Sahara Reporters - A cabal made up of high-level appointees in President Muhammadu Buhari’s office has struck a deal with Senate President Bukola Saraki to cease all forms of prosecution against him if he would agree to block the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Mr. Saraki has had a series of legal losses in his bid to stop his multiple prosecutions for false asset declaration and money laundering. The senator’s latest legal misfortune came earlier today when a panel of the Court of Appeal dismissed his effort to stop his trial.
However, Mr. Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, as well as the Attorney General of the Federal, Abubakar Malami are conspiring to frustrate Mr. Saraki’s prosecution, according to a finding of a lengthy investigation by our correspondent. Since his appointment as the EFCC’s acting chairman, Mr. Magu has faced unusual impediments from Mr. Kyari and other members of the cabal, all of them members of an inner circle within the Presidency.
Our investigations revealed that Mr. Magu got on the bad side of the president’s Chief of Staff when he refused to drop investigations against Sahara Energy, a company in which Mr. Kyari has a substantial interest. Mr. Magu also incurred the anger of the Chief of Staff when he refused to accept a deal to free Jide Omokore, a businessman with ties to former Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Our investigative correspondent learned that Mr. Omokore had made efforts to see President Buhari twice with the assistance of the Chief of Staff and offered bribes to Mr. Kyari and his team. Our investigator also learned that Mr. Kyari had also promised Mr. Omokore that he would be off the hook once he paid back a mere N500 million as restitution, even though the businessman accumulated billions of dollars through fraudulent oil swap deals and questionable acquisition of oil assets arranged by former Petroleum Minister, Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
The EFCC’s Magu scuttled Mr. Kyari’s deal with the oil tycoon when he not only arrested Mr. Omokore but also detained and arraigned him in court for money laundering.
On his part, Attorney General Malami may have joined the conspiracy to fire Mr. Magu from the EFCC because the AGF is close to interests that see Mr. Magu as a threat. Also, a source close to the AGF told our correspondent that Mr. Malami was upset that the EFCC boss was not taking directives from him regarding issues of who to prosecute or not a decision that made him set up a national protection commission domiciled in his office. For instance, on several occasion when the EFCC played a major role in the arraignment and prosecution of Senator Saraki, the AGF and several members of his team, including the Solicitor-General of the Federation and the Director of Public Prosecution, had put enormous pressure on Rotimi Jacobs, the independent prosecutor in charge of the case.
Soon after Mr. Magu’s appointment, the AGF had written a scathing report addressed to President Buhari stating why he was completely opposed to Mr. Magu’s confirmation as the substantive EFCC chairman. Based on Mr. Malami’s prompting, Chief of Staff Kyari and the DSS Director-General went to work to find dirt on Mr. Magu. It did not take long before they found out that the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, was a strong backer of the EFCC chair. Mr. Kyari and his team also discovered that both Mr. Monguno and Mr. Magu had been close friends with a former Air Force officer and a member of the Presidential Arms Investigation Panel, Air Commodore Umar Mohammed (rtd).
In June, DSS agents raided Commodore Mohammed’s home and detained him on allegations that he received bribes from some suspects accused of stealing funds budgeted for arms. SaharaReporters learned that, while in DSS detention, Mr. Mohammed was pressured to implicate both Mr. Magu and Mr. Monguno as persons for whom he was collecting bribes from former Nigerian military officers under investigation. However, Mr. Mohammed refused to budge. In retaliation, the DSS refused to release him despite several court orders to do so. Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, one of the judges who gave an order for Commodore Mohammed’s release, himself became a victim of a late-night raid by the DSS two weeks as DSS agents began hunting down judges accused of corruption.
When DSS agents could not get Commodore Mohammed to implicate Mr. Monguno and Mr. Magu, they wrote a report claiming that the detained former officer had been paying the rent for Mr. Magu’s home in Abuja. They also alleged that Mr. Magu once flew to Kano on a private jet owned by the detained air force general. When the DSS eventually charged Commodore Mohammed to court, they made no mention of his being a front for Mr. Monguno and Mr. Magu. Instead, he was accused of being in possession of guns with an expired license and $1million allegedly found at his home.
SaharaReporters learned that, as part of the internal conspiracy to stall Mr. Magu’s confirmation, the Chief of Staff, Kyari, refused to forward a letter to the Senate requesting for confirmation of the EFCC boss. However, while President Buhari was in the United Kingdom in June 2016 for a short vacation and medical checkup, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo invoked his powers as Acting President to compel the Chief of Staff to send a letter to the Senate asking for Mr. Magu’s confirmation.
