A political risk consultancy, Menas Associates, has implicated the Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, on the Magugate scandal rubbishing the Buhari administration anti-corruption fight.
In its latest intelligence report on Nigeria Politics and Security, Menas says the ordeal of the suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, has a political undertone.
The troubled anti-graft top cob was accosted by security operatives in front of the old EFCC headquarters on Fomella Street, Wuse 2, Abuja, at noon the previous Monday and compelled to appear before a Presidential Investigating panel chaired by retired Justice Ayo Salami.
He has been in police custody at the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Garki, since his arrest from where he has been appearing before the panel to respond to questions on the allegations raised against him by Malami, who is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
On Wednesday evening, he was however released from detention.
The embattled Magu was being taken to appear before the Justice Salami-led Presidential panel investigating allegations of corruption and insubordination heaped on him by Malami.
Barely hours after he was released from the 10-day police custody, Magu took a swipe at those behind his arrest, detention, describing the allegations of financial improprieties against him as a load of nonsense.
He exclusively told The Nation, Tinubu’s newspaper, “they are nonsense. They are mere trump up allegations to tarnish my image and that of the EFCC. I did not steal or divert or convert funds to private use. I read the allegations and I was shocked.
“I am happy to breathe freedom’’. While urging Nigerians not to give up on the fight against corruption, he said, “they should not give up on the fight because corruption kills a nation faster than any other thing. Whether I am the chairman of EFCC or not, Nigerians must own the war against corruption which President Buhari is determined to eradicate.”
On his grilling, he said: “It is one of those risks of the job. It is not a personal fight. Whether I am EFCC Chairman or not the anti-corruption war must continue. What I have gone through is a case of dog eats dog but I see it as one of those risks of the job. But we must not give up in any way.’’
The Justice Ayo Salami panel is interested in establishing if the embattled Magu indeed, bought properties abroad, particularly in Dubai, where he was said to have travelled to several times on official and private visits.
The panel is also said to be preoccupied with allegations that N39 billion was diverted from the recovered loot, and eager to carry out forensics on documents recovered from Magu’s house as well as an analysis of his earnings and bank records.
What started as a rumour that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman had been arrested turned out to be true and a potential problem for President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight.
While Ibrahim Magu was probably arrested because he has been compromised in the fight against corruption, there are also political intrigues underlying the arrest.
Magu’s problems have implicated other members of the Buhari administration. One blogger claimed that Magu had confessed to having given $10.3 million to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who promptly denied the allegations.
Osinbajo in a statement the previous Wednesday by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, says he will not be distracted by campaigns of lies and calumny.
The statement reads in part: ‘’With all emphasis at our disposal, let it be firmly stated that these are totally false and baseless fabrications purporting to reflect goings-on at the Probe Panel investigating Ibrahim Magu. They are indeed completely absurd in every respect.
‘’Sadly, such mindless, vicious and reckless publications have now become the preferred tool of unscrupulous and reprobate elements in our society who are procured with monetary inducement to peddle blatant falsehood, tarnish the image of upright public officials and mislead unsuspecting Nigerians.
‘’Vice President Osinbajo, SAN, will of course not be distracted by these obvious campaigns of lies and calumny. The online publications, being criminally defamatory in nature, have been referred to the relevant law enforcement agencies for investigation and necessary action.’’
Osinbajo’s close aides believe that his rivals for the 2023 Presidency are deliberately sponsoring the allegations against him.
They argue that Osinbajo is the man to beat in 2023 — especially if he gets Buhari’s backing — and that this allegation is part of efforts to turn Buhari against him and also ensure that, even if he gets Buhari’s backing, he is too tarnished to be a successful candidate.
This argument has been strengthened because the Attorney General for the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami — who forced through Magu’s removal and the replacement by his own preferred successor — is thought to be working for Kebbi State’s Governor Atiku Bagudu who is also interested in succeeding Buhari.
For his part, Malami wants to succeed Bagudu as governor when he ends his second term tenure in 2023. The two men, therefore, have an interest in helping one another achieve their ambitions.
They played a key role in the removal of the APC’s national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, who was another person who was working for one of Bagudu’s potential 2023 rivals.
Senior political sources, therefore, believe that Magu’s removal is part of the longer-term game by the Bagudu-Malami faction.
It is also seen as no coincidence that, the day after Magu was suspended from office, a group of unknown protesters appeared in Abuja demanding an investigation of the APC’s national leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on allegations of corruption.
Magu deliberately avoided investigating Tinubu even when he received petitions against him.
There were allegations against Tinubu over the movement of two bullion vans which are suspected of carrying cash to his house on the eve of the 2019 presidential elections.
Magu declined to launch an investigation despite simultaneously prosecuting a relative of opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, over allegations of money laundering linked with the 2019 elections.
Magu was clearing shielding Tinubu even though it was unclear if he was doing so on Buhari’s instructions or purely based on his own discretion not to cause confusion in the APC.