Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari, set up a panel of inquiry to investigate former EFCC acting chairman Ibrahim Magu and the activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,EFCC.
However, the interim report of the Justice Ayo Salami-led panel submitted to the president last week, has Revealed the rot at the anti- graft agency. Writes our Judiciary Editor, KENNETH ATAVTI.
For many Nigerians, they were thinking that after 45 days, the panel investigating the suspended acting chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu will wind up its assignment, but the panel is still unearthing damaging revelations from Federal Government witnesses.
President Muhammadu Buhari had set up a judicial commission of inquiry into several allegations levelled against Magu by his supervising minister, Abubakar Malami, leading to a holistic probe of Magu and the finances of the anti-graft agency from 2015 to 2020.
The panel headed by the former president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami has six others as members.
They are DIG Anthony Ogbizi Michael (NPF) as deputy chairman; Muhammad Abubakar Babadoko, Federal Ministry of Justice; Hassan Yahaya Abdullahi (DSS); Muhammad Shamsuddeen (OAGF) Douglas Egweme (NFIU), while Kazeem Attitebi (South-west) serves as secretary.
The presidential authority derivable from the Tribunals of Inquiry Act (Cap T21, LFN, 2004) gave the panel five key terms of reference and 45 days to conduct its inquiry and turn in its report to the Presidency.
It was to examine, the extent of mismanagement/diversion of recovered assets, abuse of office and non-compliance with official directive, audit the accounts of EFCC as a legal entity, investigate allegation of personal enrichment from the assets recovered and above all authorised the panel to make appropriate recommendations concerning each person, authority and organisation investigated by it and what judicial or administrative measures should be taken to recover all misappropriated funds and assets.
According to the president, “I hereby direct the judicial commission to submit its interim report to me not later than 45 days from the date of its first public sitting or within such extended period as may be authorised by me in writing.
The president’s action not only expanded the committee’s mandate, it also elevated it from a mere investigative committee to a judicial commission of inquiry, which is more of a quasi court that can pass a binding verdict that can only be upturned by a high court.
In June, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN had petitioned President Buhari seeking the removal of Magu as acting head of the country’s anti-corruption agency.
In a memorandum to the president, Malami anchored his recommendation on several grounds including diversion of recovered loot to insubordination and misconduct.
Magu has however continued to maintain that he is innocent of all the allegations against him, insisting that his accusers should show proof that he collected bribes in order to enrich himself.
According to Magu, “The allegation is most unfortunate, spiteful, malicious and intended to cruelly destroy my hard-earned reputation. Contrary to the allegations contained in Paragraph (A-5X) of the petition, I know as a fact and believe that not a dime of the recovered funds was fraudulently converted to me.
I challenge my accuser to produce evidence of such fraudulent conversion.
“I have never abused the office I am occupying. I have never personally enriched myself whilst performing my official function. I challenge my accusers to produce any evidence of this purported personal enrichment.”
He therefore described the auditing of the commission’s account as flawed saying it falls short of accepted standard.
“It is the international best practice in audit to have an entry and exit meeting. During the exit meeting, parties are expected to thoroughly review and reconcile documents/data to enable the auditee to present necessary explanations to clear any grey area.”
However, a former executive director of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Mr Dauda Lawal who Magu mentioned in his defence before the panel hit back at the suspended acting EFCC chairman saying in the bid to extricate himself of corruption, allegedly Magu concocted lies against him without providing any supporting proof. Magu however told the panel that Lawal adopted many delay tactics for almost a year.
In his letter addressed to the Salami-led probe panel, Lawal said Magu’s response was laced with barefaced distortion of relevant facts and an attempt to mislead the panel.
In the detailed response, Lawal accused Magu of concocting a tale to suit his mischief without providing any supporting proof.
“Respectfully, the charges against me in the amended charge are neither supported by the evidence in the Proof of Evidence nor is it logical to charge me in the circumstances.
“EFCC’s continued indifference, neglect and refusal to charge (and or re-institute) a criminal allegation against the real persons who received and had possession of the alleged monies moved from NNPC shows the mischief of the EFCC and further attests to Mr Magu’s unprofessional and deliberate vindictiveness against persons like me who refuse to cooperate with him and his fronts.”
According to the panel, Magu received over N1 billion as bribes from former Plateau state governor, Jonah Jang, and through his launderers one Pastor Emmanuel Omale and a bureau de change operator, Ahmed Ibrahim Shanonoi as well as some individuals and companies.
It said, “Senator Jonah David Jang transferred the sum of thirty million seven hundred and forty-four thousand naira (N30,744,000.00) into the UBA Account (1018895662) of Ahmed Ibrahim Shanono Investment Ltd on July 18 2016. Senator Jang, a former governor of Plateau is being investigated by EFCC for allegedly looting six billion three hundred million naira (N6.3bn) belonging to the state government.
“A careful assessment of some of Shanono’s over 150 bank accounts and that of Omale and his Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministry Church revealed that various sums of money in both local and foreign currencies (dollar) were deposited by persons this commission uncovered as being investigated by the EFCC.”
