Days after Nigeria’s The Guardian newspaper broke a story announcing the sack of Ibrahim Magu as the head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the newspaper has pulled down the story from its website.
Quoting an unnamed source on New Year’s eve, the newspaper had reported that Mr. Magu had been redeployed to the Nigerian Police Force to enable a fresh nominee to be forwarded by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Senate.
It also reported that Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation, had already issued a redeployment letter to Mr. Magu directing him to hand over to the Director of Operations in the Commission.
The report was to settle Mr. Magu’s fate after weeks of intense power play following the Senate’s rejection of his nomination as EFCC chairman. But the story was false.
The Presidency was the first to issue a disclaimer after it was contacted by PREMIUM TIMES.
“It is not true,” Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, said on Saturday.
Mr. Adesina followed up his response with a tweet: “No truth in the story making the rounds that Magu has been removed as EFCC boss. The AGF is yet to submit his probe report to the President.”
Another Presidency spokesperson, Garba Shehu, dismissed The Guardian’s article as untrue.
“We are reading reports that the @officialEFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, has been sacked,” Mr. Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President,” also tweeted on Saturday.
“No report has been made available to the Presidency by the Attorney General of the Federation over the matter. The report of his sack is therefore speculative and preemptive.”
On its official Twitter handle @officialEFCC, the Commission tweeted “Guardian Newspaper Lied. Magu Not Sacked!”
The AGF’s office also described the story as untrue.
The newspaper came under intense criticism, with critics questioning its lack of professionalism, failing to contact either the EFCC or the AGF’s office before running a story sourced from an anonymous contact.
By Monday, PREMIUM TIMES noticed that the controversial story had been pulled from The Guardian newspaper’s official website.
When contacted on Tuesday, Abraham Ogbodo, Editor of The Guardian, said the newspaper had already explained on its hard copy editions of Sunday and Monday the reason for pulling down the story.
Mr. Ogbodo admitted it was an error on the part of the newspaper, and “recklessness” of its online arm.
“We did not explain online, we explained in our hard copy, yesterday and day before yesterday,” Mr. Ogbodo told PREMIUM TIMES.
“The explanation is very simple. No official confirmation and nothing and…. since they are making issues, the Presidency has denied.
“The Presidency is in a place to say this man is no longer the acting chairman, so if they say it’s not true and the man is still in office, what are we supposed to do? To insist that it is true? We can’t do that. So we’ll wait. If it is false, we will know, if it is not false…one way or the other the man will be relieved of his duty.”
Appointed as EFCC’s acting chairman by the president on November 15, 2015, Mr. Magu’s nomination was rejected by the Senate on December 15 last year.
The Senate said it acted based on security reports forwarded to it by the State Security Service accusing Mr. Magu, among other allegations, of benefitting from the proceeds of fraud from an individual being prosecuted by the secret police.
A fact-check of the allegations by this newspaper showed the allegations were largely untrue.
The SSS had sent two separate security reports on the same day signed by its official, Folashade Bello, to the lawmakers.
While one commended him on his exceptional performance, the other said he would be a liability to Mr. Buhari’s anti-corruption efforts.