There are strong indications that the Presidential Investigative Panel headed by former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, may be focusing attention on the assets declaration of the suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu. As early indications appear to show he may not have fully declared his assets if he declared one at all contrary to law in the form submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
Magu, who is being investigated for official malfeasance and fraud was allegedly said to have admitted on record to making false assets declaration.
President Muhammadu Buhari had set up the panel to investigate various allegations of wrongdoing, including insubordination, failure to properly account for recovered assets, abuse of office, and other corrupt acts levelled against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami, SAN.
The panel’s ivestigation of Magu is continuing in the precincts of the Presidential Villa in Abuja. The suspended EFCC chief had earlier been arrested and detained for 10 days before he was released. According to a competent source privy to the investigation, the suspended chairman has now been availed opportunity to respond to more damning evidence against him before the investigative panel. After opening his defence last Monday, it was not immediately clear if he continued throughout the week as initially scheduled since he was said to have complained of not having the full scope of petitions against him.
It would be recalled that days after Magu was released from detention, a presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, told Nigerians, while fielding questions on a national television, to be prepared for more surprises from Magu’s investigation.
Shehu had said, “I am not going to pre-empt the panel investigation but I just advise Nigerians to hold their hearts in their hands. By the time they are done with this job and they come out with the reports, prepare yourselves for surprises
“I don’t know what will come out but if the sense we are getting from what is being done over there is anything to go by, I think that Nigerians should not be confused by any outbursts by anybody.”
Magu’s lawyers have, since put up a strident defence of their client to counter some of the allegations against him.
We gathered at the weekend that the former EFCC boss allegedly admitted to making false assets declaration after the panel confronted him with evidence uncovered by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). Our source said Magu was found to have deliberately omitted, failed or neglected to fully declare his asset in banks in the assets declaration form he submitted or the subsequent updates.
Apparently shocked by the discovery, the source declared. “Can you imagine that Magu did not fully declare his assets while he was busy chasing others for similar breaches. He even admitted to not declaring his accounts in the asset declaration form he filled and returned to CCB. This is now a clearly established fact on record before the panel.”
Magu’s alleged false assets declaration and the admission if true, would be a cruel irony to his public posture. As acting chairman of EFCC, his investigations of false assets declaration had ruined the careers of many high-profile public officials, who failed to properly and fully declare their assets. Such inquests had formed part of the charges against the erring officials at either the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) or regular courts. While Magu was leading some of those investigations, astoundingly, he was himself guilty of the same offence, at least going by his alleged admission of false assets declaration.
Prominent among those felled by the false assets declaration saga in recent times is the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen. He was arraigned last year at the CCT on a six-count charge bordering on false assets declaration and convicted on all six counts preferred against him by the federal government. Onnoghen was ordered to forfeit monies found in five bank accounts he failed to declare in his assets declaration form.
The tribunal, in addition, ordered his removal from office and barred him from holding any public office for 10 years. He appealed the verdict, but for over a year now, the Court of Appeal has yet to hear the suit.
Charged also with the offence of false assets declaration was Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, a sitting Justice of the Supreme Court. Ngwuta was dragged to the tribunal following the discovery of huge sums of money in his house by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) during a 2016 sting operation at the residences of some judges in Abuja. He was arraigned in February 2017 before the CCT on an eight-count charge bordering on false assets declaration.
However, following the ruling of the tribunal’s chairman, Mr Danladi Umar, that Ngwuta could not be tried before it without passing through the disciplinary processes of the National Judicial Council (NJC), Ngwuta was cleared of the charges.
Culled from THISDAY newspaper