This is certainly not the best of times for Ibrahim Magu, the embattled acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, as powerful forces, within and outside of government, not disposed to his continued stay in office have intensified efforts to break down his defence lines.
One of such moves, it learnt, is an ongoing discreet investigation into the true ownership of two mansions on different streets in highbrow Maitama area of Abuja. The buildings are allegedly linked to his wife.
A highly placed source told Saturday Sun that the houses being investigated are located in Danube Street, Maitama and Missouri Street, off Colorado Close, Ministers Hill, also in Maitama. The two properties were said to have been bought last year.
Saturday Sun could not confirm the veracity of the claims being investigated. It was also not clear whether it was the Department of State Services (DSS) that was carrying out the probe or a team of private investigators hired by forces opposed to Magu.
It is, however, an open secret that the DSS had launched series of clandestine investigations into Magu’s activities in a bid to provide the Senate a security report on him.
The source, who declined to provide further details about the probe, was however certain that the investigation may lead to Magu’s arrest, a claim that suggests an official footprint.
“The fresh probe of Magu’s alleged hidden assets was largely responsible for the latest DSS letter to the Senate reaffirming its earlier indictment that the EFCC boss lacks integrity,” the source added.
The EFCC boss has been having running battles with powerful forces opposed to his leadership of the foremost anti-graft agency, especially the DSS, which twice indicted him for failure to pass integrity test in two security reports. The Senate also had on two occasions rejected his nomination as the substantive Chairman of the Commission.
Magu, however, has consistently maintained his innocence in the series of allegations against him, calling them cheap blackmail by those desperate to slow down the tempo of the nation’s anti-corruption war.
His denial of wrongdoing notwithstanding, the EFCC Chairman has another issue to contend with in the Senate. This has to do with the refusal of the Senate Committee on Foreign and Local Debts to approve a $200 million World Bank loan for the anti-graft agency and about six other MDAs under the Economic Reforms and Governance Project, ERGP.
The Senate committee, headed by Senator Shehu Sanni, it was gathered, has since the approval of the loan last year by the federal government, been tossing officials of the commission “up and down”.
The development, it was also learnt, may further hamper the work of the agency, which relies more on such funds for trainings, ICT projects and similar expenditures that have direct bearing on the mandate of the Commission.
When contacted, Wilson Uwujaren, EFCC spokesperson, said he was not aware if any security agency was investigating Magu.
“I don’t know what you are talking about. I don’t know the motive behind this question and I can’t say anything because I don’t know what you are talking about, please spare me because I don’t know,” he quipped.
A source in the EFCC, however, told the newspaper that any fresh allegation over ownership of property against Magu is just a blackmail.
The official said, “Magu has no hidden property anywhere’ they are just going on a wild goose chase, which will fail just like the DSS had gone round but couldn’t bring out any concrete thing against the Chairman (Magu).”
Magu had in response to the query President Muhammadu Buhari ordered to be served him over allegations in the DSS report, queried the sincerity and motive of the Secret Service, which accused him of integrity deficiency and professional misconduct.
The DSS allegations blocked Magu’s confirmation as the substantive chairman of the EFCC, twice, as the agency repeatedly advised the Senate to reject his nomination because; “he has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.”
After the Senate’s first rejection of Magu’s nomination in December last year, citing allegations made against him by the DSS, the president authorised the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami, to investigate the validity of the allegations.
In compliance, Malami, on December 19, asked Magu to “respond within 48 hours” to the DSS allegations.
In his response, on December 21, Magu said he considered all the issues raised against him and provided “point-by-point responses.” Contrary to the claim by the DSS that the residence Magu currently occupies was rented for him by “a questionable business man” at N40 million for two years, with another N43 million to “lavishly furnish” the apartment, the acting EFCC boss said “the entire cost for the two-year rent and the furnishing was N39.628 million.”
The DSS had claimed the house was provided by one Mohammed Umar, a retired air commodore, being tried for money laundering and illegal possession of firearms.
Magu further denied his “penchant for air travels” in a private jet belonging to Mr. Umar, but admitted he flew the said aircraft on two occasions.” According to Magu, the first time, he was given offer of ride from Kano to Abuja after an official assignment with two EFCC directors; the second time was when he had to travel to Maiduguri to meet his sick mother.
“These, for me, were harmless gestures as we were both members of the presidential investigative committee on arms procurement. At the time, I had no knowledge that he was under investigation for any alleged crimes,” the EFCC boss explained.
Further debunking claims that he is flamboyant, he said in one instance, he flew on a first class ticket with Emirates Airline to perform the lesser Hajj in Saudi Arabia, but argued that was not enough for the DSS to conclude he keeps extravagant lifestyle.
He added that he opted for first class because tickets for other classes had been sold out at the time, and that he funded the trip from his private pocket.
Although he did not disclose the fare for the pilgrimage, but the DSS report claimed it was N2,990,196 (about N3 million).
This article was originally published in Daily Sun.