Fireworks over Magu’s demand for bail as Buhari defends probe

Buhari-Magu

•Lawyers divided over continued detention
•Investigators storm Borno community, comb property – Source
•Grumbling in EFCC over successor
•‘How desperation for confirmation led him astray’

The plea by the suspended acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, for bail, was, yesterday, greeted with mixed reactions from lawyers, who said the Presidential Investigation Panel lacks the power to detain him.

They also faulted the decision of Magu to write the investigative body demanding for his release, saying he ought to have gone to court to enforce his fundamental human right.

This came as President Muhammadu Buhari said Magu was not immune to probe, saying the weight of allegations against him demanded that he be suspended for a proper investigation to be carried out.

The President, however, added that Magu’s investigation should not be seen as a minus for the fight against corruption, saying the approval to probe him was given following the preliminary review of allegations against him and many of his subordinates.

He said this in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant, Media, Mallam Garba Shehu.

Salami, IGP

Magu, who is being probed for alleged acts of corruption and insubordination, had last Friday, separately written the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mohammed Adamu and Chairman of Presidential Investigation Panel, Justice Ayo Salami, demanding to be granted bail.

In the letter to the IGP by Magu’s lawyer, Mr. Oluwatosin Ojaomo, the detained ex-EFCC boss, demanded bail on “Self-recognizance.”

The letter was copied to President Buhari, Justice Salami, Chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, Prof Itsay Sagay,SAN, and Deputy Inspector General of Police in Charge of Investigation, Federal Criminal Investigation Department, Garki, Abuja, where he is being detained.

In the letter, Magu said all the allegations against him are bailable, adding that he is statutorily entitled to be released on bail.

He also reminded the IGP of his recent directives to all police formations in Nigeria, asking them not to detain any suspect for offences which are bailable due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a separate letter to Justice Salami by his Counsel, Mr. Wahab Shittu, Magu said he needed bail because the media had taken advantage of his ordeal to smear his image. Six other demands were made in the letter to the head of the panel.

However, interrogating Magu’s continued detention six days after he was detained, lawyers, in separate conversations with reporters on, urged him to go to court and apply for release.

They also affirmed that the panel lacked the statutory ground to keep him, saying he should either be taken to court or released.

Appeal for bail is blackmail—— Owonikoko

Speaking on the matter, Mr. Abiodun  Owonikoko,SAN, said: “The police are detaining Magu and not the Presidential Panel investigating the alleged financial improprieties of Magu. The panel has no such powers to detain any accused persons as its functions are merely administrative. Magu should go to court if he feels his rights have been infringed on. His appeal to be granted bail was an attempt to blackmail the panel and the Presidency because he knows what to do.”

FG should charge him to court or release him —Ubani

Former 2nd Vice Chairman of Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Monday Ubani, urged the Federal Government to either release Magu or charge him to court.

He said:” Nigerians deserve to know the reasons he is still in detention. We need to know the reason the panel is still holding him. Is there a possibility of him tampering with the evidence if released? In that case, the panel should apply to the court to detain him. It is not the duty of the panel to convict. It can only investigate and indict.”

Panel can’t usurp function of police — Obayuwana

On his part, President of Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, said Magu’s right to freedom of movement should be respected.

He said: “In the discharge of its duties, the panel can summon witnesses to appear before it and may exercise the power of contempt over those who show disrespect by refusing to appear or refuse to answer questions posed or behave in a disorderly manner.

“Nothing of such has been ascribed to Magu that we know. The panel cannot usurp the powers of the police and it is not investigating a crime with an eye towards prosecution. It has no such powers.

“The Constitution is clear on the requirement of probable cause before the liberty of a citizen can be interfered with, for what purpose and by what agencies of government. A panel of enquiry is not one of them. If the panel has no general power of arrest why, should it be conferred with the authority to grant bail? One would have thought that the panel has the services of a state counsel, especially as the complaint being investigated emanated from the Office of the Honorable Attorney General of the Federation. Magu can continue to appear before the panel from home.”

He is not immune to probe —Buhari

However, while justifying the suspension of Magu, President Buhari, said: “A series of documented allegations were made against the Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Following a preliminary review of the allegations leveled against the chairman and several other members of his staff, there were grounds for a detailed investigation to be conducted.

