*He’s not above the law, says Presidency
* Fmr EFCC boss must be treated fairly — SERAP
*Why he must be sacked – Coalition of lawyers
By Chesa Chesa and Myke Uzendu
Following suspense on the status of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and discordant tunes emanating from a Presidential Panel probing allegations of sleaze leveled against him, the Federal Government has announced reasons for his suspension.
Magu was arrested on Monday in Abuja and dragged to the Department of State Security (DSS), then to the force headquarters, and later to the Presidential Villa, where he was said to have faced the probe panel, and finally detained overnight at the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID).
Similar high-profile removal and arrest of Tafa Balogun, a former Inspector-General of Police (IGP), was on March 29, 2005, carried out on the instruction of a subordinate police officer, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Nuhu Ribadu, who was then Chairman of the EFCC, after the approval of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, based on graft allegations levelled against Balogun.
At press time, Magu is facing the panel probing him for alleged gross misconduct and misappropriation of funds.
The panel is headed by Justice Ayo Salami and they are sitting at the Conference Centre at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Unimpeccable Presidency sources have declared that the removal and probe was clear affirmation that nobody is above the law or scrutiny in the country.
According to multiple sources, “the holder of the office of the chairman of the EFCC must be above suspicion, and this probe would give Magu the opportunity to clear himself.
“The panel investigating allegations against Acting EFCC Chairman had been sitting for some weeks now.
“In consonance with the principle of fairness and justice, it was needful that the acting chairman should be given opportunity to respond to the allegations, which are weighty in nature.
“Under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, nobody is above scrutiny. The investigation is to reinforce transparency and accountability, rather than vitiate it.
“Accountability for our actions or inactions is inalienable part of democracy. In such elevated position as that of EFCC chairman, the holder of the position must be above suspicion.
“There’s no prejudgment; absolutely none. The Buhari administration can be counted on to uphold fairness and justice at all times.”
Other sources alluded to alleged re-purchase of cheques and bank drafts deposited by suspects being investigated by the EFCC since when Magu was the Director of Operations at the commission.
Such sources claim that: “Magu and other EFCC bosses have built a cartel of corrupt officers who turn allegations against high-profile businessmen and politically-exposed persons to a bazaar of some sort.
“There are petitions on how the EFCC have been denying the country of billions of dollars in revenue from oil companies accused of tax evasion, diversion or other forms of financial crimes.
“EFCC divert attention from such and also coerce other revenue-generating agencies halt investigations that could have fetched huge revenue to the country, even as we are being dragged down by foreign and domestic debt”.
*He must be treated fairly — SERAP
However, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has expressed “concerns that the arbitrary arrest of Magu, may be ‘the outcome of power-play’ at the highest levels of government.”
A member of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption (PACC), Prof. Femi Odekunle, had reportedly claimed that Magu’s arrest may be due to “an outcome of power-play by power blocs in the corridors of power that is not really interested in, or in support of, President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight.”
SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare said: “The statement seems to suggest that Magu’s arrest may be politically motivated and aim to undermine the independence and freedom of action of the EFCC”.
The statement, urges the government to grant Magu “his constitutionally and internationally guaranteed fair trial rights”, adding that “Magu must either be charged with a recognizable criminal offence, or released immediately and allowed to do his job without fear of reprisals”.
It added that: “Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party guarantee to everyone the right to liberty and security of person, and that no one should be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.
“Similarly, Section 35(1) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) guarantees to every person the right to personal liberty and that no person should be arbitrarily deprived of such liberty.”
*Why Magu must be sacked – coalition of lawyers
On the other hand, a group of human rights lawyers, the Coalition of Public Interests Lawyers and Advocates, has insisted that President Buhari must relieve Magu of his job.
The group made the call in a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday by its Convener, Pelumi Olajengbesi.
Olajengbesi stated that Magu’s continued stay in the country’s anti-corruption office while facting corruption allegations made mockery of President Buhari’s war against corruption.
According to him, Magu’s lack of transparency in the management of recovered loots is part of the reason behind the petition to the president by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami.
He said: “It is imperative for the public to recall that acting on an indicting report from the DSS on corrupt practices, the 8th National Assembly refused to confirm his nomination as substantive EFCC chairman.
“Most public opinion at that time called for replacement of Magu; a legislative and public outcry that was curiously ignored by Mr. President, and regrettably today, Magu’s leadership has continued to be blighted by corruption allegations.
“There have been little done on his part to dispute the allegations or more importantly, the accusation of his numerous own-private properties in Dubai and the mismanagement of public fund.
“Magu’s continuance in office might mean that the president is concerned about raising strong men than strong institutions, and might also mean that he is ready to sacrifice the integrity of a critical institution to reward loyalty to him.
“Also, any further or delayed action as per the removal of Magu will be lending legitimacy to his position as acting chairman about five years and on.
“This is a procedural abnormality in civil service not contemplated by our laws or public service culture.”
Olajengbesi said there were competent people that could pilot the affairs of EFCC without fear or favour, and bring fresh atmosphere to its leadership.
“The Magu-led EFCC is a luxury that can no longer be tolerated as it is a disservice to the country’s anti-corruption war, and encourages ‘strongman politics’ as against solid institutional systems,” he said.