year rent and the furnishing of the house is N39.628 million.
“Details of the transaction are contained in the contract award letter and payment schedule which are attached to this letter.”
He described the two times he flew in a private jet with Air Commodore Mohammed Umar, who was investigated by the DSS, as harmless gestures.
He said: “Honourable Minister, the claim that I have a penchant for expensive air travels in a private jet belonging to Commodore Mohammed is baseless. The two times I can recall traveling in Commodore Umar’s aircraft, were on a trip from Kano to Abuja, and Abuja to Maiduguri.
“In the first instance, I had gone to Kano on an official assignment with two of my directors, and Mohammed who was on his way back to Abuja offered us a ride in his jet. The second occasion was when I was going to see my sick mother in Maiduguri.
“These, for me, were harmless gestures as we were both members of the presidential investigative committee on arms procurement. At the time I had no knowledge that he was under investigation for any alleged crimes.
“Claims that I flew in Mohammed’s jet to Maiduguri in the company of the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo, is false.
“I have never flown in a private aircraft with any managing director of any bank let alone one that was under investigation by my agency. I have no personal relationship whatsoever with him.”
Meanwhile, there were indications that some Senators opposed to Magu have initiated a plot to “suspend a former Senate Leader, Sen. Ali Ndume for allegedly backing Magu and raising some observations against the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on FCT, Senator Dino Melaye.
The observations made the Senate to ask its Ethics and Privileges Committee to investigate how the chamber came about a N300 million SUV and the row over Melaye’s graduation from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
A reliable source said: “The anti-Magu Senators are accusing Ndume of acting a script to destabilise the Senate and they are plotting his suspension from the chamber.
“Since the rejection of Magu, there has been cold war between those pro-EFCC chairman and those opposed. Ndume is regarded as the arrowhead of Magu’s sympathisers who are trying to fight the Senate.
“Once the Ethics and Privileges Committee submits its report, Ndume may be suspended for “subversive activities against the Senate.
“But some Senators have asked their colleagues to ‘ignore Ndume’s nuisance’ since his candidate was rejected.”