The suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has allegedly failed to give a proper account of missing 332 out of the 836 recovered real estate property in March 2018.
Magu, who was arrested last week, is currently facing a presidential panel over allegations of corruption, insubordination and abuse of office among others.
The panel is chaired by a retired President Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami.
The allegations were made by the Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami, SAN, consequent upon which he was suspended from office.
A report by the Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets (PCARA) made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) confirmed the development, indicating that the unaccounted property was worth billions of naira.
The report also noted massive wastage and deterioration of physical assets including landed property, cars and vessels recovered by the EFCC due to poor management.
It also noted with concern the failure to preserve and realise the economic value of the recovered assets, noting that some of the assets were recovered over 15 years ago and left fallow.
“A disturbing example is the two vessels that allegedly sunk at NNS Beecroft Naval BASE, Lagos and NNS Pathfinder Naval Base in Port Harcourt without trace under the watch of the acting Chairman of EFCC.
“The vessels named MT GOOD SUCCESS, MV PSV DERBY and MV THAMES were allowed to sink in spite of several warnings from the Navy on the need to evacuate the petroleum products in the vessels.
“The total value of the assets lost due to the negligence runs into millions of US dollars
“The (suspended) acting chairman is yet to provide a report on what happened to these vessels,” the report said.
NAN reports that Mr. Magu, who is currently facing charges of mismanagement and lack of transparency in managing recovered assets as well as flagrant disobedience to directives and to court orders, would be expected to provide answers to the conflicting figures.
The PCARA report also noted that the few consultants hired by EFCC were not managing a substantial number of the recovered assets and that the EFCC has no capacity to manage the entire assets on its own.
The committee, therefore, alerted the nation on the economic and environmental implications of this negligence of duty by the commission.
It equally observed that EFCC made conflicting submissions or returns to it in respect of the non-cash assets which substantially affected the committee’s assignment.
The report read in part: “For instance, EFCC stated 836 as the number of Recovered Real Estate in the Original Returns it made to the President on 07/04/2017.
“However, in its 1st Returns to PCARA on 13/12/2017, EFCC short-changed the system and gave the figure of 339 thereby failing to account for 497 property.
“It is interesting to note that when the acting chairman was further queried on this lapse, he made further contradictory 2nd return of 504 on 09/03/2018 thereby bridging the gap to 332 property.”
The committee identified lack of internal control mechanisms/ systems within EFCC and lack of adequate returns by EFCC Departments and Zonal Offices as reasons for these discrepancies and inconsistencies by the commission.
The suspended EFCC boss was also alleged to have neglected and refused to comply with the regulations on the Management of Recovered Assets, 2019 as he embarked on disposing of some of the property without regard to extant law.
“These regulations were issued in line with international best practices and to ensure that all the anti-corruption agencies report all their recovered assets in a database provided by the Federal Government.
“It is important to note that the (suspended) acting chairman in apparent disregard of the regulation is disposing of these properties without regard to extant laws, and regulations and without reference to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and in effect, there is no way to have an audit of the property.
“This is also a clear sign that there is a deliberate attempt to hide the exact figures of recoveries, which is an indication of fraudulent intent. These actions of the (suspended) Ag. Chairman in refusing the regulation is a clear case of refusal to follow lawful instructions and directives contrary to the provisions of the Act that establish the EFCC,” a separate report on the matter, addressed to the president, further noted.
According to the fresh report obtained by NAN, Magu and some top officials of EFCC were allegedly using these recovered assets to corruptly enrich themselves.
The report also listed the number of the affected properties suspected to have been illegally acquired as well as the bank accounts of those individuals serving as fronts for Magu and the affected EFCC officials.
“Most of the recovered assets are allegedly sold without anyone knowing and without proper records and without recourse to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing that has the mandate to undertake evaluation of such property.
“Some of the assets have been taken over by EFCC officials while some are sold at giveaway prices to friends and cronies of the acting chairman.
“It is also on record that the (suspended) acting chairman is maintaining different accounts, including using proxies who return the benefit of the sold assets to him.
“These funds are then used to procure property and lands in the names of some of his proxies,’’ the report further stated.(NAN)
Global groups warn
Meanwhile, renowned international groups involved in the global anti-corruption fight Sunday wrote President Muhammadu Buhari to express their reservation over the travails of the suspended acting EFCC chairman.
In their joint letter, dated July 9, the anti-corruption groups said: “What is going on in Nigeria is of concern to the international community. Mr. Magu has proved himself to be up to the task.”
Signatories to the letter were Lucas Manes of Re: Common, Nicholas Hildyard of Corner House, Simon Taylor of Globalwitness– all European organisations – and Nigeria’s Olanrewaju Suraju of the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA).
