Governors have joined the battle to stop Ibrahim Magu from becoming Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman.
Some of them are ganging up with some senators who are opposed to Magu’s renomination, The Nation learnt yesterday.
The governors are said to be displeased that the EFCC is investigating the disbursement and management of N388.304billion of the N522.74 billion released to 35 states as refunds of deductions on the London-Paris Club loans.
Also, it was learnt that Magu’s fate was mentioned at the talks between President Muhammadu Buhari and National Assembly leaders, led by Senate President Bukola Saraki, in London on Wednesday.
According to sources, most of the governors are opposed to the EFCC’s ongoing probe of the N388.304billion London-Paris Club loan refunds.
Although the EFCC on Monday explained that neither the President of the Senate nor any governor had been indicted, the anti-graft agency’s action formed a major issue at the meeting of the governors on Wednesday in Abuja.
It was learnt that the governors were angry that the probe might “embarrass them”, especially those about to complete their second term in office.
Some of the governors protested to a Northeast governor who has been seeking the support of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) for Magu, a source said.
The points of the disagreement between the governors and the EFCC are:
- under-declaration of refunds;
- alleged diversion of some of the loan refunds;
- curious payment of service charge to some consultants; and
- alleged tracing of some of the cash to personal accounts of some governors.
A source in the NGF, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, said: “Most of the governors felt bad about the EFCC’s tracking and probing of how they have managed the London- Paris Club refunds.
“At the NGF session, they said it should not be the business of EFCC to look into how they shared and managed loan refunds when they have Houses of Assembly and their citizens to account to.
“There were concerns at the meeting, no doubt. Some of the governors also complained about the way they are being treated by the EFCC. In fact, one of them was upset that his account was frozen by the anti-graft agency.
“Some of the governors said there was no basis for supporting the renomination of the Acting EFCC chairman. Tempers flared. Some governors were visibly worried.
“Others took exception to their investigation by the anti-graft agency. From the mood at the meeting, we have not heard the last word on the acting chairman of the EFCC from the governors.”
Another source at the meeting, which extended to Thursday, said: “The governors sought to know what transpired between the EFCC and the Director-General of NGF, Mr. Asishana Okauru, when he was invited over the London-Paris Club loan refunds.”
Okauru, who was once a director of the Financial Intelligence Unit of EFCC, explained that the anti-graft agency only wanted clarifications, which were made available to them.
Okauru reportedly urged the governors not to see the EFCC’s action as personal because the agency might have had legitimate reasons to do what it did.
“But some of the governors were not swayed by Okaru’s persuasion. They were bitter and unhappy with EFCC,” another source said.
Responding to a question, the source however added: “It was based on the brilliant submission of DG Okauru that the Chairman of NGF, Governor Abdulaziz Yari, told reporters that the Forum would await the outcome of the ongoing investigation of the EFCC.”
To a security source, “the gang-up is not new”.
Some of the governors were said to have played a key role in the initial rejection of Magu by the Senate, he said.
They include, according to him, “those who have cases to answer, whose godfathers have always wanted a waiver commitment from Magu who has insisted that he will do his job without fear or favour.
“The facts are there; those involved know themselves. Many interests have beclouded the confirmation process,” he said, pleading not to be identified because he is not allowed to speak to the media.
The EFCC has said that there should be no basis for anxiety over its investigation of the refunds.
A statement by its Head of Media and Publicity, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said: “The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been drawn to a report captioned, ‘Nigerian State Governors, Senate President Saraki pocketed billions of naira from Paris Loan Refund’, which appeared in the online news portal, Sahara Reporters, on Sunday February 12, 2017 .
“The report, among others, claimed that the Commission has indicted all the governors of the 36 states of the Federation and the Senate President, Bukola Saraki in the ongoing investigation of the reimbursement paid to state governments by the Federal Government for excessive deduction charged to them on account of the Paris Club and other international loans.
“The commission wishes to state unequivocally, that no state governor or Senate President has been indicted so far by the investigation which is still at a preliminary stage.
“ Also, insinuations about cover up by some officials of the Commission are untrue as there is no incentive to do so.
“The commission implores the media to be circumspect in the reportage of this delicate issue in order not to jeopardise ongoing investigation, and be assured that they would be fully briefed of developments as soon as breakthrough is achieved.”
Magu’s fate also came up during the talks between the President and National Assembly leaders in London on Wednesday, The Nation learnt.
The National Assembly chiefs were said to have expressed reservations on some of the EFCC’s activities.
The leaders said they did not want anything which would cause a strain in the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature. They suggested a fresh nominee for EFCC chair, the source claimed, adding: “But the President was non-committal.”
The Federal Government released N388.304billion of the N522.74 billion to 35 states as refunds of over-deductions on London-Paris Club loans.
States on top of the list with huge reimbursements are those controlled by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party( PDP), contrary to their claims of being “oppressed by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari”.
The big earners are: Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, Katsina, Kaduna, Lagos, Imo, Jigawa, Borno, Niger, Bauchi,and Benue.
Only Kano State and the FCT did not benefit from the reimbursement.
Ondo was only paid 50 per cent of its refunds (N6,513,392,932.28) because of leadership change in the state which will soon lead to the inauguration of the Governor-elect, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu.