Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
A damning report by the Department of State Security (DSS) exposing the alleged double life, sabotage and corruption of the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has been cited as the reasons by the Senate for its refusal to confirm him as the substantive chairman of the anti-graft agency.
But this was after the Senate had dangled a juicy carrot before Magu for more than a week, before it finally drew the curtain on his fate yesterday, when it rejected his confirmation.
Instead, the Senate asked President Muhammadu Buhari to send the name of a fresh nominee for its confirmation, but gave the nod for the screening of other nominees of the commission by its anti-graft committee.
Magu’s rejection was announced at a press briefing in the National Assembly by the Senate spokesman, Sabi Abdullahi, after a two-hour closed-door meeting.
Abdullahi cited an unfavourable security report as the reason for Magu’s rejection.
“This is an official statement from the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It’s the statement on the confirmation of the nomination of the chairman and members of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria wishes to inform the general public that based on the security report available to the Senate, the Senate cannot proceed and confirm the nomination of Ibrahim Magu Mustapha as the Executive Chairman of the EFCC.
“Accordingly, the Senate hereby rejects the said nomination and has returned the said nomination to Mr. President for further action,” Abudullahi said.
Abdullahi, however, tried to avoid questions from journalists on why it had taken the Senate this long to arrive at the decision and why it also took the parliament almost two hours before making its decision public.
But following the insistence by journalists that the Senate must explain its decision, Sabi said: “There’s no confusion here. We have said it was based on a security report. Please, all of us public officers go for security screening, everybody!
“And we are saying that based on a security report, we cannot proceed and confirm him and we are rejecting his nomination and returning it to Mr. President for further action, that’s just the statement. It’s as simple as that.
“That’s exactly what the Senate has said and I don’t have any other explanation more than this.”
The security report, which was sighted thursday and confirmed THISDAY’s exclusive report last June that the acting EFCC chairman was being investigated for his close ties to an indicted retired Nigerian Air Force officer, Commodore Umar Mohammed, was written by the DSS and addressed to the Senate on October 3, 2016.
In the 15-paragraph letter, DSS said its investigation conducted on Magu showed that in August 2008, following a search at his residence during the tenure of Mrs. Farida Waziri as the EFCC chairman, some sensitive documents that were not supposed to be in his possession were found.
The report also said the discovery resulted in his detention and subsequent redeployment from EFCC back to the Nigeria Police Force after which he was suspended from the Force.
The report further said that in December 2010, the Police Service Commission (PSC) found Magu guilty of “acting prejudicially to state security, withholding files, sabotage, unauthorised removal of EFCC files and acts unbecoming of a police officer and awarded him severe reprimand and punishment”.
The report revealed that upon the appointment of the immediate past chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, he made the return of Magu, who had earlier worked with him when he was the EFCC Director of Operations his top priority, a situation it said eventually culminated in his return to EFCC.
It added that Magu’s return to EFCC, at the instance of Lamorde, was an attestation to his culpability in allegations of corrupt practices.
It further disclosed that Magu lives a flamboyant life to the extent of currently occupying a rented apartment of N40 million, at N20 million per annum, which it said was not paid for by the EFCC but by Commodore Umar Mohammed, whom it described as a questionable businessman who was once arrested by the DSS.
Mohammed was said to have lavishly furnished Magu’s residence at the cost of N43 million.
He was also accused of proceeding on official and private trips in a private carrier, Easy Jet owned by Mohammed.
On one of such trips, he was said to have flown to Maiduguri along with Mohammed, and the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, who was being investigated by the EFCC over complicity in funds allegedly lodged with the bank by the former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
As a confirmation of his flamboyant lifestyle, DSS accused Magu of cultivating the habit of flying first class against the directive of the president.
For example, he was said to have once flown first class to Saudi Arabia to perform the lesser hajj at the cost of N2.9 million.
The report also alleged that Magu lived a double life, portraying himself as an anti-graft czar, on the one hand, and living a secret life, on the other hand.
For instance, he was said to have divulged official secrets to Mohammed in view of the benefits he was deriving from him.
The DSS also said it discovered a number of official documents Magu had made available to Mohammed when it searched the latter’s house.
One of such letters was said to have been forged from the Office of the Vice-President containing the report of a fictitious investigation by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to the president requesting for approval to commence a probe into a matter claimed to have involved the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and his brother, Dumebi.
The report further stated that Magu was fond of covering his shortcomings using police cronies to execute operations, coupled with discoveries that such cronies had acquired a lot of landed property for themselves.
In its conclusion, it stated: “In the light of the foregoing, Magu failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.”
However, THISDAY learnt yesterday that whereas the security report ought to have come from the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd.), it was written by the DSS on the order of the Director-General of DSS, Mr. Lawal Daura.
Prior to the release of the report by the Senate, legal luminary and civil rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) and some lawyers under the auspices of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADL), earlier thursday had demanded that the security report be made public, failing which the Senate must confirm Magu as the EFCC chairman.
After the Senate’s closed-door meeting, Senate President Bukola Saraki announced that the appointments of other nominees of the EFCC sent along with Magu’s name, namely: Nasule Moses, Lawan Maman, Garandaji Imam Naji and Adeleke Adebayo Rafiu, remained intact and consequently referred them to the Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes for screening.
The beginning of the end of Magu’s aspiration began on December 7, when Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the day’s plenary announced that the Senate would screen him the next day along with other nominees for the board of the anti-graft agency.
But when Magu arrived the following day for confirmation, the Senate turned him back, saying some of its members were absent and had requested for a postponement of the screening to enable them participate in the exercise.
Consequently, the Senate asked Magu to return for the screening thursday.
However, indications that the Senate was still not favourably disposed to Magu’s confirmation became glaring yesterday, when immediately after the commencement of the plenary, the senators dissolved into an executive session after Magu had arrived at the National Assembly complex.
While the closed-door session was ongoing, questions arose as to why the Senate had decided to go into a closed-door session over the matter of Magu’s screening and confirmation that had been with it for six months.
It was learnt that the executive session was stormy, as there were altercations between strong opponents of Magu among the senators and the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, who reportedly made a case for Magu’s screening because they both hail from the same area.
Eventually, towards the end of the session, it was learnt that Magu was invited into the meeting where the bombshell was eventually broken to him.
THISDAY learnt yesterday that the Senate was more or less given a free hand to reject Magu, following a remark made by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Senate leadership, which had asked for his opinion about Magu’s screening and the security report it had received from Department of State Services (DSS).
The president was said to have told the senators to go and do what was right in their eyes, a statement the senators were said to have interpreted to mean that he had no due interest in Magu’s confirmation if it was not well deserved.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo had on June 17, 2016, while serving as the acting president, sent Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation.
But Saraki did not read the letter until July 14. And after reading the letter, the Senate was silent on Magu’s confirmation until December 7, when Ekweremadu announced his screening, which never was.
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday also expressed anger over the comment credited to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, that the Senate was talking rubbish after it called for his resignation and prosecution over his alleged mismanagement of the funds allocated to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North-east.
In response, the Senate, which acknowledged that the Office of the SGF was an important position that should be occupied only by responsible persons, referred the matter to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions for further investigation.
It also swore-in three the new senators – George Sekibo, Magus Abe and Osinachukwu Ideozu – that had emerged victorious in the Rivers State rerun elections held last weekend.
At the end of thursday’s plenary, the Senate adjourned to January 10, 2017, in observance of the Christmas and New Year holidays.