They said: “His determination to fight corruption is evident by the recovery of stolen funds and properties plus his own high moral ground earned at the cost of diligence and hard work never before seen.
“His political removal questions the will of Nigeria to deal with a major cause of the country’s underdevelopment which is corruption.”
The groups have consistently remained at the vanguard of monitoring and exposing the corruption involved in the infamous OPL 245 Malabu scandal for which oil majors- Shell and Eni and their officials- are being prosecuted in Nigeria and Italy.
In the letter signed by the quartet of Manes, Hildyard, Taylor and Suraju, the groups said: “What is going on in Nigeria is of concern to the international community. Mr. Magu has proved himself to be up to the task.
“His determination to fight corruption is evident by the recovery of stolen funds and properties plus his own high moral ground earned at the cost of diligence and hard work never before seen. His political removal questions the will of Nigeria to deal with a major cause of the country’s underdevelopment which is corruption.”
They further said: “We are therefore greatly alarmed–as are others in the international anti-corruption movement–by reports that Mr. Magu has been detained and/or suspended following allegations against him that were reportedly made by Attorney General Malami directly to you.”
While clarifying that they were not against the embattled EFCC chief, they urged that due process and proper disciplinary procedures must not be compromised.
“The procedures are clearly being hijacked by detractors of Magu in the political space and this is eroding the potential credibility of the outcome of the panel constituted to probe these allegations. The hounding of Magu through seemingly politically connected sponsored media harassment only makes matters worse”, the groups further wrote.
The coalition said: “We have been hugely impressed by the dedication of its investigators and by the disciplined leadership shown by Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu. The agency is completely different from the sclerotic, timid, politically captured bureaucracy that it was in the previous period. The credit for this is due in large part to you for appointing Magu and sticking with him despite efforts to unseat him.”
They further said the respect Nigeria gained following the anti-graft war, was exemplified by the recognition accorded Magu, not least by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, which recently honoured him with an Award of Excellence.
“Indeed, in meetings we have had with this, and other agencies, conversations have often referred to the impressive current leadership of the EFCC” it said.
The global group observed that the attorney-general has apparently sought to bypass the usual administrative procedures of issuing a query to an accused officer under his ministry in favour of a political approach.
It said the procedure risks severely denting Nigeria’s reputation abroad and urging the president to enforce a “zero tolerance to political interference” as recommended by the Edinburgh research group.
“We note that many of the allegations reportedly made by the Attorney General have already been investigated by the same Attorney General under your instruction in 2017 and that Magu was exonerated in respect of the corruption allegations: only those related to insubordination were freshly levelled.
“We are concerned that accusations of “insubordination” risk crossing the line that ensures the independence of prosecutors from political interference” adding that despite bearing false witness being illegal, no-one has been investigated or charged in relation to bringing the false allegations against Magu in 2017,” the letter added.
To President Buhari, they said: “We realise that you have been placed in an invidious position by the Attorney General. However, we very much hope that you will find a way forward that protects the huge strides made by the EFCC under Magu’s acting chairmanship.
“We very much doubt if the Italian case would have reached the stage that it has without his committed and diligent response to Mutual Legal Assistance requests. At this critical stage in the trial, his replacement for political reasons would be wholly regrettable and would only give succour to those being persecuted.”
Falana denies Magu’s N28m
Also in a related development, human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, has denied receiving N28million from Magu.
In a pre-action letter signed by his lawyer, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, SAN, the rights activist demanded a retraction of the claim by a newspaper which published the online story.
The newspaper’s story was based on a report published by NAN, which claimed to have obtained the final report of a prior presidential panel allegedly indicting Magu for being unable to account for the interest generated from N550bn cash recovered from 2015 to 2020.
According to NAN, the said presidential panel’s report titled, ‘Final Report of the Presidential Investigation Committee on the EFCC Federal Government Recovered Assets and Finances from May 2015 to May 2020’ exposed acts of corruption and money laundering against some EFCC officials, including Magu.
Falana’s lawyer stated in his letter demanding the retraction of the NAN’s story as published by the Lagos-based newspaper within 48 hours, the story was “damning against my client because his entire career as a lawyer has been devoted to fighting human rights abuses and corruption in high and low place”.
Olumide-Fusika stated, “In the circumstance, my immediate instruction is to demand that you acknowledge your wrongdoing, expressly admit that what you imputed against my client was false, and apologise for your unprofessionalism and the damage you have caused to him.
“I do hope that you will, within the next 48 hours, comply with this gentlemanly request by publication on the front page of your newspaper. Failing compliance, my instruction is to issue a Writ in the tort of defamation in order to afford you an opportunity to prove what you imputed against his client’s character.”