It has been exactly three months after EFCC’s boss was first rejected by the Senate to have him confirmed as the substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu suffered the same fate on Wednesday when the Senate declined to confirm him for the second time, citing a damning letter by the Department of State Services (DSS) as reason for the decision.
The Senate also said Magu should cease to act as the chairman of the anti-graft commission and a replacement should be sent by the president for confirmation.
The letter of the DSS dated March 14, 2017, which was almost similar to the first one that led to his rejection last December, indicted him for corruption, living a double life, and concluding that Magu lacks the integrity and was not fit for the purpose to head the EFCC.
Following his rejection by the Senate last December, President Muhammadu Buhari re-nominated Magu in January, explaining that he had been cleared of wrongdoing, following investigations into the DSS’ allegations by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami.
However, Wednesday’s rejection came after almost two hours of grilling, during which Magu attempted to field questions bordering on the DSS report, his relationship with Air Commodore Mohammed Umar (rtd), internal corruption in the EFCC, allegations of human rights abuses, refusal to obey court orders, inter-agency rivalry and other issues.
The first indication that Magu was up against a brick wall came when Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central) made an allusion to the “Ides of March”.
The Ides of March refers to Wednesday ’s date, March the 15th, a day imbued with a sense of foreboding worldwide, because it was the same day when Roman Emperor, Julius Ceasar, was assassinated.
Sani demanded explanations into the circumstances that led to the death of one Desmond Anulogu in EFCC’s custody, since Magu had described the agency’s holding cells as similar to hotels.
In his response, the acting EFCC boss said the death was unfortunate.
On the first DSS report, which was again raised by the senators, Magu initially said he was not prepared to defend himself against the report of the DSS, as he had already responded to the president in writing and preferred to “avoid a bad relationship with a sister agency”.
The Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, however, observed that one of the issues Magu raised after his initial rejection by the Senate was that he was not accorded a chance to explain himself.
Also, while fielding other questions, Magu did not provide clear answers to some questions and claimed ignorance of some of the allegations against the EFCC bordering on corrupt practices.
He was also unable to provide a figure on the amount of money that has been recovered since he became acting chairman of the EFCC almost two years ago.
One of such questions was a query on how some Certificates of Occupancy (C-of-Os) seized during the raid on the home of an individual, were discovered in the “market”, after some EFCC officials allegedly tried to sell the land linked to the C-of-Os.
The issue, according to Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West), was now with the police and two of the C-of-Os had been returned to the owner.
Melaye also noted that the latest DSS letter referred the Senate to the earlier report, adding that Magu was being screened because of the president’s letter.
“I also want to inform you Mr. Magu, if you are not aware that for every nominee that comes to this Senate, we do request for screening by the DSS.
“It did not start with you, it will not end with you. So on the premise of this request that we have received this from the DSS, the DSS is to us what the FBI and CIA are to the United States of America, and we cannot ridicule, we cannot undermine, and we cannot put in abeyance the report of the DSS.
“Do you still think that after this report and as a result of what has happened to the C-of-Os of an innocent Nigerian, do you still consider yourself qualified to be the chairman of EFCC?” Melaye queried.
Senator Barnabas Gemade (Benue North East) further added that there was the issue of perception when Magu chose to associate with Air Commodore Mohammed, who according to the DSS report, was of questionable character.
Gemade also queried why some high profile cases appear to have endless lifespans in the EFCC.
Brandishing the DSS report, Magu reminded the Senate that two reports had been written about him by the DSS, but one of the reports was missing.
He also questioned the credibility of the DSS, alleging that the agency did not accord him fair hearing.
“Two different reports submitted the same day about the same person, that goes to tell you the credibility of such an institution. What does it say of an agency that submitted two varying reports on the same person the same day?
“Up till now, the DSS has not given me a chance to hear from me. I have not been given fair hearing by the DSS. It is a fundamental issue. It is a constitutional matter.
“On the case of the stolen C-of-Os, it is not everything that is done in the EFCC I have knowledge of. The EFCC is too big, if not for today, I did not know that there was a case pending against EFCC staff with the police.
“But I will now go back and investigate it and give you feedback after my investigation,” Magu said.
Explaining his relationship with Commodore Mohammed, Magu said they did not know each other until their appointment as members of Arms Procurement Panel set up by the presidency.
He, however, did not address the allegations that he flew on a private jet owned by Commodore Mohammed, or other allegations raised on his association with the retired air force officer in the report.
Magu, nonetheless, clarified that his official residence belongs to the estate of the former Minister of Information, Prof. Dora Akunyili, now late, whose son needed money to return to the U.S. and rented the house to him.
“I was not involved in looking for the house. It was rented; they called it a safe house. Every key personnel of government stay in safe houses and it was actually rented and furnished by them.
“I don’t even know when my rent will expire. I was actually comfortable in Karu (where he owns a personal house), if not for the pressure from people in authority that said I must relocate or they will deal with me,” he said.
Explaining why the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, was still being held despite court orders granting him bail, Magu said the Administration of Criminal Justice Act allows for the application of an order to detain a person beyond the stipulated 24 hours.
“I try as much as possible to obey court orders, but if we have some reasons not to obey, we appeal.
“Sometimes when we invite someone, the disclosures from the interrogation could open new issues that need to be revisited, and sometimes if you allow the suspect to leave so early, there is a chance that it would jeopardise our investigations.
“But as much as possible, we try to comply with court orders. In fact, we do not detain people until we are absolutely and completely sure that an offence has been committed. We actually got Dasuki from the DSS,” Magu added.
Senator Abiodun Olujimi (Ekiti South) also accused the acting EFCC boss of not adequately handling the inter-agency rivalry between the DSS and EFCC.
She also wondered if the anti-corruption fight would be taken seriously with the “albatross hanging” around his neck.
Having interrogated Magu, the Senate then dissolved into the Committee on the Whole to deliberate on the matter. Following a voice vote, his nomination was rejected.
It concluded that to re-nominate Magu for a third time would amount to undermining the DSS and portraying the agency as incompetent, incapable of doing its job, and rubbishing the institution.
Aside from the report of the DSS, the Senate also based its decision on what it described as Magu’s lacklustre performance during the screening exercise on Wednesday, abysmal attempts at answering questions, and not defending himself over the allegations raised against him in the report.
Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South), an avid supporter of Magu, however, raised a point of order indicating that the letter from the DSS was not signed by the director-general of the agency.
“I have two letters here. None of them is addressed to you (Senate President). One is addressed to the Clerk, one is addressed to the National Assembly.
“Number two, yesterday we got a letter from the Nigerian Customs Service signed by an Assistant Director to the Clerk. We said that was not the right thing to do.
“Accordingly, the DSS letter should have been written and signed by the DG DSS,” he argued.
Saraki, however, ruled him out of order, saying the matter has been concluded.
“It is important for us, we should not rubbish an institution for the process of a process. We are not here for individuals. So you are ruled out of order,” he said.
Speaking on whether Magu should continue in an acting capacity, Saraki added that the rejection of his nomination was indicative that the president should nominate another candidate, while someone else should continue the job in the interim.