Ibrahim Magu, former acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), may not be prosecuted even if he were found guilty of the charges levelled against him by Abubakar Malami of the Federation and Minis(SAN), the Attorney-General ter of Justice.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some civil society organisations have been unequivocal in the demand for the prosecution of Magu, who is currently being quizzed by the Presidential Investigative Panel chaired by former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami.
The PDP, in a statement at the weekend, had asked the Federal Government to begin the prosecution of Magu, saying his indictment had reinforced its position that the much-hyped war against corruption by the EFCC, under Magu’s watch, had been a huge scam by “corrupt individuals to cover the plundering of public resources, harass political opponents, intimidate and extort money from innocent Nigerians”.
The party, in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, observed that the revelations of diversion of recovered funds and fraudulent sale of assets seized by the EFCC, among other sleazes, as detailed in the memo by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, as well as the report of the Department of State Services (DSS) on Magu’s activities, further exposed the racket that the fight against corruption had become under the All Progressives Congress (APC) government.
The PDP also said the development also exposed why corruption had worsened under the Buhari administration as documented by credible international organisations, including Transparency International (TI).
According to the PDP, “It is a big embarrassment to our nation that the head of the anti-corruption agency in an administration led by the African Union (AU) anti-corruption champion, and which prides itself on zero tolerance for corruption, is being dragged in allegation of looting recovered funds and other barefaced frauds.”
However, speaking with Daily Independent on Sunday, a presidency source, who asked not to be named, said Nigerians should wait for the outcome of the probe panel before deciding on the next line of action.
According to him, it is difficult to conclude that Magu is guilty without first getting the report of the probe panel.
He, however, added that given the fact that the petition against Magu came from Malami, the minister supervising the commission he headed, “the likelihood that the allegations levelled against him are true is very high”.
He added: “I don’t think Magu will be prosecuted even if found guilty. The ultimate aim is to relieve him of his job and that has been achieved. One thing is certain – he is not returning to his position as acting chairman of the EFCC.
“There is an acting chairman in place already. And also don’t forget that Malami recommended some names to the president as replacement.
“It is believed that one of the names will be sent to the Senate for confirmation as substantive chairman of the commission.
“Even if the Federal Government decides to prosecute him due to public outcry, it will be delayed and maybe eventually discarded at the end of the day.”
Also responding to PDP’s call for Magu’s prosecution, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), said he believes that the process used by the panel which interrogated Magu was not fair.
While applauding President Buhari for setting up the panel to verify the allegations made by Malami, Sagay said it was unfair for the panel to bar Magu from being present when the allegations were being made against him by petitioners.
To start with, if the Salami panel had not been set up, and Malami had made those allegations, the allegations would still have to be investigated, because they are just allegations.
“That is what is done in all petitions. Nobody is going to prosecute him on the basis of Malami’s claims because it will be such a disaster when the evidence is not available.
“The step taken by the president in getting a fact-finding panel makes sense in view of the fact that all those who made the allegations have been invited, they produced their documents. Magu will also be able to respond to the allegations.
“However, I think it was not fair that initially, the allegations were not made available to Magu, neither was he allowed to be present when they were making their case.
“I don’t think it was fair. In my view, that was against the right to fair hearing.
“When you are accused of something in any judicial or semi-judicial setting, you are given the charges and allowed to be present when those who made allegations against you are presenting their cases so that you can counter it or cross-examine them.
“That was not done in Magu’s case. People will make allegations against him, then he will now come to respond to them. I have never heard of that before. So, I think the process was not fair.
“The bottom-line is that nothing is established until something is produced. Even at the end of this process, if the Salami report is against Magu, they will still have to investigate it and put the evidence together.
“I am not sure there will be enough evidence from the Salami panel, just like that, to start Magu’s prosecution.”
While labelling the PDP as a corrupt party, he said the PDP was rejoicing because its tormentor, Magu, had been removed from office.
“The PDP is so happy that their tormentor is out of office. Magu is the one who has sent so many of them to prison, and many of them are in line to be prosecuted and sent to prison.
“So, of course, they are rejoicing over what is happening to him. The PDP is corruption fighting back. The second name for PDP is corruption.
“Why won’t they hate Magu after he has sent many of them to prison? So, by calling for his prosecution, they are talking nonsense,” he said.