The identities of eight suspects that allegedly paid bribes to Magu through Pastor Omale and Shanono were also revealed.
According to the Salami report, Shanono allegedly received N570, 698,500 from China Zhonghao Nigeria Limited through the UBA bank account (1018895662) of his company.
Further proof said, “The transfers were in about 43 tranches between 5th December 2014 and 23rd June 2015.
“The company is being investigated by the EFCC for abandoning a road contract awarded it by Zamfara State Government between 2012 and 2019,” it states in part.
Also, an aide to a former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Nathaniel Uyo, was alleged to have paid the sum of N10 million into an Ecobank account (3912014141) of Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministry on June 9, 2018.
The former NDDC chief was being investigated by the EFCC over an alleged attempt to bribe members of the Akwa Ibom State APC Appeal Committee in Abuja while Omale also allegedly received N10 million from a Bureau de Change operator, 7×7 BDC Limited, through his Church’s Ecobank account.
The BDC is being investigated by the EFCC for receiving over one billion six hundred million-naira (N1,600,000,000.00), part of the twenty-seven billion naira (N27,000,000,000.00) Insurance Premiums said to have been looted during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
It was also gathered that a N200 million bribe was paid to Magu through Shanono by a former chairman of the Niger State Pilgrims’ Agency, Liman Kantigi, who was being investigated by the EFCC for allegedly misappropriating funds during his tenure in the agency.
The report said Kantigi, through his company, Sadiq Air Travels, allegedly transferred N200 million into the Access Bank Account of Shanono’s company after the EFCC had traced N4 billion to two Guaranty Trust Bank accounts linked to Kantigi.
“A government contractor, A.G Ferrero & CO, had also allegedly paid over N213 million to another company belonging to Shanono, Newtech Aluminium and Roofing Services Ltd.
“A.G Ferrero & Co was a contractor to Jigawa State Government during the tenure of Sule Lamido between 2007 and 2013. Lamido was investigated by the EFCC during the period,” the report added.
Also, a businessman had played a tape recording before the Justice Ayo Salami-led Presidential Probe Panel on how some operatives of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), popularly known as ‘Magu boys’ used a lawyer to demand bribery of N75mn to be paid into different accounts.
The businessman, Mr. Donald Wokoma of Damijay Integrated Services Limited, tendered an affidavit of fact in support of a petition he wrote against ‘Magu Boys’ for extortion before unfreezing his account.
The EFCC had in 2018 refused to obey the order of Justice O.C. Agbaza to lift the restrictions on the account of Damijay Services Limited, after the firm had filed a suit for fundamental rights enforcement at the FCT High Court.
An Abuja-based lawyer, Barrister Victor Giwa who was allegedly involved in the deal, the Economic confidential gathered did not deny his voice in the 27 minutes tape recording that was played before the panel where he mentioned names of suspended Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu among other operatives over the bribery allegation.
Barrister Giwa was the former lawyer to the company on the case with the EFCC.
Meanwhile, in the affidavit sighted by our correspondent, the business man alleged that on or around 20th of May, 2020 Barrister Victor Giwa asked him to sign three blank cheques (valued at 25 million Naira each), which he would hand over to the people in EFCC to enable them unfreeze the account.
The petitioner had revealed that the said “Magu boys”, had sent three different bank accounts namely Cikin Gida Nigeria Limited with account number: 1771773211, at Polaris Bank; Black and Black Global Concept Limited with account number: 0259011841 with Gtbank and Amina Kigbu with account number: 2176716071 with Zenith Bank for the payment of the alleged bribe.
When the cheques were not honoured by the bank, the Magu boys requested that the businessman should execute an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (on the company’s official letterhead) in favour of the three bank accounts and later demanded for 40% of the money in the company’s account (which aggregates to One Hundred Million Naira) which the businessman outrightly rejected.
After rejecting their last demand, the businessman said that: “On the 9th of July, 2020, Mr. Mohammed Goje of EFCC called me to come to their office the next day being 10th July, 2020 (Friday). I honoured the invitation and stayed for long hours only for me to be informed by him (around 5: 09pm after I had left) that I have been charged to Court by sms and that I was to appear before the F.C.T. High Cout sitting at Lugbe by 8:30 am on Monday, 13th July, 2020 to be with a copy of the charge and arraigned simultaneously.
“He warned me via the sms to ‘endeavour to come to avoid unnecessary embarrassment.’ On the 13th of July, 2020 while at the Lugbe High Court, I was served with an Amended Charge dated and filed on the 19th day of June, 2020 (exactly 2 days after I outrightly rejected their fresh demand of 40% of the total sum of the money in the company’s account).
“The said amended charge was signed by one ABBA MUHAMMED of Legal and Prosecution Department of the EFCC with Supreme Court No: (SCN046977). Upon going through the documents served on me in Court, I discovered to my chagrin that there is an earlier charge dated the 3rd day of January, 2019 and filed on the 4th day of January, 2019 signed by one AISHA A. T. HABIB from the Legal & Prosecution Department of the EFCC with Supreme Court No: SCN014045. This particular charged of 4th January, 2019 (which is over a year and five months) was never served on me.”
