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Alleged fraud: Magu released from custody, to face Malami in full-scale ‘war’

After over one week of being in detention over allegations of corruption levelled against him by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, the suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, was released from police custody Wednesday evening. 

One of Magu’s lawyers, Tosin Ojaomo, who had filed a bail application for his client last week, confirmed Magu’s release to BusinessDay late Wednesday.

Ojaomo said his client will now face the job of debunking the “concocted and fallacious allegations” levelled against him.

In what appeared to be some confusing moments earlier on Wednesday, Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had denied detaining Magu, saying it was the Presidency that held the embattled anti-graft czar in detention. He had also asked Magu to direct his bail application to the presidential panel.

In a letter dated July 14, 2020 and addressed to Ojaomo, the IGP said the Police Force was neither investigating nor detaining Magu, so it could not grant the bail request.

“The Inspector-General of Police directs that your attention be drawn to the fact that the Nigeria Police Force is not investigating CP Ibrahim Magu (your client), and he is accordingly, not being detained by the Police but by the Presidential Panel that is investigating the activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),” the letter read in part.

“The Inspector-General of Police, therefore, advises that you reconsider directing your request to the Chairman of the Presidential Panel for appropriate attention,” it said.

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Magu was arrested on Monday, July 6, by men of the Department of State Services (DSS) and was taken to the presidential panel headed by Ayo Salami, a retired president of the Appeal Court, in the Presidential Villa in Abuja for investigation over allegations of re-looting recovered assets running into billions of naira, misconduct and insubordination.

Magu was also accused of living in a N40 million apartment in high-brow Maitama District, Abuja, allegedly paid for by a corrupt retired air commodore, Mohammed Umar. His residence in Maitama and another one on Karu were searched where incriminating materials were said to have been found.

All his aides were withdrawn and his official vehicles were seized, forcing him to resort to using private security outfits to guard his family.

Magu was later moved to Area 10 Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) of the police in Abuja where he has since been detained.

On June 11, President Muhammadu Buhari, through the Office of the Attorney General, suspended Magu and appointed Mohammed Umar as acting chairman of the anti-graft agency to allow for an unhindered inquiry by the Presidential Investigation Panel under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act and other relevant laws.

However, Magu, in a counter move through his lawyers, on Tuesday, said he would file corruption charges against Malami to the Presidential Panel to investigate the AGF’s alleged illegal sale of assets recovered by the EFCC. Magu also insisted that Malami must step aside for a thorough investigation of the matter by the panel and ICPC.

Speaking to BusinessDay on Tuesday, Ojaomo referred to a media report linking Malami to the alleged illegal sale of recovered assets, for which he (Malami) had threatened legal action against the news medium that reported his alleged fraud.

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Ojaomo said, “The AGF must step aside and allow investigation into the weighty allegations that have been made against him most especially on the sale of vessels. Go and look at the EFCC Act, the AGF does not have the power to sell recovered assets.

“Let me tell you how this operates. If a vessel is seized by the Nigerian Navy, the vessel is handed over to the EFCC for investigation and prosecution of the offenders. Now, the AGF unilaterally without any authorization from the EFCC that is investigating this matter, that is in custody of these exhibits and these seized assets, granted approval for contractors to go and be selling those properties.

“Go and check the provisions of section 31 and 32 of the EFCC Act and you will see the punishment that is clearly in those provisions for anybody that deals with any asset that is under forfeiture from the court on behalf of the EFCC without clearing from the EFCC.

“So, these are serious infractions and the AGF has also admitted granting the approvals, claiming they are legal. We are now saying that the sales are illegal because there is a clear provision of a statute on how to deal with those assets. So, that is why we are calling for the AGF to step aside so that the panel can also investigate those allegations because one of the things Magu is being investigated is the issue of assets and the AGF’s name also featured there.”

On Wednesday, July 15, lead counsel to Magu, Wahab Shittu, in a letter addressed to Ayo Salami, raised concern over what the legal team called   “serial falsehood publications in the media” over the multiple allegations in respect of matters which never featured in the proceedings of the panel headed by Salami.

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