Olalekan Adetayo and Leke Baiyewu
The report of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), will decide if the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, will retain his job.
The Presidency had, in a statement on Sunday, said President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered the AGF to investigate all top government officials accused of corruption.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in the statement, said any official found guilty of the allegations levelled against him or her would not escape prosecution.
“The attention of the Presidency has been drawn to a number of reports in the media, in which various accusations of corruption have been levelled against some top officials in the administration.
“In that regard, President Buhari has instructed the Attorney-General of the Federation to investigate the involvement of any top government officials accused of any wrong-doing. If any of them are liable, they will not escape prosecution,” the statement had read.
The Senate had, on Thursday last week, refused to confirm Magu as the EFCC chairman as requested by Buhari, citing a negative “security report” on the anti-graft agency’s boss by the Department of State Services.
The DSS, in the report, had said Magu had failed integrity test and would be unfit to drive the anti-graft fight of the government.
Besides Magu, other top government officials recently accused of corruption include the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, and the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Abba Kyari.
It was gathered that Malami was expected to forward the reports on his investigations to the President in January, which would determine the fate of the government officials.
It was learnt that the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume; the National Security Adviser, Major Gen. Babagana Monguno; and a former Chairman of the EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, had been making moves to save Magu by reaching out to the President.
Findings, however, showed that the President had yet to take a final decision on the report of the DSS, which stated that Magu was not eligible for the post.
It was gathered that a private meeting between Buhari and Ndume on Monday was part of efforts to save the EFCC boss.
A reliable source, who was privy to the meeting, told one of our correspondents that the President was keen on conducting an independent investigation into the allegations against Magu in the DSS report.
The source added that the findings of the investigation would determine if Magu would be dropped or not.
The source stated, “Ndume is very close to the President and one of his closest supporters. The Senate Leader’s visit to Buhari was private but Magu’s issue was raised.
“Ndume made the President to understand that there is a conspiracy against the man but the truth will always prevail and evil will never succeed over evil. Somebody must be there to do the job and it cannot be business as usual.
“Ndume told the President that the Senate had not rejected Magu. He also told the President that the content of the DSS report was not an indictment but mere allegations, the reason why the President ordered the Attorney-General of the Federation to conduct an investigation.”
But Ndume, in an interview with State House correspondents after the meeting with the president on Monday, said there was no truth in the reports that the Senate rejected the nomination of Magu as the EFCC chairman.
He said what the Senate had done was to step down Magu’s screening until issues surrounding the security report concerning him were cleared.
Ndume stated, “Let me say categorically that the Senate did not reject Ibrahim Magu as the chairman (of the EFCC).
“What happened was that we slated his confirmation for Thursday. Then, we had an issue of a letter from the Department of State Services that could not allow us to continue with the confirmation without further clarifications.
“So, we then concluded that since we have a letter that we cannot ignore, we cannot do the confirmation. So, it was not that we sat down to take a decision that we have rejected Ibrahim Magu. I want that to come out clearly.
When reminded that the Senate spokesperson said the Senate rejected Magu and would return the nomination to the President, Ndume said the position was not correct.
“I was part of the persons that wrote the short press statement which stated that the Senate cannot continue with the confirmation. It is different from saying that the Senate has rejected him. In fact, we have referred the other four nominees to the committee,” Ndume said.
The Senate Leader also said the Senate’s investigation into some allegations against the SGF, Lawal, had not been concluded.
The Senate had, last week Wednesday, passed a resolution that Buhari should sack and prosecute the SGF for awarding contracts to a company in which he had substantial interest in certain projects for the Internally Displaced Persons in the North-East.
But Ndume said Lawal’s investigation by the Senate was still in progress.
He said, “It’s not an order we are giving; the Senate resolution is a recommendation, it is not a law.
“What the Senate considered is work in progress because it was an interim report. It is the same public that is interested and worried to know what we have done as a Senate about those allegations.
“The committee issued an interim report and the interim report seemed to indict the SGF. The consequence of that indictment is it recommended; but we are not there yet because the report itself is an interim (report).
“I heard the SGF say that he has not been given a fair hearing. The hearing has not finished. We can give him an ample time to go before the committee and clear himself.”
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, could not be reached to confirm Ndume’s comment on the true position of the lawmakers.
He did not return several calls to his telephone or respond to a text message sent to him.
Abdullahi had, however, said on Sunday that the chamber stood by what it did on Magu.
While dismissing the reactions that had condemned Magu’s rejection, he said Buhari would determine the next step to be taken by the Senate.
AGF meets Buhari, Osinbajo
Meanwhile, Malami, on Monday, met separately with Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, as part of the plan to investigate top government officials accused of corruption.
A source in the Presidency said Malami had earlier met with Osinbajo before he met Buhari.
When asked why the government officials under investigation were not asked to step aside for thorough investigations, a top government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the investigation to be done by the AGF as an interim one.
“Why will they be stepping aside by this time? The investigation has to start somewhere; this is a preliminary investigation. If the AGF later sees something that can hinder investigation, they may be asked to step aside,” the source said.
The source dismissed permutations that some former governors in Buhari’s cabinet could be among those to be investigated as a few of them had been accused of corruption by their state governors.
He added, “Where is the report? Were they indicted through a judicial or parliamentary process?”
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