Embattled acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, has accused the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, of frustrating efforts made by the anti-graft commission to transparently dispose vessels forfeited to the Nigerian government.
Mr Magu, who was responding to an enquiry by the presidential probe panel investigating allegations of corruptions leveled against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, accused Mr Malami of working at cross-purposes with the commission in the disposal of vessels involved in illegal activities to the extent of costing the country at least N283 million in recovered assets.
Mr Magu’s response suggested that the AGF’s action was responsible for the loss of one of the vessels, which was carrying 1,459 metric tonnes (1,979,056.45 litres) of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
The suspended EFCC boss made the allegation while responding to a part of the query that alleged that the commission under him mismanaged recovered asset, including vessels involved in economic sabotage.
Explaining what happened with the forfeiture of one of the vessels, MT Good Success, Mr Magu explained that the vessel was seized with 1459 metric tonnes of PMS. He said the company also forfeited the N66,069,505 and $975,694.50 in FCMB Plc account of Hepa Global Energy Limited, the owner of MT Good Success.
He said although the company tried to upturn the judgement by O.E Abang, a high court judge in 2015 the attempt failed at the Court of Appeal.
Mr Magu explained that before the stay of execution filed by the company at the Court of Appeal, he had already commenced actions to ensure that the government benefited from the forfeited funds by lodging it with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
He said the EFCC similarly wrote a letter to Mr Malami with reference number EFCC/SC/JUS/07/101 dated 24/03/16 titled “NOTIFICATION TO DISPOSE” of MT GOOD SUCCESS, recommending the disposal of the vessel and the processes to be adopted.
He said the EFCC under his leadership did so “in demonstrating my total commitment for accountability and transparency in the process of disposition of the forfeited asset”.
He claimed that the AGF did not respond to the letter.
He said on November 10 and 23, the commission received a couple of memos from the Nigerian Navy, which was the custodian of the forfeited vessels stating that MT Good Success had sunk.
He said the navy explained that when the vessel was about to sink, efforts were made to relocate it from Lagos Anchorage and attempts were made to inform the commission’s Lagos office but were unable to do this before the vessels submerged.
“Pursuant to the above recommendation a meeting was held with the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command wherein he explained that the vessel had sunk but same could be salvaged, after incurring heavy costs, as only very few companies, such as Julius Berger, have the equipment and capacity to salvage the vessel.
“The report of the meeting was conveyed through a memo dated 19th December 2016 wherein it was recommended that all vessels in the custody of the Navy listed in the memo including MT Good Success should be salvaged, evacuated and disposed of, if possible,” he wrote.
He said a letter was subsequently issued to a company, Pinnacle Trading and Investment Nigeria Limited, to dispose the vessel.
He explained that upon the discovery that the letter issued to Pinnacle flouted a statutory procurement procedure in the Public Procurement Act, 2007, the EFCC directed that the letter be revoked and subsequently issued a disclaimer.
Mr Magu explained that the commission had to make the decision when it found out that Pinnacle Limited is owned by the same people behind Omo-Jay Limited, a company which was being prosecuted for illegal oil dealings in the Niger Delta.
Last week it emerged that Mr Malami authorised Omo-Jay to dispose of crude oil and diesel in four sea vessels despite the companies standing trial for stealing 12,000 metric tonnes of crude oil.
Mr Malami had argued that his directive to the company to dispose of the oil was legal. He stated that although the company and its owner, Jerome Itepu, were standing trial, they have not been convicted by any court of law in the country and should not be denied the opportunity to participate in the bidding process.
Malami gifted more forfeited content of seized vessels to Omo-Jay
Mr Magu also explained how the actions of the AGF led to the double disposal of seized vessels and how, Malami directed the same Omo-Jay Limited to dispose the forfeited vessels.
He said on April 7, 2017, the commission got a court order from Justice Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos for the sale of Automated Gas Oil (AGO) onboard the vessel PSV Derby.
The judge ordered the court registrar in collaboration with the prosecutor and defence counsel to dispose the asset while the proceeds of the sale would be in the court’s custody pending the determination of the case.
Mr Magu said while the EFCC was trying to execute the court order, Mr Malami commenced a fresh process for the disposal of the vessels while ignoring a letter from the EFCC informing it of the court order it had obtained.
“In so doing, the HAGF did not respond to the letter written to him by the former Secretary to the Commission recommending the disposal of MT Good Success. Rather the HAGF commenced his own process of disposing of not only MT GOOD SUCCESS but other vessels already forfeited by the Commission including MT ASTERI, MT DERBY, MV THAMES and in any others connected to pending court cases,” he wrote.
He informed the probe panel that the AGF then contracted a private law firm, Dipo Opeseyi and Co, to obtain forfeitures on his behalf while instructing the commission to work with the firm to reconcile the orders obtained by the firm
Mr Magu also told the probe panel that Mr Malami through a letter with reference number HQ/011/78/98/93/A/VOL.1/21 dated 14th of February, 2020 addressed to him and the Nigerian Navy informed the Commission that by virtue of the Federal Government of Nigeria official Gazette No. 163 Vol 106 of 2019, the navy has been directed to allow Omo Jay Nigeria Limited to evacuate the content of two other forfeited vessels – MT Peace and Mt Asteris.
Mr Magu said the commission later learnt through an auctioneer it engaged that the Ministry of Defence and Mr Malami had commenced the process of engaging other auctioneers to dispose of the vessels “thereby taking away the opportunity given to this auctioneer by the Commission to dispose of the vessels through transparent due process.”
“The aforesaid law firm of SANI & CO wrote a similar petition to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) against the Commission and the HAGF for undertaking double disposal process of the same assets. The Commission was invited to BPP to respond to the allegation
“By a letter ref. No: MOD/PROC/GEN/346/1 dated 21st June 2018 the Honourable Minister of Defence informed the Commission of the approval of Mr President to the Ministry of Defence to dispose the vessels.
“The HAGF through the Head of Asset Recovery and Management Unit of the Ministry of Justice, Ladidi B. Mohammed, wrote a letter to the Commission with reference number HAGF/ARMU/RMDOVS/2017/11 dated 27th July 2018 requesting for access to the vessels for valuation by Omo-Jay Nigeria Limited, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing and Dipo Okpeseyi & Co.”
Mr Magu explained that in demonstration of his commitment towards ensuring Federal Government get the full economic benefit, he informed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is the chairman, Presidential Committee on Asset Recovery “of the steps taken by the Commission to prevent economic loss as a result of the depreciating nature of the forfeited assets, the challenges we are encountering and the need to urgently dispose of the perishable and depreciating forfeited assets.”
Mr Malami did not answer or respond to calls made to him on Tuesday morning to comment for this story.