Nigeria: Why Abdulrasheed Bawa's Nomination As EFCC Boss Is Shocking - Magu's Lawyer

(file photo).
17 February 2021

Mr Ojaomo says it is unfair to nominate another person to become EFCC chairman when the Salami panel's report on Magu has not been made public

Tosin Ojaomo, a lawyer to the suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, has described the nomination of Abdulrasheed Bawa as the next chairman of the agency as shocking.

Mr Ojaomo, appeared on Channels TV programme, 'Politics Today', hours after the presidency announced on Tuesday that President Muhammadu Buhari had sent Mr Bawa's name to the Senate for confirmation as the next chair of the anti-graft agency.

The lawyer, who was part of Mr Magu's legal team at the Ayo Salami panel which investigated the ex-EFCC boss last year, said Mr Bawa's nomination was an injustice done to his client.

Background

Mr Magu was suspended in July last year to face the Salami panel which probed allegations of insubordination and corruption levelled against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami.

The presidency had immediately named Mohammed Umar, the EFCC Director of Operations, to take charge as acting chair of the commission pending the conclusion of the panel's investigations.

But the report of the Salami panel has not been made public months after it was submitted to President Buhari in November last year.

The presidency statement which announced Mr Bawa's nomination on Tuesday was also silent on Mr Magu's fate, leaving the public to guess that his suspension of over seven months ago had been automatically converted to a removal.

'Shocking'

Mr Ojamo said on Tuesday that "everybody was expecting to know the outcome of this investigation", adding that it was, therefore, "shocking that another person was nominated to occupy the EFCC chairmanship position without making the report on Magu public".

He said, "sincerely, this appointment came to me as a shock. This is because what I was expecting is that there is still an unfinished assignment which was pending.

"I was expecting that the issue of Magu would have been sorted out before moving to another step. But unfortunately, we just got this news today that a new chairman has been nominated by the president and his name has been forwarded to the senate."

He said justice had not been done to Magu when "unproven allegations" and their collateral "reputational damage" could be allowed to persist with the non-disclosure of the outcome of the Salami panel's investigations.

He said, "As the acting chairman of the commission, he was suspended for an allegation which has not been proven against him, and at the end of the day, the report which everybody was expecting, to know whether the man has been found wanting or not, was not released and another appointment was made.

"Justice clearly has not been done in this matter to Magu because we're talking of people's integrity. Reputational damage has been done to people. It's not just about Magu alone; there are other people that were suspended at the commission. So, the integrity of all these people is now at stake as if their matter is now forgotten.

"In this matter, justice has not been done to the Nigerian people, because everybody was expecting to know the outcome of this investigation. There was a lot of news in the media and people have now been put in suspense as to the outcome of the investigation."

Bawa

The presidency said on Tuesday that the nomination of 40-year-old Mr Bawa as the next EFCC chairman was in accordance with the provisions Paragraph 2(3) of Part1, CAP E1 of EFCC Act 2004.

Before his nomination, Mr Bawa was the Head, the Port Harcourt zonal office of the EFCC under Mr Magu's leadership.

He was in August last year, weeks after the suspension of Mr Magu, redeployed to head the Lagos zonal office, which handles the bulk of the operations of the commission.

Magu's probe

Mr Magu was in July last year arrested in front of the EFCC Wuse II office and driven to the presidential villa, the venue of the Salami panel's sitting.

The ex-EFCC boss was detained for more than four days.

Mr Malami had in the petition which triggered the probe accused Mr Magu of diverting billions of naira of recovered funds, as well as failing to act timeously on a presidential directive to investigate the controversial $9.6 billion P&ID British firm that secured a gas contract in Nigeria.

The panel held its proceedings behind closed doors and denied journalists and other interested Nigerians access.

While submitting the panel's report to President Buhari in November, Mr Salami, a retired Justice of the Court of Appeal said about 46 petitions and memoranda were presented by individuals and organisations with complaints against Mr Magu.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the presidency has also set up another committee to review and gazette the panel's findings.

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