Human rights activist, public commentator and maritime consultant, Tony Abdulahi Dania in this interview, spoke on the travails of the suspended chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission(NDDC) among others.
What is your take on the recent arrest and investigation into the activities of the suspended EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu?
These are some of the risks involved in holding that position and trying to do your best. It will not be proper to respond on the issues raised by the lawyer to the chairman of EFCC. He denied almost all the allegations but there is no smoke without fire. Magu has done well as the chairman of EFCC; he has his short comings like the donation of houses to Lagos State government but if you do a comparative analysis, EFCC under Magu has done well. As regards his current travails, he has been released on bail.
The chairman of the panel of inquiry, Justice Salami has a high integrity; I doubt if he wants to trade that of by entertaining improper and unfounded fraud allegation against Magu. I wish to commend the president because it will be difficult for a president to allow this because by implication, the president could be indicted. This also goes so show the integrity of the president because if he has done anything shady, he wouldn’t allow it to hold.
Is there any link between the travails of Magu and the exit of former Chief of Staff to the president, Abba Kyari as speculated?
I doubt if there is any nexus between the exit or death of the late Abba Kyari, former Chief of Staff to the president and Magu. It has been speculated that late Abba Kyari was the godfather of Magu and backed him to do most of the things that he did. The questions should be, what are the things he had done, is there anything fraudulent or illegal? It’s just like when a judge passes a judgement, some are happy and some are sad. So many people will be sad with you especially if you want to do your job well. I am not making a case for Magu and I will not say that he is clean until I hear the final verdict from the panel.
Look at Ribadu , first chairman of the EFCC, he did a good job. I happen to know Ribadu personally when I did my Youth service in the legal section of Alagbon, Ikoyi Lagos. I know he is an incorruptible man. For instance, the Brazil heavy fraud case that he busted. One of the parties had demanded to use me as a lawyer and Ribadu told me that it is a dirty and bad case. You are a lawyer and you have a choice and it’s not a good case to help your name. Look at how it ended. He did a good job and still was almost disgraced out of the job. If Magu is indicted, I will support the government to deal with him but if he is vindicated, he will become more popular.
Almost all the current allegations are within APC camp, what does that say of the unity of the party?
A lot is happening, we saw the issue of the Honorable minister, Festus Keyamo and the altercation at the Senate. The president of the Senate is APC, Keyamo who is minister is APC, Minster of Niger Delta is also APC. I think it is a plus for them, a plus that they did not allow political sentiments of being in the same party to make them cover what not to be covered. For instance Magu, the presidency came out openly to say that all allegations must be investigated.
The issue of Akpabio is most unfortunate. I am surprised that he has not been invited or arrested. We must not allow technicality or political maneuvering to undermine a thorough investigation into allegations that were made against the minister of Niger Delta. I am surprised that within a few months of Keyamo becoming the Minister for State of Niger Delta, he was removed. I am sure most of these things will not happen if he was there.
I know he would have resigned if he cannot stop it, maybe it was deliberate that he was removed. The allegations and the amount allegedly stolen by those who are supposed to use funds for the Niger Delta region are mind boggling.
I watched how the former managing director made a lot of allegations against Akpabio and police went to her house in Rivers State and she was rescued by the governor. How can the IGP feign ignorance that policemen came to the house of that lady when she is supposed to be in Abuja to give testimony in respect of an ongoing investigation on NDDC? The State Commissioner of Police also claimed that he is not aware. This is a shame. The CP should be removed, IGP should be queried and Akpabio should be arrested. The acting EFCC chairman should not wait for petition before action should be taken on this. It is most unfortunate.
The Ad-hoc committees is not a security agency, the EFCC or police ought to have arrested them but look at what police have done. They have tactically abdicated their responsibility to the EFCC. Is the Special Fraud Unit no longer existing?
Going forward, should EFCC still be retained as a reliable anti graft commission?
The EFCC act should be amended. I think the chairman has too much power and recently the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit(NFIU)) became independent. That is a good one; it will enable them to check the activities of EFCC. The power to investigate and prosecute should be separated. In prosecution, there must be a way of checking any office charged with the responsibility of prosecuting including the minister for Justice office. Don’t forget that we saw a letter purportedly emanating from the minster of justice to be addressed to the EFCC and the Navy asking that a certain company be given the franchise to handle the auction of certain properties recovered by the EFCC and it was alleged that the same company was a suspect before the EFCC relating a case of fraud.
In as much as I know that given the courageous action of Malami, if there is any truth in the allegation made against Magu, naturally Magu will also want to show that Malami is dirty. This one we read it on the pages of Newspapers and I have not seen or heard a rejoinder from Malami. On the issue of the qualification of any one to be appointed as EFCC chairman, it’s either you are a serving or retired senior police officer equivalent to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police. We need to amend that, anybody can be the chairman of EFCC including myself. EFCC should investigate while a different body that is independent of the Minister of Justice or EFCC should be in-charge of prosecution.
Recovery of the properties and money should go to a different body , who shall account and remit same to the Federal Government. I have written to EFCC challenging the donation of a property to government as an isolation centre and to other agencies. That intent is good but do they have such power. We should also have a body in-charge of the welfare of staff that is independent of the chairman of EFCC so that if you are not in his good books your job will not be threatened.