The presidency is shopping for a possible replacement of Ibrahim Magu, the suspended chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Daily Trust learnt on Tuesday.
The names of four people including a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG), a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) and two serving police commissioners have been pencilled, Daily Trust was told.
This is coming as the Presidential Panel led by Justice Ayo Salami, a former President of the Court of Appeal, continued with its interrogation of the embattled Magu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Credible sources said ahead of the invitation of Magu on Monday, the Salami panel had recommended for his suspension “to pave the way for a free investigation in line with standard procedures.”
A top presidency source told Daily Trust last night that Magu was asked to step aside to allow for proper investigation of the allegations levelled against him.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said, “You know that anybody undergoing this kind of investigation cannot be allowed to continue to occupy the office.
“The continued stay in office of someone being investigated does not happen anywhere.
“If Magu is allowed to continue to occupy the office, some of these allegations and records would be distorted.
“No serious investigation can take place when the person affected is still operating.
“It is given that somebody undergoing a probe of this magnitude cannot continue to occupy his or her office.
“From the moment he appeared before the committee yesterday (Monday), you should know that he was no longer going back to the office while still facing the panel investigating him,” he said.
Another source said the suspension of Magu does not mean that he had been indicted or finally removed from office.
“His suspension is the ideal thing to do in order to douse tension and while he is being interrogated, the EFCC must continue to do its job; I want to assure you that someone would soon be announced to act.
“If found wanting by the Justice Salami panel, the president will definitely relieve Magu of his appointment as head of the EFCC and then the Police Service Commission (PSC) will carry on from there…
“They have the right to take action in line with the guidelines and conditions of service of the Police Force,” he said.
Our correspondents report that there was no formal announcement of Magu’s suspension by the presidency as at press time on Tuesday.
But a source said he would not be allowed to go home yet.
“He will only be allowed to go home after the panel says they are done with him; this could be any moment from now and it will depend on the outcome of the interrogation,” he said.
Magu’s suspension followed allegations of corruption levelled against him by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and the Department of State Service (DSS).
Malami’s memo had allegedly accused Magu of diversion of recovered loot.
The memo reportedly contained 22 allegations.
The two presidential spokesmen, Femi Adesina, and Garba Shehu, declined comments on the matter, especially on the purported suspension of Magu.
Police, DSS at Magu’s houses
Daily Trust gathered last night that police and DSS operatives had visited Magu’s official and private houses in Karu and Maitama.
“They visited his house at Abduljalal street in Karu area and thereafter the other house at Maitama District,” one of the sources said.
He said the visits were part of the ongoing investigation of the suspended anti-corruption fighter.
“The police and DSS operatives were in Magu’s houses based on what he told them during interrogation.
“They asked his domestic staff to sign some documents after they finished their findings,” he said.
Cops that would likely succeed Magu
It had been reported in June, 2020, that AGF Malami had suggested three names for President Buhari to pick one as EFCC chairman after he allegedly recommended that Magu should be sacked.
These included Deputy Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Sani Usman (rtd); the FCT Commissioner of Police, Bala Ciroma; and a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, from Kebbi State.
But other sources said the Commissioner of Police in Enugu State, Ahmad Abdurrahman, had been added to the list.
One of the sources said the four people are being considered and would be presented to President Muhammadu Buhari “after diligent screening at the presidency and by relevant security agencies.”
Another source said while any of the above names could be sent to the Senate for confirmation, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Mohammed Umar Abba is most likely going to take over the commission in acting capacity.
He said DCP Abba who hails from Kano State, is one of the most senior police officers seconded to the EFCC, and is the director of operations at the anti-graft agency.
Also, the name of DIG Sani Muhammad Gwallaga is being mentioned elsewhere as a possible replacement of Magu.
The current FCT Police Commissioner, Ciroma had a stint at the EFCC where he held sway at head of operations between 2004 and 2008.
He also served as Deputy Commissioner of Police (Welfare) in the Finance and Administration Department at the Force Headquarters, Abuja.
Until his appointment as the FCT Commissioner of Police on July 19, 2018, Ciroma, who has been described as a shrewd crack detective was the Deputy Commissioner of Police in the Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department (CIID) of the FCT Police Command.
Between 2012 and 2013, he was the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Operations, FCT Command, and Assistant Commissioner of Police, IGP Monitoring Unit, Force Headquarters.
