EXCLUSIVE: Disregard SSS, Senate, keep Magu as acting EFCC boss, anti-corruption advisers tell Buhari

Acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu

Regardless of the position of the Senate and the State Security Service, SSS, on the suitability of Ibrahim Magu for the top job at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Presidential Advisory Council on Anti-corruption Campaign has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to keep him (Mr. Magu) in acting capacity.

The Senate on Tuesday rejected the re-nomination of Ibrahim Magu by Mr. Buhari as the substantive EFCC Chairman after the SSS reaffirmed its position that the nominee would constitute a liability to the administration’s anti-corruption campaign because he lacks integrity to lead the country’s anti-graft agency.

However, the council’s chairman, Itse Sagay, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES late on Tuesday, described as “perverse” Senate rejection of Mr. Magu and insisted he is the “best for the job”.

Mr. Sagay, a professor of Law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, disclosed that members of the council met (using conference call facility) in the wake of Mr. Magu’s failure to scale the Senate hurdle for the second time on same ground.

“We consider the rejection as extremely perverse, negative, not based on merit and a sort of vendetta,” said Mr. Sagay. “So we agreed he should continue to serve in that position as acting chairman if he is not confirmed by the Senate.”

Mr. Sagay is a staunch supporter of Mr. Magu and his council had earlier investigated the SSS allegations against the acting EFCC chairman and, consequently, considered them invalid.

The council’s advice may have been part of what Mr. Buhari considered to re-nominate Mr. Magu in January, telling the Senate investigations had absolved the nominee of culpability in respect of the SSS’ allegations.

But Tuesday, on the eve of the of his confirmation hearing, SSS wrote back to the Senate to reaffirm its position that Mr. Magu should not be confirmed because he has failed the “integrity test”, brushing aside the outcome of investigations by the presidency.

The SSS letter, seen by PREMIUM TIMES, was a response to the Senate which had on March 7 sought security report on Mr. Magu.

The development is strongly suggestive of lack of coordination in the Buhari administration or that Mr. Magu did not enjoy the full support of the president.

In fact, SSS had issued two reports on same day, October 3, with varying conclusions, though signed by one person, Folashade Bello, on behalf of the Director-General.

By re-nominating Mr. Magu in January and telling the Senate allegations against him were false, the SSS’ competence and capacity was brought to doubt. But surprisingly, the President did not query the SSS headed by his kinsman, Lawal Daura, over the service’s claims which he dismissed in his own letter to the Senateand as to why two varying reports were issued on one subject.

Nevertheless, the anti-corruption council has advised the President to re-nominate Mr. Magu for the third time, Mr. Sagay told PREMIUM TIMES, apart from keeping him in his current acting capacity.

“At his own time, at the President’s convenience, he should be re-nominated. But until that is done, Magu should continue to be there as acting chairman to continue the excellent job he has been doing. He is the best candidate for the job.

“Regardless of whatever report anybody writes, Magu is by far the best candidate and we should stick by him,” Mr. Sagay said.

Asked if his council was worried about the repeated blockade mounted by the SSS, an agency under the Presidency, against a nominee of the President, he said, “that’s an issue for the President himself to resolve.

“It does not directly concern us. Our job really is to consider what is best for the country in the fight against corruption.”

He said the council’s report would be formally communicated to the President today, Thursday, by its executive secretary.

Apart from the security report, Mr. Magu had a below-par day at his confirmation hearing, saying he was oblivious of at least three matters under the body he heads.

He could not specifically mention the amount the EFCC had recovered from looters. He admitted “it is not everything I know” when he was told his operatives sold a C of O recovered in a raided property.

After the hearing, one Senator, Rilwan Akanbi (APC-Oyo South), told PREMIUM TIMES he was one of the lawmakers that had backed Mr. Magu but blamed him for his performance during the hearing which he said worsened his case after the SSS report.

“Senate should not be blamed,” Mr. Akanbi said. “He didn’t perform well; yet many of us shouted “nay” but “aye” was truly greater. Then, the Presidency didn’t help him. They had months to tidy things and ensure the SSS did not bring a negative report again.”

In his remarks after the Senate voted to reject Mr. Magu, Senate President Saraki expressed expectation Mr. Buhari would consider it “normal” to replace the acting chairman.

Mr. Magu was appointed acting chairman in November 2015, after the removal of Ibrahim Lamorde.

On the two occasions that his name was sent to Senate, Mr. Buhari was vacationing abroad. In fact, the first nomination was made via the letter signed by Mr. Osinbajo in June 2016.

Presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, said on Thursday via his twitter handle the president would react only after receiving an official notification of the Senate resolution by the lawmakers.

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