President Muhammadu Buhari has said his administration remains committed to the fight against corruption in the country.
President Buhari said this Friday when he received the Ayo Salami panel’s report that investigated the suspended acting chairperson of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu.
Mr Magu was investigated by a panel headed by Justice Salami, a former president of the Appeal Court, over allegations of graft and insubordination levelled against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.
According to a statement signed by the spokesperson to the president, Femi Adesina, the president expressed displeasure at what he described as an “abomination” that allegations of corruption should arise against some government institutions that are saddled with the responsibility of fighting graft.
He said the Salami panel was set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act (Cap T21, LFN, 2004) to probe the activities of the EFCC from May 2015 to May 2020.
The president also said his administration was prepared to “cut off any stream that nourishes the seed of corruption and supports its growth.”
”However, the stark reality of widespread corruption becomes poignant when allegations of corruption touches on the leadership of an institution set up by law to coordinate and enforce all economic and financial crimes. It is an abomination that strikes at the root and undermines the Government’s anti-corruption programme.
”It was in response to the serious allegations against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that I set up a panel headed by the Honourable Justice Isa Ayo Salami, retired President of the Court of Appeal, via an Instrument dated 3rd July 2020 pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry Act (Cap T21, LFN, 2004).
”We recognize that there are more grounds to cover in the war against corruption, and we are prepared to go out to possess those lands by cutting off any stream that nourishes the seed of corruption and supports its growth.
”Let it be known that in the fight against corruption, no one is too big to tackle, as no individual is bigger than the Nigerian State!” President Buhari said.
The president also mentioned key initiatives that his administration launched in its efforts to strengthen transparency in the public sectors.
He said, ”As a government, and in furtherance of our anti-corruption programme, we have since inception engaged in many reforms in removing corruption including but not limited to the enforcement of Treasury Single Account (TSA), strict implementation of the Bank Verification Number Policy and signing unto the Open Government Partnership. A lot of efforts have gone into building and development of our anti-corruption institutions.”
According to the statement, the president called on all Nigerians to own the fight against corruption at their respective levels.
He also thanked members of the Commission for their dedication and commitment to the fight against corruption.
In his remarks, Mr Salami gave an account to the president on the proceedings of the panel, including the numbers of witnesses and petitions the presidential panel received since it kicked off.
According to the statement, Mr Salami said Mr Magu and 113 other witnesses appeared and testified before the Commission.
He added that the panel received 46 petitions and memoranda as presented by individuals and organisations with complaints against the suspended acting EFCC chairman, or both.
Justice Salami disclosed that the Commission also embarked on a nationwide physical verification of recovered forfeited assets, comprising real estates, automobiles, vessels and non-cash assets.
He commended the president for the initiative to dispose of all forfeited assets “because of the poor condition of the assets we saw during our physical verification nationwide.”
In his recommendation, Mr Salami urged the president to consider candidates from other law enforcement or security agencies and a core staff of the EFCC in his appointment of a new chairman of the Commission, as provided in the establishment of the EFCC Act of 2004.
Mr Magu’s defence
Mr Magu was arrested dramatically in July in front of the EFCC Wuse II office and driven to the Presidential Villa where the panel sat. He was detained for more than four days on the directive of the panel.
Mr Malami, whose complaint led to the suspension of Mr Magu in July after five years as acting EFCC chairperson, had declined to appear before the panel to defend his allegations.
He had in a series of letters to the president accused Mr Magu of diverting billions of naira of recovered funds, as well as failing to act timeously on a presidential directive to investigate the controversial $9.6 billion P&ID British firm that secured a gas contract in Nigeria.
Mr Magu was also accused of purchasing a property in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates through a Nigerian cleric, Emmanuel Omale.
He has denied all allegations as baseless and false.
His lawyer, Wahab Shittu, had also written several letters to the panel, accusing the panel of preventing his client from calling a witness and subpoenaing certain individuals for his defence.
The lawyer also asked the panel to provide his client with adequate time and facility ahead of his defence, as well as access to all exhibits tendered in the proceeding which, according to the lawyer, the panel repeatedly ignored.
The lawyer also accused the panel of verifying recovered assets in the absence of Mr Magu and his lawyers and thereafter proceed to write a report without clarification from him.