Senate banks on DSS ambush to reject Magu

Senators, yesterday, again turned down Ibrahim Magu’s nomination for confirmation as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman.

The upper chamber relied on the Department of State Services’ (DSS’) revalidation of its report on Magu to refuse the confirmation.

The lawmakers had on December 15, 2016 rejected Magu’s nomination based on a negative report by the DSS.

Magu, who appeared before the Senate’s committee of whole at 11.55 am, was asked to go by 1.38 pm.

In his opening remarks, Magu told the Senate that despite the efforts of the Federal Government, corruption remained not only pervasive but endemic in the country.

Appointed in acting capacity by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 9, 2015, Magu said he was committed to the anti-corruption war.

He declared his readiness to restore the glory of the EFCC by intensifying investigation and recover looted funds.

The EFCC, he said, is focusing on community ownership of the anti-corruption war.

He drew connection between the economic challenges facing the country and the endemic corruption.

Magu also said that the anti-corruption body would focus more on prevention of corruption.

The DSS’ letter the Senate relied upon to reject Magu’s nomination was dated 14th March, 2017 and addressed to the Clerk, Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

It was received by the office of the Senate Clerk at 5.02pm on Tuesday.

It is entitled: “Re: Nomination of Mr. Ibrahim Magu Mustapha as Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) security report on the nominee.”

The three paragraph letter read: “Your letter NASS/CS/SA/01/17/08/02 dated 7th March, 2017; requesting for security report on the above named nominee, refers.

”The security report being requested for on Ibrahim Magu Mustapha, the nominee for the Executive Chairmanship position of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has already been submitted to the Senate via Services’ letter No. SV114/2 of 3rd October, 2016, containing fourteen (14) paragraphs.

”Please accept once again the assurances of the esteemed regards of the DGSS.”

The letter was signed by F.O. Adams for Director-General, SS.

Asked to tell the Senate his response to the DSS report that made President Buhari resubmit his name for confirmation, Magu told the Senate that his response was made in writing.

He added that he would have made a copy available if he knew the issue would come up during his screening.

Magu said some senators knew how the EFCC started and how some of them were chased away.

The nominee said he was detained for two weeks and placed on suspension for 20 months on the claim that he kept official files.

He said he was later recalled and given double promotion.

Magu said: “Your Excellency you are aware of this.” There was laughter in the chamber but Senate President Bukola Saraki quickly quipped: “Mr nominee, I am only aware of what is on record.”

Saraki reiterated that Magu’s response to the DSS report was important and the Senate would want to share how he responded to the report.

Magu said there were two reports and added that the claim that he was living in a house paid for by an Air Force officer was false.

The house, he said, was secured and paid for by the Federal Capital Development Authority.

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Magu said he did not even know when the rent would expire.

On why Sambo Dasuki is still in detention, he said Dasuki was being detained in line with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, which gives the prosecution the powers to apply to the court for extension of detention period.

Magu said: “At times in the course of interrogation, some facts do come up that would require further investigation. We don’t detain people unnecessarily.”

On seizure of property by the EFCC, Magu said before any property is seized, it must have been investigated and traced to proceeds of corruption.

He added that after investigation, the matter would be charged to court, which will determine whether the property will be released to the owner or forfeited to the government.

On detention of people, he said the EFCC do not arrest people.

Magu noted that there must have been thorough investigation before a suspect is invited to the commission.

As the screening progressed, Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central) told Magu: “Today is the Ides of March. It is a very memorable day in the history of the Roman Empire when Caesar was executed when he came to the Senate. So may the Lord be with you.”

Sani continued: “We have seen reports of detainees dying in detention and people are reportedly being badly treated.”

But Magu insisted that there was always due process “in every thing we do”.

He added: “I am not saying what we are doing are completely right. I won’t say that.”

Magu noted that the issue of Desmond, who died in EFCC detention, was “regrettable” and “unfortunate”.

He said when the detainee fell ill, he was rushed to the hospital where he was confirmed dead.

He noted that immediately Desmond was confirmed dead, his body was moved the National Hospital, Abuja.

Magu said that the rule in the hospital is that “you cannot bring anybody from outside to do the autopsy.

He said since it was a case of sudden death, it was reported to the police for investigation.

The body of the deceased, he said, is still in the mortuary at the instance of his relations.

On how much EFCC has recovered, Magu said it was difficult for him to be specific.

The agency, said Magu use the technique of tracing, identification and recovery to recover looted funds.

He said recently some officials went to Dubai and United Kingdom in search of looted funds.

On why Dasuki alone is being prosecuted, Magu said everybody that needed to be invited for interrogation in Dasuki case had been invited.

He said: “Body language or no body language, the commitment of Mr. President to fight corruption is not in doubt.”

On Diezani Alison-Madueke, the former Oil minister, Magu said the agency was not probing her alone as being insinuated.

He noted that Mrs. Alison-Madueke escaped to London with some directors involved in the matter.

Magu noted that because the matter was in court, he would not want to speak on it.

On the whistle-blowing policy, he described it as new, adding that it is still fine-tuning for effect.

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On the sale of a Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O)by EFCC operatives, Magu said he was not aware of the matter.

He said he would get back to his office to find out the truth about the information.

Magu admitted corruption exists in EFCC.

He said there was no political influence on the trial of some judicial officers.

The tone of the screening changed completely when Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West) read the DSS letter reaffirming its report that Magu should not be confirmed.

Melaye specifically referred to paragraph 14 of the controversial report which states: “In the light of the foregoing, Magu has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.” It was received by the Senate at 5.02 on Tuesday.

But Magu promptly fired back that the DSS lacked integrity to indict him.

Magu said: “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 be given fair hearing by the DSS.”

He insisted that he did not know how the house he was living in was rented.

Saraki said there was an administrative issue that needed to be cleared – receiving two letters from the DSS.  “We will get the Clerk to confirm that,” he said.

The Clerk, Mr. Nelson Ayewoh, told the Senate that only one letter was received.

The clerk said that the letter received on Tuesday and dated 14th  March, 2017 was reaffirmation of the earlier letter by the DSS.

Saraki ruled that the Senate had heard enough from Magu and asked him to leave.

When he put the question whether the Senate would confirm Magu’s nomination as EFCC chairman, though some said “aye”, majority said “nay”.

Sarki ruled that the “nay” had it.

Former Senate Leader, Mohammed Ali Ndume queried why the Senate relied on a letter not signed by the DSS DG, Lawal Daura, to reject Magu.

Ndume recalled that only on Tuesday the Senate rejected a letter written by an Assistant Comptroller of Customs on the payment of duty on old vehicles.

He wondered why the Senate would accept another letter not endorsed by the DSS DG.The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) last night backed Magu to remain in office in acting capacity.

Its chairman Prof Itse Sagay (SAN) said after consultations with members, PACAC had passed on a vote of confidence on Magu.

“PACAC wishes to express its confidence in Magu and hope that he will be confirmed in due course.

“He can also continue to carry out his duties in acting capacity,” Sagay said.

 

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