The presidency yesterday dismissed as false insinuations that the probe of suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, was a sign that the anti-corruption war of President Muhammadu Buhari was failing.
It recalled that a series of documented allegations were made against Magu, noting that following a preliminary review of the allegations leveled against the erstwhile EFCC bos and several other members of his staff, there were grounds for a detailed investigation to be conducted.
Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, in a statement he issued yesterday said this was the basis for which an investigative panel was constituted in compliance with the extant laws governing the convening of such a body to probe Magu.
He said, “As is the proper procedure, when allegations are made against the chief executive of an institution, and in this case an institution that ought to be seen as beyond reproach, the chief executive has to step down from his post and allow for a transparent and unhindered investigation.
“The EFCC does not revolve around the personality of an individual, and as such cannot be seen through the prism of any individual.
“Therefore, the suspension of Mr. Ibrahim Magu, allows the institution to continue carrying out its mandate without the cloud of investigation hanging over its head.
“The EFCC has many good, hardworking men and women who are committed to its ideal and ensuring that the wealth of our country isn’t plundered and wherein there is an act of misappropriation, such person(s) are brought to justice”.
The presidential spokesman pointed out that even at that, Magu was availed the opportunity to defend himself and answer the allegations against him.
This, the presidency noted, is how it should be, as is the fact that under the laws of Nigeria every citizen is presumed and remains innocent until proven guilty.
Shehu continued: “We must realise that the fight against corruption is not a static event, but a dynamic and ever evolving process, in which the EFCC is just one actor, and as we continue to work towards improving our democratic process so shall every institution of ours also embark on that journey of evolution.
“What is however important is that there must be accountability and transparency and our people must realise that they would be held to account. This is the building block in the fight against corruption, the establishment of the concept of accountability and the recognition of the rule of law.
“Those who see Mr. Magu’s investigation, as a signal that the fight against corruption is failing, have unfortunately missed the boat.”
Shehu further noted that there was no better indication that the fight against corruption is “real and active than the will to investigate allegations in an open and transparent manner against those who had been charged to be custodians of this very system”.
He warned that there were no sacred cows, and for those who indulge in such acts of wrongdoing, their days were also numbered.
The statement noted: “Mr. Magu was not immune – and regardless of the obvious embarrassment that potential acts of wrongdoing by him, given the office he held, may appear for the government.
“No other administration in the history of Nigeria would have moved to bring into the light and public domain such an allegation.”
Panel Report Signals More Trouble For Suspended Ag Chair
Meanwhile, new facts have emerged that Magu may be facing fresh cases of alleged re-looting of funds recovered by the Commission as well as bribery.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Magu is currently being interrogated by a presidential probe panel headed by retired Justice Ayo Salami over allegations of mismanagement and lack of transparency in managing recovered assets by the EFCC.
A final Report of the Presidential Investigation Committee on the EFCC Federal Government Recovered Assets and Finances from May, 2015, to May 2020, obtained by NAN had seriously indicted and implicated Magu on various allegations leveled against him.
The investigative committee terms of reference were to investigate, verify and review the recommendations of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets as it relates to the EFCC, with a view to ascertaining the complicity or otherwise of Magu in the mismanagement of the assets recovered by the Commission; Identify avenues through which the recovered assets were dissipated and seized, recovered, forfeited (interim and final) , managed, disposed and/or mismanaged with a view to ascertaining compliance or otherwise with extant laws, regulations, processes and procedures;review the existing procedures on the management of the seized, recovered and forfeited assets (interim and final) and proffer standard operational procedures for the management of seized, recovered and forfeited assets;determine whether assets recovered during his tenure, whether locally in Nigeria or abroad, were being kept safely in a manner as to preserve their original value and determine whether all the assets could be properly accounted for by the suspended acting chairman; to confirm if any of the assets has been diverted to the benefit of the suspended acting chairman, his family, relations, friends or favoured staff; to recover any such diverted assets and return back to the EFCC or appropriate government agency.
The committee was also to investigate and report on corruption and money laundering allegations involving Magu and bureau de change operators, as well as some of his associates; as per the intelligence reports and petitions.
It was to audit the assets and finances of the EFCC as a legal entity from 2015-2020, with a view to establishing compliance or otherwise with procurement procedures of the EFCC in line with the provisions of the Procurement Act.
However, new facts have emerged on how interest rates accruing from N550 billion recovered by the EFCC in the period under review were allegedly re-looted.
Magu is now expected to disclose the whereabouts of the missing interest funds running into millions of naira.
NAN also observed that the Final Report of Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets (PCARA) that covered the period of May 29, 2015, to Nov. 22, 2018, had also confirmed the concerns of the public about contradictory recovery figures emanating from Magu.
“It is quite disturbing that conflicting figures are being circulated in the public space by EFCC as the amount of recovered funds
“For foreign currency recoveries, EFCC reported a total naira equivalent of N46,038,882,509.87, while the naira equivalent of the foreign currency lodgments were N37,533,764,195.66, representing a shortfall of N8,505,118,314.21.
“These inconsistencies cast a serious doubt on the accuracy of figures submitted by the EFCC. It is the committee’s view that the EFCC cannot be said to have fully accounted for cash recoveries made by it.
“While EFCC reported total naira recoveries of N504,154,184,744.04, the actual bank lodgments were N543,511,792,863.47. These discrepancies mean that EFCC’s actual lodgment exceeded its reported recoveries by N39,357,608,119.43.
“It must be pointed out that the discrepancy of more than N39 billion does not include interest accrued in this account since it was opened.
“It therefore casts serious doubt on the credibility of the figures and means that a substantial amount of money has not been accurately accounted for.
“Failure to report on the interest on actual lodgments clearly establishes that the interest element of over N550 billion has been re-looted relating to the period under review.
“This is an apparent case of manipulation of data in a very brazen and unprofessional manner and this has greatly eroded the public confidence in the anti-corruption efforts,’’ the report stated in part.
NAN also reports that the PCARA revealed how the investigative reports on EFCC’s activities by the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) exposed acts of corruption and money laundering against some EFCC officials, including Magu.
“The NFIU reports established that the acting chairman has been using different sources to siphon money from the EFCC, and in some cases collecting bribes from suspects.
“The report has shown that a particular bureau de change, owned by Ahmed Ibrahim Shanono, linked to the acting chairman based in Kaduna has more than 158 accounts and has been receiving huge sums of funds.
NAN reports that the Salami probe panel is expected to continue sitting on Monday, while Magu’s lawyer, Mr Oluwatosin Ojaomo, had on Friday applied for an administrative bail for his client, who is facing corruption and other charges before the panel. (NAN)