A reluctant Mr. Abba Kyari sent the letter. However, as soon as President Buhari returned the Chief of Staff showed him “mountains of security reports,” including some that claimed Mr. Magu was leaking presidential secrets to Saharareporters and other news media. The source also disclosed that Mr. Buhari wanted to know if Mr. Magu owned expensive homes, huge bank accounts or had ever received proceeds of corruption, to which the COS reportedly answered in affirmative.
A source at the Presidency told our correspondent that President Buhari insisted that, since he ceded power to the VP, everything Mr. Osinbajo did while was away could not be reversed.
According to one source, President Buhari did not want to use Mr. Magu’s confirmation to bargain with Senator Saraki whom he loathes, hence the president did nothing to lobby the Senate President to confirm the EFCC chair even when Mr. Saraki met with him to ask for directives on what to do with Magu.
Our investigation discovered that Mr. Saraki has been an active player in the plot to stop Mr. Magu. The EFCC chair had offended the senator twice during his political career. During the senator’s tenure as Governor of Kwara State, Mr. Magu was in charge of the dreaded “Governance Team” set up by the Nuhu Ribadu-led EFCC to go after corrupt state governors between 2003 and 2009. Mr. Saraki was investigated and was due for arrest when Mr. Ribadu was kicked out of the EFCC after he managed to arrest former Governor James Ibori of Delta State. Mr. Saraki then shopped for and recommended Farida Waziri as Mr. Ribadu’s replacement. As soon as Mrs. Waziri was firmly planted as the chairperson of the EFCC, she went after Mr. Magu, got him arrested and detained on the flimsy excuse that EFCC documents were found on his laptop in Lagos. Mr. Magu spent weeks in detention in 2008 and was subsequently freed and redeployed to the Nigeria police.
Also, as soon as Mr. Magu was appointed to head the EFCC, he arrested Mr. Saraki’s wife, Toyin Saraki, and interrogated her for hours. EFCC officials said Mrs. Saraki wilted under the intense interrogation and offered “very helpful information about her husband’s financial misdeeds.”
SaharaReporters learned that Mr. Magu has made efforts on his own to reach out to Senators to confirm him. However, our investigators learned that some of the top senators demanded that he drop investigations against them or hand over their files to them for destruction before they would back his confirmation. Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, whom Mr. Magu disgraced earlier this year after he was given an award by the EFCC liaison to the National Assembly, reportedly tried to extract apologies from Mr. Magu while secretly filming their encounter. Also, Senator Stella Oduah, a former Aviation Minister, went to meet Mr. Magu in his office in the company of a former Secretary to the Federal Government, Pius Anyim, to pledge her support so long as Mr. Magu was willing to drop investigations relating to her multimillion dollar airport renovation projects during her ministerial tenure under former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Also, former Governor Goodwill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State reportedly asked that Mr. Magu soft-pedals on a myriad of corruption cases against him.
Two EFCC sources told SaharaReporters that Mr. Magu tactically decided to slow down on prosecuting high-profile corruption cases in order to advance his confirmation. However, his confirmation woes appear even more complicated as several targets of EFCC investigations have been pressuring Senators not to confirm him.
Mr. Saraki is coordinating onslaughts on Mr. Magu while regularly telling lobbyists for the EFCC chairman that new conditions must be met before he would move forward on the confirmation. According to one of our sources, Mr. Saraki is demanding that some seasoned EFCC investigators who handled his case be transferred out of the agency back to the police. He had also required that Mr. Magu forward to him all files relating to high- profile investigations of senators. Our source said the Senate President appeared to want the documents to use them either to control other senators or buy their loyalty.
One source said Attorney General Malami had already fulfilled the first part of the agreement between him and Saraki. Last month, the AGF’s office suddenly withdrew forgery charges against Mr. Saraki and his deputy, Mr. Ekweremadu, claiming that prosecutors did not have a watertight case against the two senators. At the next adjourned date, charges were also dropped against two senior National Assembly staffers who aided the forgery of National Assembly rules that led to the controversial election of Mr. Saraki and Mr. Ekweremadu in 2015.
Our source stated that the next case to suffer would be the assets declaration case against Senator Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. According to the source, Rotimi Jacobs, the independent lawyer handling the case, was being pressured to withdraw from it to enable more malleable prosecutors to take over. The source said the strategy was to prevail on the judge to conclude the trial without imposing any significant sentence.
Mr. Saraki, who is currently in Geneva, is assuring those lobbying on behalf of Mr. Magu he would get the EFCC chairman “confirmed” as soon as the cabal at the Presidency sabotages all the anti-corruption cases against him and Mr. Magu promises not to go after some persons of interest to him.