Hence, an investigative panel was constituted in compliance with the extant laws governing the convening of such a body.

“As is the proper procedure, when allegations are made against the Chief Executive of an institution, and in this case an institution that ought to be seen as beyond reproach, the Chief Executive has to step down from his post and allow for a transparent and unhindered investigation. The EFCC does not revolve around the personality of an individual, and as such cannot be seen through the prism of any individual.

No sacred cows

“Therefore, the suspension of Mr. Ibrahim Magu, allows the institution to continue carrying out its mandate without the cloud of investigation hanging over its head.

The EFCC has many good, hardworking men and women who are committed to its ideal and ensuring that the wealth of our country isn’t plundered and wherein there is an act of misappropriation such person(s) are brought to justice.

“Meanwhile, Mr. Magu is being availed the opportunity to defend himself and answer the allegations against him. This is how it should be, as is the fact that under the Laws of Nigeria every citizen is presumed and remains innocent until proven guilty.

We must realise that the fight against corruption is not a static event, but a dynamic and ever-evolving process, in which the EFCC is just one actor.

“What is however important is that there must be accountability and transparency and our people must realize that they would be held to account. This is the building block in the fight against corruption, the establishment of the concept of accountability and the recognition of the Rule of Law.

Those who see Mr. Magu’s investigation, as a signal that the fight against corruption is failing, have, unfortunately, missed the boat.

There are no sacred cows, and for those who think they have a halo over their heads, their days are also numbered. Magu was not immune – and regardless of the obvious embarrassment that potential acts of wrongdoing by him, given the office he held, may appear for the government.”

Do not cover up findings, PDP tells Presidency

Also speaking on the matter, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, asked the Presidency not to cover up findings in the ongoing investigation.

The party accused Magu of reducing the anti-corruption agency “to a house of corruption and a partisan witch-hunt organisation that thrives in violation of rules.”

In a statement issued by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP said: “ Magu should be made to provide answers to allegations in the public space that he was more interested in securing politically induced convictions rather than justice, for which he allegedly turned the EFCC into a terror house where innocent Nigerians are harassed with trumped-up charges.”

Magu had no regard for staff —Source

Meanwhile, a source close to the major institutions in the controversy told reporters that the desperation to be confirmed led Magu into making what was described as false declarations of seized items.

The source said: “ He was doing all he did just for him to be confirmed as the substantive chairman. That was the only thing that was driving him to declare what he had not recovered.

“When the court gives interim forfeiture, this is not recovery as the court may have not heard from the other person, but he will add it as part of recovery and the amount will go up.

“Whenever he was going to do the announcement or write letters on recoveries or seizures, he always quarreled with his staff that tabulate the figures. He will abuse the staff and he did not have regard for their professional competence. Once he is challenged by the appropriate government offices, he will abuse them and begin to investigate, saying they are corrupt.”

Recall that the EFCC was said to have reported total recoveries of N504,154,184,744.04 while the actual bank lodgments were N543,511,792,863.47. These lodgment exceeded its reported recoveries by N39,357,608,119.43.

Grumbling 

In a similar development, it was gathered that there were  grumblings among operatives at the EFCC over Magu’s successor.

Sources at the EFCC headquarters said the leadership of the commission is being dominated by the police, saying there are other Nigerians from different professional backgrounds who can perform better than police officers.

The aggrieved operatives said the former Director of Operations, Muhammed Umar, who was appointed by President Buhari to oversee the activities of the Commission, was brought by the suspended Chairman.

“Since the creation of EFCC, only people from North have been in charge of its leadership, can’t someone from other zones head the Commission and why must the Chairman come from Police all the time? “ the source added.

Search

Meanwhile, a top police source said that investigators stormed Magu’s village in Borno State in search of likely evidence to be used in the investigation.

The source said some incriminating items were recovered after combing his compound.

The former EFCC boss’ troubles started on July 6 when he was reported to have been arrested by the Department of State Services, DSS.

The DSS later denied arresting him after which it emerged that he was invited by the Presidential Investigation Panel.

Magu is presently in police custody at the FCID Abuja.

 

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