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March 4, 2021

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Lawyers, activists fault non-disclosure of probe panel’s report on Magu

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Some lawyers and activists on Wednesday faulted the non-disclosure of the Ayo Salami panel’s report on Ibrahim Magu, the suspended chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

They argued in separate interviews with PREMIUM TIMES that President Muhammadu Buhari ought to have made the Salami panel report public before appointing a new substantive chair of the anti-graft agency.

The President, last July, suspended Mr Magu to face the Salami panel, and immediately replaced him with EFCC’s Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar, also as acting chairperson of the commission.

The panel was set up to probe the allegations of insubordination and corruption, including diversion of recovered assets, levelled against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami. [PHOTO CREDIT: Official web page of the Federal Ministry of Justice]
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami. [PHOTO CREDIT: Official web page of the Federal Ministry of Justice]

But the report has not been made public months after the panel submitted it to President Buhari in November last year.

Abdulrasheed Bawa
Abdulrasheed Bawa

While the public was waiting for the findings of the report to be released, the presidency announced on Tuesday that Mr Buhari had sent the name of the head of EFCC’s Lagos zonal office, Abdulrasheed Bawa, to the senate for confirmation as the commission’s new substantive chair.

Reactions

Reacting to the development, Lanre Suraju, who is the chairperson of Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), said “a committed and a genuinely concerned government would have released the panel report.”

He added, “The Federal Government should have released the outcome of that panel and work with the findings of the panel to show that this is a government of due process and government that is genuinely committed to reforming the Commission.

‘Genuineness of probe doubtful’

Also speaking, a Lagos-based human rights and lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, said since the panel was instituted to investigate allegations of corruption against Mr Magu and the EFCC, it was right to release the report before a new EFCC chief was appointed.

Ibrahim Magu, suspended EFCC Chairman.
Ibrahim Magu, suspended EFCC Chairman.

He said, “As far as I know, President Buhari is not fighting corruption. If it was, then we would begin to have an expectation that is someone is being investigated then it is expected we see the end of the investigation.

“If we look at the high profile cases that are being investigated by this government, how many have been diligently and deliberately prosecuted?”

He expressed doubts about the genuineness of the probe, even as he recalled that the probe was done behind the camera.

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He said, “I don’t know why the matter has been swept under the carpet. It is even important to recall that the so-called investigation was done behind camera and secrecy.

“So if the president was sincere about the investigation there should have been a public investigation.”

“A report has been submitted, it is expected to let entire Nigeria know the outcome of the report, let us know who was indicted, the actual asset that has been recovered, and also make it known if those assets were accounted for if there are criminal infractions, charges should be filed, and somebody should be arraigned in court and there should be a prosecution thereafter,” Mr Effiong added.

‘Nigerians deserve to know the truth’

Another lawyer, Liborious Oshoma, also said Nigerians deserved to know if truly Magu was indicted or not from the Mr Salami-led investigative panel.

“For me, one of the hallmarks of fighting corruption is transparency and accountability is second and probity is third.

“The President made us believe there was going to be a scrutiny of an investigation into the activities of Magu and the EFCC, that he needed to be accountable to the people of Nigeria. One would have expected that after that probe, the findings would be made public.”

He said the non-disclosure of the findings of the report “does not show, probity, accountability and transparency on the part of Mr President.”

He added, “You have indicted the former chairman fine, on what? Does it mean that he has been indicted and he has equally been given a pat on his back and told to say no more?

“Did he take from the government did he commit any infractions and is the government going to ask him to go and evade prosecutions?

“And we as (Nigerians), are we going to forget what transpired? so what is the guarantee that the government would keep to its words given the backdrop of the several the commissions of inquiry set up to look into the #EndSARS protests? So does it mean the government would also not act to the variety of the panel findings?”

“Releasing the outcome of the report is very important for the sake of probity, transparency and accountability.”

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