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EFCC boss, Magu suspended

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No one is above scrutiny, presidency affirms
• ‘Indictment a slap on Buhari’s anti-graft campaign’
• CSO tasks president on finding new helmsman

After five years as the face of the Federal Government’s fight against corruption, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu was suspended, yesterday, over “weighty” allegations of misconduct.

The suspension will be in force until a decision is taken on him.

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Magu was arrested on Monday by a combined team of Department of State Services (DSS) personnel and policemen at the Wuse II office of the EFCC to face a presidential panel investigating allegations of corruption against him.

He was reportedly detained overnight at the Force Criminal Investigation Department in Area 10, Abuja, on the orders of the committee, which also questioned him yesterday morning.

The Presidency, yesterday, declared that the ongoing probe affirms the fact that nobody under the Buhari administration is above scrutiny.

A top source said the interrogation was intended to give the EFCC boss an opportunity to clear himself of the substantial allegations.

The source maintained that the investigation hoped to reinforce the administration’s commitment to transparency and accountability, stressing that the holder of an elevated office such as EFCC Chairman must be above suspicion.

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“The panel investigating allegations against Ag. EFCC Chairman had been sitting for some weeks now. There’s no prejudgment. Absolutely none. The Buhari administration can be counted on to uphold fairness and justice at all times,” the source added.

But a top EFCC official told The Guardian: “The allegations against Magu are all lies.” The source said: “I see the whole situation as a power play between the Attorney General and Magu. Also, preparation for 2023 is another reason why they want Magu out because he knows too much. ”

The source said: “Another thing is the problem of staff welfare. Imagine, somebody like me, for close to 10 years, has not gained any promotion. We are not happy about the news of his suspension but I know that the staff are not happy with him.”

The headquarters of the agency was like a graveyard when The Guardian visited, following the suspension. The reception was empty. Photographs of the chairman, however, remained on the walls.

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The source added: “We have not received any official reports that our chairman has been suspended. But if that be the case, the Head of Operations, Mohammed Umar, will oversee the commission for now.”

EFCC's spokesman Dele Oyewale, however, declined to comment on the situation.

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), meanwhile, described Magu’s ordeal as indicative of the widespread corruption bedevilling the country, even as it urged Buhari to use merit and competence as benchmarks for picking a new helmsman.

The group said the arrest and detention of the foremost anti-graft Czar show there are extensive networks of corrupt officials in the current administration that had enjoyed protection because of their access to some intelligence on the allegations now made against Magu.

In a statement signed by National Coordinator Emmanuel Onwubiko and National Media Affairs Director Zainab Yusuf, the rights group said: “The extent of corruption at the federal and state level is troubling.

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“Also, the credibility and integrity of the fight against corruption and economic crimes have been muddled up and muddied in political waters. This is to the extent that there are persons who are immune from prosecution because of their proximity to the seat of power in Abuja.”

It alleged: “The EFCC under Ibrahim Magu did nothing when the late Chief of Staff Abba Kyari was accused of collecting huge bribes from MTN and engaging in many cases of fraud and contract scam.

“The EFCC has watched as the National Social Investment Scheme under the Presidency failed to account for how over N500 billion budgetary releases were spent amid allegations that ghost beneficiaries were paid without accountability and transparency.

“The National Emergency Management Agency was embroiled in widespread corruption running into several billion. But the EFCC looked the other way.”

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Also, Timi Frank, former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), described Magu’s indictment as a slap on the anti-graft campaign of the Buhari administration.

“What can be more embarrassing to a country than for the head of its anti-graft crusade to be indicted for corruption? APC and this regime should bury their head in shame, as this is the most corrupt democratic administration in the history of our beloved country,” he said in a statement.

Nevertheless, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urged the authorities to ensure Magu gets a fair treatment.

In a statement by Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP expressed “concerns about reports that the apparently arbitrary arrest of Magu might be ‘the outcome of power-play’ at the highest levels of government.”

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It said if true, it would make a mockery of Buhari’s fight against corruption. SERAP, therefore, urged the authorities to grant Magu a fair trial. It said the EFCC boss must either be charged with a recognisable criminal offence or released immediately and allowed to do his job without fear of reprisals.

It stressed that the government cannot continue to keep Magu in detention under suspicious circumstances without bringing any legitimate charges against him in violation of national and international law.

SERAP said the authorities must support the independence of anti-corruption agencies and institutions if they must genuinely fight corruption. It added: “They should focus on addressing the impact of corruption such as political violence, and denial of access for millions of Nigerians to even the most basic health and education services, as well as other patterns of human rights violations.”

“Improving the independence of anti-corruption agencies and institutions is the most promising way to make tangible progress in the fight against corruption, now and in the near future.

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