by Linda Ikeji
lusegun Adeniyi, chairman of THISDAY editorial board has narrated how the harassment of two allies of President Muhammadu Buhari without his knowledge, led to the suspension and detention of Ibrahim Magu as the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The former spokesman to late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua said Buhari learnt about Magu’s actions, only after they had been carried out. Adeniyi also disclosed that Former Defence Minister, Lt General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (rtd) recent visit to the villa was borne out of rage as Magu had blocked his purchase of an aircraft.
Adeniyi says he also gathered that the suspended acting chairman of the anti-graft agency also ordered the raid of the residence of Abdulsalami Abubakar, a former head of state.
He wrote in his weekly THISDAY column on Thursday July 9;
Former Defence Minister, Lt General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (rtd) was recently at the villa to see President Muhammadu Buhari. It was a visit borne out of rage. A billionaire oil tycoon, Danjuma had paid for the purchase of an aircraft. His cheque bounced! The order to withhold payment, he was told by his banker, came from Magu! From what I gathered, it took some time before the president could convince Danjuma that he knew nothing about what was clearly power mongering by a reckless public official. A few weeks before that incident, the Minna residence of former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar was raided by EFCC operatives who “turned the house upside down”. The president also got to know only after the deed had been done.
While neither Danjuma nor Abdulsalami is above the law, power should never be used to harass and ridicule people, whether high or low. And even where there are justifications, for citizens at that level, these actions should certainly not occur without the president’s knowledge. Besides, a man who would take on the high and mighty in a society like ours, including members of the president’s immediate family, must also live above suspicion.”
Magu was also accused of relooting some items recovered from looters. Adeniyi added;
In the past five years, Magu has at different times made claims about the hundreds of billions of Naira recovered from ‘treasury looters’. But subsequent auctions for recovered assets did not follow due process, resulting in choice properties being handed out to suspected cronies. Since Abuja is a city where residents know the dirty secrets of people in power (including who is sleeping with whose spouse), the president was being inundated with petitions that Magu is not above board in his dealings.
Apparently determined to get to the root of these allegations, the president on 22 November 2017 inaugurated a three-member committee to audit all assets recovered by agencies of the federal government from 29th May 2015. Headed by Mr Olufemi Lijadu, who later became the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman, the two other members are Mr. Mohammed Nami, the current Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) chairman and Mrs. Gloria Bibigha, a respected accountant in the office of the Auditor General of the Federation who is regarded as a specialist in forensic auditing. “It has become obvious that fundamental gaps still exist in ensuring that the recovered assets are accounted for, and managed in an accurate, transparent and logical manner,” the President told the committee.
It is noteworthy that exactly six days after the committee began its session, the then Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki publicly accused anti-graft agencies of looting the recovered proceeds. Saraki spoke at the opening session of a “Strategic Retreat on Tracking the Progress of Anti-Corruption Bills”, on why the National Assembly had become “strident about the opacity shrouding the management of recovered funds, which in many cases get re-looted by the agencies that investigated and recovered them”. An ad hoc committee of the Senate, according to Saraki, had “discovered that many properties recovered from a fugitive from the law have not been accounted for by the investigating agency”.
Meanwhile, the Lijadu committee was working quietly in the background, obtaining information from government agencies and seeking clarification for inconsistencies. Although they had been given four months to complete their assignment, the trio of Lijadu, Nami and Bibigha ended up spending ten months, rummaging through thousands of pages of documents in dozens of files from the various agencies. But even before they submitted their report, the then Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, had already noticed discrepancies from the figures that were emerging from their work.
She sent Magu a memo seeking clarification on the recoveries “based on the information available to the Office of Accountant-General of the Federation.” According to Adeosun, the attention of her ministry had been drawn to “recovery figures in media reports by the EFCC that do not reconcile with the records of the ministry”, asking Magu to “clarify where these cash recoveries have been deposited and provide accompanying evidence.”
There is no record to show that Magu responded to Adeosun’s memo. But on 11th September 2018, the president formally received the report of the Lijadu committee that raised several unanswered questions about the recovered fixed and movable assets. The Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, SAN, later addressed the media on salient issues in the report. Although he gave no breakdown, Malami said: “In summary, the recovered funds by the three-man committee is N769 billion cash within the period under review”. What Malami did not disclose that day was that there were discrepancies in the EFCC figures and the disposal of some properties were done without transparency.
From that moment, Magu’s fate was sealed. To compound his problem, the president had also received reports from a number of foreign agencies on the “lack of professionalism” by Magu who was said to be in the habit of leaking to the media information that compromises investigations. At home, critical agencies including the Directorate of State Security (DSS) and National Intelligence Agency (NIA) view Magu as a danger to the system because, as a top presidency official told me, “he doesn’t mind bringing down institutions to get at individuals, sometimes just for media adulation”. But in the mutual game of alliances and counter-alliances (often laced with mutual blackmail) used by members of this administration to checkmate one another, Magu remained in office. But despite concerted efforts by members of his own camp to have his name sent to the Senate for confirmation, the president refused to budge.
Meanwhile, the AGF to whose office Magu should ordinarily report (but doesn’t, out of sheer arrogance of power) bided his time before writing a damning memo to the president regarding the report on recovered assets. At the same time, Magu was basking in a false sense of security because he had just recently received approval from the president to auction more than 400 expensive cars forfeited by internet fraudsters. So secure in the fantasy that his name would soon be sent to the Senate for confirmation was Magu that he had begun planning how to dispose through public auction exotic vehicles including Ferraris, Range Rovers and Mercedes. That was before he was upended on Monday afternoon.
I am not a fan of Magu and I stated the reason why in the past, especially given what my late principal, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua told me about him. I also do not like the cult of personality he has created in EFCC. The ‘Magu Boys’ who throw themselves around within the commission act as though above the law, despite allegations of unwholesome practices against them. And I have in the past five years rebuffed all entreaties from his media minders to meet with him. But the current tragedy raises higher questions about the integrity of institutions and how the cold calculations of factions of the ruling elite can cause rupture within the polity. Besides, I detest the idea of humiliating people out of office, especially by those who themselves are no paragon of virtue. Whatever might have been the excesses of Magu, his current ordeal appears more the culmination of a sinister plot to exact vengeance than any attempt to promote the public good.