*I returned N9.08bn Dezieni’s loot to Magu- Ex-First Bank boss
*He’s obsessed with reckless abuse of state power, EFCC prosecutor
*Says Magu completely derailed from Commission’s ethos
Witnesses testifying against the suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu yesterday continued their submissions with damning revelations before the Justice Ayo Salami led Presidential Probe Panel.
According to a highly placed source close to the Probe Panel, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Chief Godwin Obla affirmed that Magu’s incarceration has substantiated his position that the former Police Chief is obsessed with reckless abuse of state power often for personal gains.
Obla who played out his expressions in a letter sent to the Presidency through the Committee investigating recovered EFCC’s funds and assets from May 2015 to May 2020, recalled that a security report issued in December last year by the Department of State Services, DSS prompted the National Assembly’s rejection and refusal to confirm Magu as substantive Chairman of the EFCC.
According to the source, he said while it was difficult to fathom the origin of Magu’s “personal and professional animosity” towards him, the EFCC under the chairmanship of Magu became an “apparatus for the promotion of personal vendetta against persons with whom the suspended Acting Chairman has an axe to grind.”
While calling for a complete re-organisation of the EFCC Legal Department to give consideration to senior lawyers to recover assets and save costs, he commended the DSS for exhibiting uncommon courage and forthrightness in issuing its report on the nomination of Magu to head EFCC.
On the bribery allegation of N5 million labelled against him by the suspended EFCC boss, Obla said “Magu’s EFCC went on a fishing expedition, saw only one transfer of N5 million from my several bank accounts and contrived an offence of bribery against me out of nothing, a classic case of giving a dog bad name.”
He added that one of the major reasons why the EFCC is encumbered with a lot of “needless and worthless” cases was because the leadership has relegated seniority in the Legal Department.
“Of eminent importance is the finding of the DSS that Ibrahim Magu completely derailed from the ethos of the EFCC and instead resorted to the unmitigated abuse of power as ‘Acting Chairman of the EFCC’ manifested in the wrongful arrest, detention and prosecution of several persons for unsubstantiated offences, purely out of malevolence.
“As a result, it is actually unclear who runs the Legal Department. I am sure if the Head of Legal Department is confronted with a lot of the prosecutions currently ongoing, he would have no knowledge of the facts, the counsel handling it, who assigned it or the current status of such cases.
“The Department is nothing more than organized chaos and institutional damage has been done to the psyche of counsel working there. Nobody can give proper professional counsel anymore. Needless prosecutions to satisfy personal egos or to inflict punishment on perceived enemies are at a cost to the country,” the source quoted Obla to have said.
Meanwhile, a former Executive Director with First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Dauda Lawal, has appeared before the Ayo Salami Panel to give evidence against Ibrahim Magu, claiming that he returned N9.08 billion Diezani loot to the suspended acting chairman.
According to him, “in a three-week period, between May 13 and June 6, 2016, I was made to surrender to the EFCC Recovery Account at the Central Bank of Nigeria the total sum of N9.08 billion part of Diezani loot.”
Lawal is currently standing trial before a Federal High Court in Lagos for allegedly receiving $25 million out of the $153 million loot traced to the former Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
A source close to the panel said the former banker was invited as part of a probe into the investigative deficiencies of the EFCC under Magu.
He said Lawal he was asked to testify without prejudice to his ongoing corruption trial.
It was learnt that while the former banker was giving his testimony, Magu walked into the venue at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa around 12pm, three hours before he was scheduled to appear.
A top source said, “Lawal appeared before the panel to clarify some allegations he had made in the past against the EFCC some of which had been reported to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation. This was without prejudice to his ongoing corruption trial.
Lawal, however, repeated the allegations he made against the EFCC in a counter-affidavit he filed before Justice Muslim Hassan of a Federal High Court in 2017.
The EFCC had frozen Lawal’s accounts and applied for the permanent forfeiture of his funds which the ex-banker challenged.
In a counter-affidavit he deposed to which formed the basis for his invitation by the panel, Lawal said the EFCC detained him for 11 days in 2016 and promised to release him only on the condition that he return some funds.
On how he received the $25 million, Lawal said he received a call from a friend, Stanley Lawson in March 2015 to help collect the money, which he subsequently paid into an account provided for him.
“I had no idea of the origin of the said funds and only acted in the course of normal banking business,” he said.
The former banker said the EFCC allegedly compelled him to provide funds he never received.
Lawal said in the affidavit, “Having been invited and subsequently detained in Lagos for 11 consecutive days and without access to members of my immediate family, the EFCC investigators kept suggesting and insisting that there was a shortfall of $40 million which I had yet to account for.
“They were alleging that I had in fact taken $65 million as opposed to the $25 million which I stated that I had received. The EFCC investigators interrogating me made it clear that the only way that I could/would leave detention is if I made their suggested shortfall available to them.
“Because I never had this EFCC invented $40 million to give, I had to use my personal connections to source for and raise about 50 per cent of the said amount while I was in detention. I managed to borrow some of the money from the bank where I am an Executive Director and surrendered it to the EFCC through my legal counsel and was eventually released from detention on May 20, 2016.
“Consequently, in a three-week period between May 13 and June 6, 2016, I was made to surrender to the EFCC Recovery Account at the Central Bank of Nigeria the total sum of N9.08bn.”
The testimony against the embattled Magu continues today.