By Jonathan Nda-Isaiah and Ahuraka Isah, Abuja
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry investigating the suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to disengage the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) from the anti-graft agency.
According to the panel headed by former president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, an exit plan for the ouster of the police and other personnel within two years from now should be considered.
The panel, while submitting its report to President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa yesterday, noted that this will address the issue of non-promotion of core staff of the EFCC for over nine years.
The panel also asked President Buhari to sack Magu, a commissioner of police, as the acting chairman of the EFCC.
Accordingly, the panel asked the president to appoint a new EFCC chairman in an interim position for two years
It recommended that the president should also look outside the police force in appointing the next chairman, especially a core-operative within the commission.
While presenting the panel’s final report, chairman of the panel, Justice Salami said, “Your Excellency, permit me to say that four successive chairmen of the EFCC from inception have been drawn from the police. Therefore, in appointing a new chairman of EFCC, consideration should be given to candidates from other law enforcement or security agencies and qualified core staff of EFCC as provided in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment Act 2004).
“It is also important to point out that at the moment, 970 policemen (114 drivers, 641 mobile policemen and 215 operations), are on secondment in the EFCC. Therefore, an exit plan for the disengagement of the police and other personnel within two years from now should be considered. This will address the issue of no promotion of core staff for over nine years.
“Your Excellency, our thinking here is that whoever you are appointing other than a core EFCC staff, should be in transitional capacity of two years, during which period an arrangement would be made for appointment of any of the core staff who has been recommended by National Crime Agency, UK and other international law enforcement for their professionalism.”
Justice Salami further said that Magu, and 113 witnesses appeared and testified before the commission of inquiry, adding that 46 petitions and memoranda were presented by individuals and organisations with complaints against the suspended Acting Chairman, EFCC or both.
Justice Salami disclosed that the commission also embarked on a nationwide physical verification of recovered forfeited assets, comprising real estates, automobiles, vessels and non-cash assets.
He commended the president for the initiative to dispose of all forfeited assets “because of the poor condition of the assets we saw during our physical verification nationwide.”
The panel had in its interim report, recommended Magu’s sack and prosecution over allegations of corruption and abuse of office.
Speaking after receiving the report, President Buhari said he desired to make Nigeria a country that has no tolerance for corruption, but one where the menace is vigorously battled.
“Corruption is present in all countries. Some Governments treat it with levity. Some fight it all the time. I want Nigeria to be counted among those countries that do not tolerate but fight corruption”, he stated.
In order to protect Nigeria’s political and economic systems, and the continuous existence of the Nigerian State from the serious threat of corruption, the president called on all stakeholders, and indeed every Nigerian to own the fight against corruption at their respective levels.
Pledging that the fight against corruption is one that must be fought without fear or favour, President Buhari thanked members of the Commission for their dedication and commitment to the fight against corruption.
The president said, “The sad reality confronting us as a people is that there is corruption almost everywhere; at many levels of government, and nearly every stratum of our society. Mindful of the threat that corruption poses to us as a nation, this administration has specifically focused on the fight against corruption.
“As a government, and in furtherance of our anti-corruption programme, we have since inception engaged in many reforms in removing corruption including but not limited to the enforcement of Treasury Single Account (TSA), strict implementation of the Bank Verification Number Policy and signing unto the Open Government Partnership. A lot of efforts have gone into building and development of our anti-corruption institutions.
“We have so far kept faith with our promise and shall remain committed until Nigeria triumphs over the evil of corruption, attains a prosperous economic status and surmounts her security challenges.
“However, the stark reality of widespread corruption becomes poignant when allegations of corruption touches on the leadership of an institution set up by law to coordinate and enforce all economic and financial crimes. It is an abomination that strikes at the root, and undermines the Government’s anti-corruption programme.
“It was in response to the serious allegations against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that I set up a Panel headed by the Honourable Justice Isa Ayo Salami, retired President of the Court of Appeal, via an Instrument dated 3rd July 2020 pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry Act (Cap T21, LFN, 2004).
“We recognize that there are more grounds to cover in the war against corruption, and we are prepared to go out to possess those lands by cutting off any stream that nourishes the seed of corruption and supports its growth.
“Let it be known that in the fight against corruption, no one is too big to tackle, as no individual is bigger than the Nigerian State!”
Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation (AGF), had petitioned the president, leveling allegations of corruption and insubordination against Magu.
Magu was subsequently arrested, detained and suspended as the acting chairman of the anti-graft agency.
Disengaging Police From EFCC Is Anti-law Enforcement, Says Suspended Acting Anti-graft Agency’s Chairman
But the suspended chairman of the EFCC disagreed with the Salami panel on the disengagement of the police from the commission, saying doing so would be anti- law enforcement.
In a statement signed by his lawyer, Wahab Shittu (SAN), Magu also accused the Salami panel of making recommendations outside the mandate given to it.
He said, “We observed that Hon Justice Isa Salami, in a televised speech at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, made certain recommendations outside the mandate of the panel and proceeded to make a case for the headship of the commission outside the Police Force.
“We wish to state that all over the world, the police are central to law enforcement. The EFCC is a law enforcement agency, separating the police from the EFCC is anti- law enforcement.
“How come that the Salami Panel did not say anything on alleged mismanagement, recovered assets, insubordination and abuse of office against Mr Magu?
“We are further alarmed that Salami could in the public glare at the seat of power, attacked the police as an institution and recommended the exit of police officers from the EFCC within two years.
“We wish to ask at this juncture- what happened to the huge amount of money expended by the Federal Government on these police officers in terms of investigations, money laundering and specialized economic Crimes”.
Insisting that Magu will be absolved of any wrongdoing, Shittu said, “We wish to state that in view of today’s submission of the much awaited report of Justice Isa Salami – led Judicial Commission of Enquiry to President Muhammadu Buhari, we wish to state with high sense of responsibility that the suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu, will be vindicated at the end of the day.
“Without preempting President Muhammadu Buhari on his decision over the report, we urge the President to make inform decision and do the needful on the matter.
“We also wish to state with high sense of responsibility that Magu remains incorruptible and his stellar achievements in EFCC is unprecedented in the history of the commission.
“We are further urging the general public to take note of these salient points: Mr Magu did not collect any bribe from anybody as we insist that all allegations of diversion of recovered assets leveled against our client were baseless and unfounded. Please note that Magu is innocent of all the allegations leveled against him. The forfeited assets and the proposed sale is the main reason they are pushing for his removal from EFCC.
“Powerful government officials are not comfortable with Mr Magu’s incorruptible style of leadership. They prefer somebody they can manipulate. There is no doubt that Mr Magu must have stepped on powerful toes in the course of doing his job. Salami Panel was mandated to sit for 45 days but ended up sitting for about 6 months”.