The Senate’s refusal to confirm Ibrahim Magu as head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, was months in coming. In the end, it was a rancorous power-play involving the Senate, the State Security Service, and the Presidency that sealed Mr. Magu’s fate.
At a hurriedly arranged press conference Thursday, the spokesperson for the senate, Abdullahi Sabi, announced that Mr. Magu’s nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari as EFCC chairman had been rejected.
He cited “security report”, and said the president would be informed of the decision.
Several top security officials and lawmakers have shared with PREMIUM TIMES key elements of that report, and the sequence of events leading up to the Senate decision.
They also gave details of the high-wire intrigues that worked against Mr. Magu, a senior police officer who has managed to inject vigour into the nation’s fight against graft, while generating a whirling controversy with his tactics.
The principal charge against Mr. Magu, our sources said, was the allegation that the chief corruption fighter himself seemed tainted.
The SSS report pointed at Mr. Magu’s N20 million-a-year rental home, and the expensive air transport service he allegedly once enjoyed, at an estimated N2.5 million.
The service involved a private jet belonging to former Air Commodore Mohammed Umar, which transported Mr. Magu from Kano. Mr. Umar, a close friend to the EFCC boss, is facing corruption charges.
The report also noted that Mr. Magu had once been arrested when Farida Waziri headed the EFCC, for stashing official government files at home. EFCC files were also found at Mr. Umar’s home more recently when the property was searched by SSS agents, one source said.
Mr. Magu did not respond or return our calls Thursday. He did not speak to journalists at the National Assembly.
In earlier comments when faced with same allegations, he told PREMIUM TIMEs and other media that he was given the official apartment by the Federal Capital Development Administration (FCDA), and was unaware of its worth.
He also explained that the files found in his home at the time were documents he took home to enable him attend to pressing official duties.
Beyond the report
But multiple sources at the National Assembly and the Presidency agreed the report merely provided a cover to an interplay of power between the Presidency, the Senate and the SSS.
“By and large, it was more or a turf war, and an issue of personal difference between Mr. Magu and the SSS Director General, Lawan (Daura),” one source said.
Outside the National Assembly, the hushed confrontation had been mostly between two camps, involving top Buhari administration officials, they said.
Mr. Magu’s camp has the National Security Adviser, Mohammed Monguno, a retired Major General, and Mr. Umar, a former member of the presidential panel of military arms procurement.
The opposing camp, which for months canvassed M.D. . Magu’s removal, PREMIUM TIMES understands, has the SSS boss, Mr. Daura, Interior Minister Abdulrahman Dambazau, and President Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.
Our sources said for weeks, both camps lobbied senators for or against Mr. Magu, and the second camp aggressively pushed the “security report”.
While the report had long been received by the leadership of the Senate, it was not distributed to senators, officials said. It was read to Senators on Thursday.
By then, both sides had won fairly good numbers of lawmakers to their camps, and the two sides agreed Mr. Magu should neither be confirmed nor rejected as EFCC chairman.
Instead, Senators advised the president be informed of the SSS report and be asked for his view, in the hope that if the president persisted, then Mr. Magu would be confirmed.
Lawmakers said when Mr. Magu and other nominees were summoned at Thursday’s closed-door session, he was not asked to respond to the allegations against him.
“They only informed them of the report and told them everything will be sent back to the president,” one source said.
Several officials and lawmakers questioned the role of President Buhari in the matter, saying the plot succeeded because the president had himself become apathetic about keeping Mr. Magu at the post.
Lawmakers pointed to the report emanating from the SSS, which they said was copied to the president.
“It is impossible for the president to nominate someone for confirmation and for another of his appointees to write a damning report against the person and send to the senate,” one lawmaker said.
A presidency source said the president was clearly not keen about retaining Mr. Magu, and did not want to withdraw his nomination to avoid offending Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
“Remember it was the vice president who sent the letter for his confirmation to the Senate,” one presidency source said. “This works somehow because people can now blame the Senate.”
The source said ahead of the Senate session, when repeatedly asked about Mr. Magu’s confirmation, the president’s reaction had always been that he should go through the senate screening process and if he succeeded, that would be fine.