The ongoing probe of Ibrahim Magu, suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is already raising dust in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over the fate of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and the party’s national leader.
Magu is currently being investigated by a presidential panel led by Justice Ayo Salami over allegations levelled against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.
Malami, in a memo to President Muhammadu Buhari, had recommended Magu’s sack. He anchored his recommendation on several grounds ranging from diversion of recovered loot to insubordination and misconduct.
One of the allegations against Magu is the discrepancies in the figures of assets recovered.
It was said that while he claimed that the commission had recovered N980 billion worth of assets, what is in the account is less than N100 billion.
Shortly after Magu’s arrest and detention, some protesters took to the streets of Abuja to demand the arrest of Tinubu over two bullion vans, believed to be conveying cash at his residence on the eve of the 2019 general election.
In February, 2019, viral pictures on social media had shown the two bullion vans being driven into Tinubu’s residence as many people looked on outside the compound.
In response to the controversy generated by the incident, Tinubu had said the bullion vans contained money belonging to him and not the government.
He had said: “Excuse me, is it my money or government money? I don’t work for the government.
“I am not in an agency of government, and let anyone come out to say I have collected contract from the government of President Muhammadu Buhari or the APC in the last five years. They should prove it.
“I am on my own and I am committed to my party. So, even if I have money to spend on my premises, what is your headache?
“If I don’t represent any agency of government and I have money to spend – if I like, I give it to the people free of charge as long as it is not to buy votes.
“Who are those monitoring my house or bullion vans? They must be mischief makers because they report falsehood. They are liars and idlers.”
However, a credible source in the presidency told Daily Independent that beyond what was publicly stated in Malami’s memo to the president, one major issue against Magu is his perceived selective investigation and refusal to investigate the bullion vans allegations even though President Buhari, who has made the war against corruption one of the three cardinal agenda of his administration, had given him “unfettered access to go all out and probe anyone irrespective of his status in the society”.
Daily Independent recalled that in 2018, Magu had challenged those questioning Tinubu’s source of wealth to write a petition and see if he would not act on it.
Magu had said: “You know what? If you are really interested, write a petition and see whether I won’t act.
“Go and write a petition and substantiate in the petition and find out if I won’t act. It is not for us to listen to people on radio and begin to act.
“Yes, we have intelligence but the surest way to get action is to go and write a petition and substantiate the contents of the petition and see whether I will not act.”
However, despite several petitions on the need to investigate the content of the bullion vans, Magu failed to act for unknown reasons.
When he was queried by journalists in November 2019 about the petition, he responded swiftly: “Do you want me to start discussing Tinubu’s petition here? No, I can’t. Next question.”
Speaking with our correspondent, our source said though two petitions were written against Tinubu on the bullion vans, Magu was instructed to go ahead with his investigation and he set up two teams to probe the two petitions.
“He was instructed to go ahead with the two petitions and he actually set up two teams to investigate it. The outcome of the investigation is what he has failed to reveal.
“I want to believe with Magu’s exit, the new EFCC chairman will continue from where he stopped and I won’t be surprised if the bullion vans petitions are revisited.
“Nigerians want to know and the administration wants to prove a point that it is not selective in its anti-graft war.”
When contacted, a close associate of Tinubu said they believe that the protest in Abuja on the bullion vans was sponsored by some individuals to embarrass Tinubu. He, however, said they didn’t know those behind it.
When asked if Tinubu would not be affected in anyway, he said Tinubu had nothing to do with Magu’s appointment and would not be affected even if he was removed.
“It has nothing to do with Asiwaju and it will not affect him in anyway.
“In the first place, he was not the one who appointed Magu and he never recommended him for the position.
“So, if those who appointed him say it is time for him to go, what is Asiwaju’s business with that?”
On the bullion vans allegations, he said: “Asiwaju has stated his position that he is no longer in government and he has not received any contract from the government in the last five years. So, that settles the issue.”
Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, on Tuesday said he had not been briefed on who succeeds Ibrahim Magu, suspended acting chairman of EFCC.
There has been no official statement from the presidency since Monday when Magu was arrested and brought before a presidential panel headed by Justice Ayo Salami in Abuja.
There has been confusion and anxiety in the commission’s headquarters over who takes over as acting chairman.
The anxiety stems from the fact that Magu’s suspension has not been officially communicated to the head of operations, Mohammed Umar, who, according to the EFCC Act, is the next in command to the acting chairman and acts in his absence.
Also, there appears a jostling between Umar and the commission’s secretary, Olanipekun Olukoyede, over who replaces the suspended acting chairman.
When contacted by Daily Independent, Shehu said he had no knowledge of the development as he had not been briefed.
“I don’t know who takes over. I have not been briefed,” he said.