A mild tussle over who takes charge at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) played out at the commission yesterday following the suspension of Ibrahim Magu as acting chairman on Tuesday.
LEADERSHIP gathered that effort by loyalists of the secretary of the commission, Olanipekun Olukoyede, to facilitate his assumption of leadership at commission was thwarted by a memo “from above.”
Olukoyede as secretary of the EFCC is the next in command to Magu in the order of hierarchy at the commission.
But the memo, it was gathered, inadvertently, empowered the director of operations, Mohammed Umar, to take over the leadership of the commission in acting capacity pending the appointment of a substantive chairman by President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to an EFCC source, Umar’s position was confirmed in an internal memo circulated to departments of the commission yesterday.
The source explained that though the secretary of the commission is the most senior in the commission, the director of operations is “actually the next in line to act when the chairman is suspended or removed pending the appointment of a new chairman.”
Magu was suspended following ongoing investigation by a presidential panel headed by Ayo Salami, retired president of the Court of Appeal.
Suspensions are usually imposed on chief executives under probe to avoid interference with investigations.
Barely hours after his suspension, security operatives searched Magu’s residence in Karu, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), late Tuesday while his personal belongings were moved out of his official residence in the Maitama area of the nation’s capital.
A family source said the security operatives who carried out the operation found nothing incriminating in the house even though they left with some documents.
Magu has been spending nights at area 10 Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) of the police in Abuja, while the panel carry out the probe.
Magu Must Face Prosecution – PDP
The main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday said that having reviewed the reported circumstances surrounding the investigation of the suspended acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, he has to face prosecution.
The party, in a statement said Magu’s indictment reinforces its position that the much-hyped war against corruption by the EFCC, under his watch, has been a huge scam by corrupt individuals to cover the plundering of public resources, harass political opponents, intimidate and extort money from innocent Nigerians.
The statement signed by PDP’s national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, observed that the revelations of diversion of recovered funds and fraudulent sale of assets seized by the EFCC among other sleazes, as detailed in the memo by the Attorney General and Minister of justice, as well as the report of the Department of State Services (DSS) on Magu’s activities, have further exposed the racket that the fight against corruption had become under the All Progressives Congress (APC) government.
The party said, “The development has also exposed why corruption has worsened under the Buhari administration, as documented by credible international organization, including the Transparency International (TI).
“It is a big embarrassment to our nation, that the head of anti-corruption agency in an administration led by the African Union (AU) anti-corruption champion and which prides itself on zero tolerance for corruption is being dragged in allegation of looting recovered fund and other barefaced frauds.
“Now that the racket has been exposed, the onus lies on President Buhari to clean his Augean stable by not sweeping the matter under the carpet or seeking to provide soft landing for the indicted EFCC boss and shield him from prosecution”.
‘Corrupt Politicians Must Not Celebrate Magu’s Ordeal Yet’
Meanwhile, a coalition of civil society, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) has urged corrupt politicians not to celebrate Magu’s ordeal yet.
The coalition, in a statement signed by its official, Mr Sina Odugbemi, said forces bent on putting a stop to the anti-corruption campaign are amalgamating forces to politicise and stampede the process of impartial investigation of the suspended EFCC acting chairman.
The group said the arrows being fired against Magu were the latest orchestrated designs to return Nigeria to the status quo and ensure corruption and impunity return to reclaim their inglorious seat at the apex of Nigerian political economy.
The group also accused the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami of building a network of people opposed to accountability and transparency in governance.
The statement read in part: “it stirs the conscience of Nigerians that an investigative panel meant to interrogate Mr Magu had same day detained him and the same day purveyors of fake news and public persecution of Magu bandied his removal as the EFCC acting chairman. The entire drama is nothing but a prepaid plan to defeat the anti-corruption campaign.”
The CSNAC, a coalition of 150 local, national and regional anti-corruption groups spread across Nigeria and West Africa Sub region, said it was not opposed to investigation of Magu for possible cases of corruption but that the way and manner the forces behind the plot pursued their desire was a clear indication that Magu was a victim of political power game between reactionary and progressive forces.
It stated: “It is suspicious that the purpose of the allegations, stemming from the Attorney General’s memo against Magu was deliberately orchestrated to remove Magu from office and not to call for impartial investigation. It was nothing but a mockery of the rule of law.
“Similar experience was meted out to the pioneer chairman of the Commission, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, when agents of corrupt ruling elites took over government in 2017. Mr Magu was dragged to the panel without adequate notice. He was not given the time and opportunity to prepare his defence. He was not given any chance to call witnesses.
“He hurriedly called his lawyer who was also not adequately briefed before being brought to the panel in a state of confusion and anxiety. The removal of Magu may be the end of any genuine efforts to fight corruption in Nigeria”.
FG Bows To Pressure, Reverses Reopening Of Schools
The federal government yesterday caved in and reversed its earlier decision to reopen schools for graduating students sit for their exams.
It announced that no school will participate in the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations scheduled to hold between August 5 and September 5.
Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, disclosed this to State House correspondents after the virtual federal executive council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Presidential Villa.
Minister of state for Education , Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, had a few days ago announced the reopening of schools for graduating students.
But Adamu said yesterday that Nigerian schools would not reopen any time soon until it is safe to do so due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He therefore declared that final year students preparing for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) would not be allowed to return to school contrary to the earlier announcement.
Adamu stated that the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) could not determine the resumption date of schools for Nigeria, saying he would prefer that Nigerian students lose an academic year than to expose them to danger.
The minister stated: “I don’t know whether you journalists are misquoting the minister of state for Education or maybe quoting what WAEC said and made it into a story. Schools under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Education will not be opened on August 4 or anytime soon.
“Our schools will only open when we believe it’s safe for our children and that is when the situation is right, not when the incidence of the infection is going up in the nation. I just want to make it clear.
“We will not open soon for examination or for any reason, unless it is safe for our children, even WAEC. WAEC will not determine for us what we do. Schools will remain closed”.
According to the minister, the federal government held a stakeholders meeting to assess the situation and receive proper advice on the reopening of schools. But before the meeting was concluded, WAEC announced its preferred dates for the SSCE examination.
He said, “Yesterday we called on stakeholders who will tell us the situation and the way it should be done for it to be safe. While the meeting was ongoing, WAEC announced that they are starting examinations. Let’s see who they are going to start with.”
He, however, appealed to state governors who had ordered resumption of school activities in their various states to rescind such order, so as to ensure the safety of pupils.
Adamu continued: “I will also like to use this position to ask those states that have already announced (reopening), I appeal to them. I think it is not safe. I feel responsible for all the children, not just those who are in federal government controlled schools. Please let’s save our children from this.
“One infected child is enough to infect a whole class. When they close from class they go into the dormitory, this is not the right time to open schools. I appeal to the states that have already announced to reconsider it”.
When pointedly asked if Nigeria would be the only country to miss out in the WAEC examinations, the minister said, “Me as minister of Education, if I’m given the chance, I don’t mind Nigeria losing a whole school year than exposing our children to danger. WAEC is a parastatal of the Ministry of Education, they cannot determine for the government what it does” .
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