It went on to add that: “After presenting the petition to the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and specifically on Monday, the 6th day of August, 2020, I called Barrister VICTOR GIWA and informed him that a copy of the correspondences he has been exchanging with the operatives of the EFCC would be needed at the office of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation in support of the petition.
“In response to my request as per the preceding paragraph, Barrister VICTOR GIWA told me over the phone that he has been receiving calls from agents of the EFCC and that in particular one AISHA of the EFCC was crying and pleading with him not to expose them else her career would be ruined.
“He (Barrister VICTOR GIWA) further said that some other EFCC officials, which he has been corresponding with, called him to query him on why he allowed me to write the petition to the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and demanded that the said petition (Exhibit Dami 1) be withdrawn else there would be consequences after the storm currently buffeting the Commission.
“Barrister VICTOR GIWA further told me that those EFCC officials reminded him that he is a young Lawyer and that he has a lot before him and that he should not forget that what is happening at the EFCC at the time was a tussle between the Honourable AGF and the suspended Acting Chairman of the EFCC and boasted that things would soon return to normal at the EFCC. They thereafter asked him to call me so we could have a meeting where the matter would be effectively resolved.
“On 7th August, 2020, I instructed Barrister Johnmary Jideobi to call Barrister Victor and remind him of the request I made on him the previous night. Barrister VICTOR GIWA told Barrister Johnmary Jideobi that he was not going to make the correspondences yet available to me because he had those discussions with the EFCC people in confidence and that we should not join the fray of what was/is happening because no one knows tomorrow. That he would not want to offend the people who gave him the information in confidence since he should be honourable enough not to do things that would offend them. Barrister VICTOR GIWA later told Barrister Johnmary Jideobi that he would call him back and hung up but never did that day.”
More so, a Senior of Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former prosecutor with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Chief Godwin Obla, had also, written to the Panel explaining how the suspended acting Chairman of the commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, used his power to harass and persecute his perceived enemies.
In the letter, Obla said Magu was ‘power-drunk’ and in the process destroyed the reputation of the commission.
He narrated how Magu detained him for 21 days on the allegation that he bribed a judge of Federal High Court, Justice Rita Ofili Ajumogobia, to procure the conviction of a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA), Mr. Temisan Omatseye.
He said: “It is my firm view that Ibrahim Magu’s tenure as Acting Chairman of the EFCC, almost irredeemably, cast a dark shadow on the anti-corruption fight of the present administration and significantly eroded the gains that have been made in years past.”
According to him, EFCC under Magu has become an apparatus for the promotion of personal vendetta against persons with whom the suspended acting chairman has an axe to grind.
He said his ordeal began when he demanded his fees after Magu had disengaged him from further handling of the commission’s cases.
He said: “Magu’s EFCC deliberately refused to settle my fees (which had never at any point contested my bill of professional charges) in spite of the fact that pursuant to the handover process and in response to the EFCC’s debriefing letter, I sent a letter dated February 27, 2017, titled ‘Re: Demand for Payment of Professional Fees to EFCC,’ wherein I reminded EFCC of its long-outstanding legal fees in the sum of N685,389,928.10 (six hundred and eighty-five million, three hundred and eighty-nine thousand, nine hundred and twenty-eight naira and ten kobo) and $202,460.47 (two hundred and two thousand, four hundred and sixty dollars and forty-seven cents) or its naira equivalent at the prevailing Central Bank of Nigeria exchange rate, together with interest at a prime lending rate, being professional fees for the prosecution of over 40 high-profile cases.”
Obla said he recovered over N2 billion for the commission, adding that some of the items his law firm handed over to the EFCC had not been properly accounted for.
He asked the panel to investigate how Magu compromised the pension fraud cases the prosecution of which he said had gained traction before Magu suddenly asked him to hands off the cases.
He said: “It is interesting to note that virtually nothing has occurred by way of progress in respect of almost all the matters withdrawn from our firm in 2016.
“The lackadaisical manner in which most of the matters have been handled either indicate that the matters have been compromised or constructively withdrawn or abandoned.
“Cases in point are the Office of Head of Service of the Federation pension funds fraud cases. A lot of interim orders of forfeiture were obtained by my firm covering cash in excess of N2 billion, $2,000,000.00 (two million dollars, stocks and shares, real estate, etc.
“The implication of this compromise or abandonment is that there will be no final order of forfeiture over those properties and even the cash obtained by the interim forfeiture orders already transferred to EFCC by court order may someday be liable to be returned to the suspects not because they were adjudged innocent of the charges but because of the deliberately contrived incompetence and negligence of the EFCC in seeing through the prosecutions.”
Obla urged the panel to direct the Attorney-General of the Federation to discontinue his trial because it was malicious and baseless.
He also asked that the commission be ordered to pay his outstanding fees.
He called for a complete inventory of the Office of the Head of Service pension fraud cases with specific attention to the state of the exhibits and recoveries: monies and other properties, which were seized as suspected proceeds of crime.
With the president giving the panel more powers by widening the scope of its investigations, legal experts say the final report might just be an embellishment of the interim report.