Ciroma also spent time between 2011 and 2012 as Assistant Commissioner of Police, CID, Kano State Command.
He is also among those being touted to replace Magu as EFCC chairman.
Abdurrahman is the current police commissioner in Enugu State since August 2019.
His name for the EFCC chairmanship was mentioned in 2017.
He holds double Masters Degrees; one in Criminal Justice and another in Conflict, Peace & Strategic Studies, both from the Kaduna State University. A graduate of Political Science & Administration from the University of Sokoto, CP Abdulrahman also holds a Post Graduate Certificate in Corruption Studies from the University of Hong Kong.
Until his posting to Enugu, CP Abdurrahman was the Commissioner of Police in charge of Intelligence at the FCID, Abuja.
He has held many command positions across the Federation including in Kaduna, Bayelsa and Ekiti states.
Nobody above scrutiny
Several sources said yesterday that Magu’s fate might have been determined over three weeks ago because of the gravity of the allegations against him but needed to be given an opportunity to defend himself in the midst of what one of the sources called “solid evidences”.
A reliable presidency source told State House reporters yesterday that the ongoing probe of Magu was an indication that nobody is above scrutiny under the Buhari administration.
The source, who preferred anonymity, said the investigation was to reinforce transparency and accountability and to give Magu the opportunity to clear himself of weighty allegations.
The source who said the holder of an elevated office such as the chairman of the EFCC must be above suspicion, assured that there would be fairness and justice.
“Under the Muhammadu Buhari administration, nobody is above scrutiny. Repeat: nobody.
“The investigation is to reinforce transparency and accountability, rather than to vitiate it.
“Accountability for our actions or inactions is an inalienable part of democracy,” he said.
Meanwhile, members of the panel investigating Magu continued their sitting inside the State House Conference Centre, Abuja, Tuesday.
They were seen at the venue of the interrogation by noon while a convoy of three cars, which appeared to be carrying an important guest drove into the premises at 12.37pm.
Daily Trust could not ascertain whether Magu was the principal official in the convoy as a Peugeot sedan sandwiched by two Toyota Hilux vans occupied by several security personnel provided cover for the car.
The convoy was waved on to join the panel after a brief screening by personnel of the Department of State Security (DSS) at the gate.
Just as it happened on Monday when the panel began its sitting, access was again denied to unauthorised persons by security details at the centre.
On Monday, the presidency had explained that Magu was not arrested but rather invited him so that he can respond to issues as they arise.
We’re watching unfolding events- Sagay
Chairman of the Presidential Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay, said yesterday that the committee is watching unfolding events relating to Magu.
Sagay who was contacted by our correspondent yesterday initially declined comment on the issue but simply said the committee had not taken an official position on the Magu saga.
Sagay explained that there was no contradiction in the statements made by Odekunle and the media aide of the committee other than that the former spoke in his personal capacity.
“I don’t want to make any comment on this issue because I worked closely with Mr. Magu.
“Again, we didn’t say the statement by Odekunle should be discountenanced.
“What we said was that it was his personal opinion and there was a lot of justice in it.
“We have not made our official position on the issue as a committee.
“We are watching events and we would wait for the report of the Justice Ayo Salami panel before we meet and take a position on the issue,” he said.
Happenings serious embarrassment- CSOs
The Convener, Good Governance Team (GGT), Mr. Tunde Salman, told Daily Trust that the while no one should be above the law, the way Magu was arrested and treated does not connote a good image of the country and its anti-corruption efforts.
“While the law should always take its course, Magu should be taken to court and his trials should be open to the public, the corruption cases of other Nigerians are tried openly,” Salman said.
In his reaction, the Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi, told Daily Trust that the Magu saga was not only embarrassing to the anti-corruption efforts of the federal government, but also a personal embarrassment to President Buhari and the nation.
He asked: “Is the president not aware of the Magu case all this while?
“We are not in any position to clear or exonerate him, but the way his case is being handled is a disservice to the nation and it is not good for the image of the country.
“This also means that the so-called untouchables that the EFCC has handled and are fighting back are having their ways,” Zikirullahi said.
On her part, the Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, said the situation was not good for the country and that this only showed that the present administration was not truly committed to the anti-corruption efforts.
She, therefore, called for the immediate arraignment of Magu in the court and that his trial should be televised live for Nigerians and the world to know the truth of the matter.