Senate rejects EFCC chief again
Ibrahim Magu’s confirmation for Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman was rejected again yesterday – no thanks to some governors, senators and high-profile suspects.
Magu’s confirmation was first rejected on December 15, 2016.
The governors were said to have been angry with Magu over the ongoing probe of the alleged diversion of N19 billion from the London-Paris Club loan refund.
Seven governors have been implicated in the scandal. Besides, some senators resolved to save their colleagues following Magu’s refusal to make a commitment that he will “find solutions” to the ongoing investigation and trial of 10 members of the Upper Chamber.
Some of the 10 senators, led by a former governor from the Northeast, specifically demanded the termination of their trial during a meeting with Magu.
The Acting EFCC chairman however insisted that the law must take its course, a source, who pleaded not to be named because of the “sensitivity” of the matter, told The Nation.
Some high profile suspects were said to have wielded influence to frustrate Magu’s confirmation “to pay him back in his own coin”.
According to the source, Magu’s rejection was the product of “conspiracy of aggrieved forces”.
It was learnt that the N19billion was deducted from the N388.304billion, which was part of the N522.74 billion released to 35 states as refund of over-deductions on the London-Paris Club loans.
Following protests by states against over deductions for external debt service between 1995 and 2002, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the release of the first tranche to states as refund pending a reconciliation of records.
Each state was entitled to a cap of N14.5 billion being 25% of the amounts claimed.
But EFCC through intelligence intercepted how N19billion was diverted to Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) accounts and some private accounts.
A source said: “All attempts to prevail on Magu to halt the investigation failed and the governors have no choice than to engage in lobbying to truncate the confirmation.
“Although a governor from the Northeast did his best to persuade his colleagues to spare Magu, some of the governors vowed not to take the risk.
“At a point, the governors sent emissaries to the Acting EFCC chairman, including some government officials, but he did not shift ground.
“The position of the governors was that the Presidency was in the picture of the deductions from the loan refunds but the EFCC’s probe was seen as an embarrassment to them.
“Before Magu goes after them, they decided to cut him to size. These governors found willing partners in some National Assembly leaders who were implicated in the loan refund.”
One of the emissaries sent by the governors to Magu was quoted as saying: “This chap almost secured confirmation but he bungled it by probing the loan refund.
“Each time a commitment was secured from him, the more he has been intensifying investigation of the N19billion. We told him it was a sensitive case.”
“A businessman reportedly interceded for Magu, urging the Senate leadership to confirm him. But the businessman later discovered that EFCC was investigating him in connection with the loan refund, The Nation learnt.
“So, the governors refused to spare any efforts to lobby their senators to reject Magu. And don’t forget that most of these governors are godfathers of many senators. Again, 2019 is around the corner, no senator wants to take a bet on Magu and lose the opportunity of returning to the Red Chamber in the next general election,” the source said.
Most of the senators were displeased that the EFCC was either investigating or putting more than 10 of their colleagues on trial.
A highly-placed source said: “The Senate has had its grudges against Magu since the invitation of the wife of the President of the Senate for interrogation. The senators saw it as a desecration of the chamber.
“Despite the fact that the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has purportedly forgiven Saraki, the questioning of his wife has been a lingering memory. There are always fears that Magu could be more drastic in his action if confirmed.
”And the fears came to fore during the lobbying for confirmation when the Acting EFCC chairman refused to yield ground. Magu and a few others met with some of the Senators, led by a former governor from the Northeast, who demanded to know what EFCC will do on their cases.”
Magu was said to have told the lawmakers that the law will take its course.
He was quoted as saying: “I cannot find solutions to these cases.”
Since that day, the hurdles against his confirmation became higher.
“The list of those who met Magu where the request was tabled is an open secret,” the source said.
He went on: “The PDP senators did not mince words that the Acting EFCC chairman will not be confirmed because of alleged tilting of investigation towards opposition leaders. The ongoing subtle probe of the Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio and his wife by the EFCC was considered as an affront after Magu had lobbied the PDP Caucus.
“Although two of the PDP senators met with Magu on Tuesday to assure him of likely clearance but the game plan changed overnight when the caucus took a position against Magu.”
Another source fingered some high profile suspects of the EFCC, including some bank chiefs, as those behind Magu’s travails.
The source added: “The Acting EFCC chairman stepped on toes of these high-profile suspects, who in cahoots with their associates and sympathisers, lobbied senators to halt what one of them described as ‘Magu’s hurricane’. These suspects have the wherewithal to fight Magu to a standstill.
“The problem with Magu is that he has no godfather to fight his cause. And Senate politics is about influence wielding, building contacts and high-wire relationship.
“There were rumours that some suspects budgeted about N2.2billion to stop Magu’s confirmation. The EFCC stumbled on this information but it was yet to trace any transaction linked to the slush budget. The agency was suspecting under-the-table vote.”
Also yesterday, it was learnt that “the crisis of confidence within the kitchen cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari” affected Magu’s confirmation.
A source in government said: “Magu has limited contacts in government. His sympathisers are President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the President’s wife, Hajiya Aisha Buhari, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Babagana Monguno and the Chairman of PACAC, Prof. Itse Sagay, among others.
“Unfortunately, the NSA who recommended him for the job is facing challenges with some members of the kitchen cabinet who see Magu as doing the bidding of his benefactor.
Asked of the role of the Department of State Services (DSS), the source said: “I think the service was uncomfortable with lack of inter-agency cooperation between it and the EFCC.
“There was a time the DSS advised Magu to stay action on an operation in the Southsouth, but the EFCC went ahead. It led to mutual suspicion.
“The closeness of Magu to the NSA, who had issues with DSS, aggravated the proxy war, which resulted in two damning reports against Magu. The Acting EFCC chairman is a victim of power play in the kitchen cabinet.”