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Magu: Three prominent Kwarans in embattled ex-anti-graft boss saga

Former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Ibrahim Magu is presently in the eyes of the storm following his suspension and ongoing trial for alleged acts of corruption brought against him by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mallam Abubakar Malami. In this piece, ACTING EDITOR, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM looks at three Kwarans who have played and still playing a dominant role in his saga.
For Mallam Ibrahim Magu, the once powerful and untouchable boss of the dreaded Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), this is not certainly the best of times. Within the circles of apologists of the Borno State born former crime buster, it is unthinkable that he is the one being hunted by a government he claimed to have worked diligently and passionately for in fighting corruption which was one of the core mantras of the current administration.
Magu’s tenure since 2015 when he came on board as the acting chairman of EFCC began on a rather controversial note and may also end controversially if his current situation is anything to go by. But there are three Kwarans whose association, romance and dealings with the embattled former crime fighter will go a long way to determine his eventual exoneration or conviction by the panel set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate him. Among these three prominent Kwarans, Magu went overboard in handling the trial of one ,the other one is defending him from accusation levelled against him while the third one is sitting at his trial and will determine his fate. What an irony of fate. But there is no doubt that at the end of his trial, Magu will certainly have mixed feelings about his relationship with these three Kwarans depending on where the pendulum swings. These are former Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki who Magu ruthlessly persecuted; a top lawyer from Offa, Wahab Shittu now defending him against Malami and former President of the Court of Appeal and non nonsense retired jurist, Ayo Isa Salami.
But how did Magu crossed path with Saraki?
Following his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari, his confirmation at the senate ran into troubled waters when two reports emanated from the DSS, another arm of the administration indicting him and advising the senate against his confirmation. Although Saraki as then President of the Senate and chairman of the 8th National Assembly explained why Magu’s confirmation could not be achieved, the embattled chairman reportedly took it against him which was said to have necessitated all his actions and dealings with Saraki afterwards that was practically tantamount to abuse of court processes.
While speaking on the issue of Magu’s non confirmation then during a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja, Saraki noted that the senate had no pre-meditated plan to reject Ibrahim Magu as EFCC chairman adding that his screening which led to his rejection, was transparently done and aired live on national television for all Nigerians to watch.
“I think there is a lot of misunderstanding and blackmail and all is not in the interest of democracy. The rejection of candidates presented to the National Assembly is a process. It is a process that is not restricted to the EFCC chairman.
“Magu’s screening was on a Wednesday when we air plenary `live’. That is to show you how transparent the Senate was on Magu’s confirmation. We screened him on a Wednesday so that all Nigerians can watch.
“When some people have particular interest, they will try and bring this down to individuals. There is nothing personal on the personality of the acting Chairman of EFCC. As an individual, I have had a personal experience with Magu, where he stood up for what is right. I remember during the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, where because we were fighting some of the issues then, some of us were sent to the EFCC. I remember I was sent to Magu’s office. They were trying to get him to investigate something of 10 years, 12 years ago; I remember Magu said nobody was going to use him,” he said.
According political observers, Saraki’s trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) was majorly prosecuted based on EFCC report under Magu against Saraki and even after the former Senate President got justice at the Supreme Court in the asset declaration issue, EFCC then still went to the High Court to apply for the forfeiture of Saraki’s houses in Ilorin. While speaking on Magu’s action, Saraki said the EFCC is hounding him for personal reasons.
In one of Saraki’s letter of protest addressed to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati in response to a previous letter written by Magu accusing Justice Taiwo Taiwo of being biased for acquitting the former Senate President, Magu, Saraki said, visited him in 2016 and begged him to ensure that he was confirmed by the Senate.
“Your Lordship, Mr. Magu after his nomination, came to see me pleading that I should do my best to help him during the screening process. During that meeting, I made it clear that I had no objection to his nomination and revealed to him, in confidence that he needed to go and clear himself with the DSS because the report on him was unfavourable. In fact, I bent backwards to let him read the content of the indicting security report submitted on him. Also, I decided to delay the screening to give him ample time to get the DSS to change the report. As it eventually turned out, he was unable to get the adverse DSS report reversed”, he noted.
In another instance while reacting to the court order on the return of his two houses in Ilorin by Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court Lagos initially seized by the EFCC on lack of sufficient basis in the EFCC application for the permanent forfeiture of the houses, Saraki said Magu took his non-confirmation personal.
“I know that the Senate under my leadership only followed the due and normal procedure during the confirmation process and we never executed any personal agenda against Magu. The records of the Senate are there for the perusal of all Nigerians interested in the truth. I hope that with the outcome of today’s case, EFCC learns that a serious issue like the fight against corruption should not be reduced to a forum-shopping means to execute a personal vendetta or prosecute a parochial agenda.
“With the decision of the court, it is my expectation that the EFCC, which has played significant roles in the various court cases against me from the CCT (Code of Conduct Tribunal) to the Supreme Court and back at the Federal High Court with the consequent media trial and malicious campaigns will now leave me alone to live my life, and enjoy my unfettered rights to freedom of thought, expression, association, occupation and dignity, as a private citizen and focus on serious issues of national development”. These were how frosty relationship of Magu with Saraki went before his present ordeal.
Now, another Kwaran who has played a prominent role in Magu’s tenure as EFCC boss and still continue to defend him is Barrister Wahab Shittu, the Offa born top lawyer. Ironically what Saraki and other individuals have complained about Magu about his media trial antics is what his Kwara lawyer is defending him against now among others.
In one of such instances when report that the panel set up by the President have recommended Magu’s sack and subsequent prosecution went viral, Shittu raised the alarm about how such news found its way into the media space when his client was yet to even make defence at the panel.
“Based on press inquiries on my clients’ response to the story on The Cable news online medium captioned “Exclusive, Salami panel asks Buhari to fire, prosecute Magu for corruption”, we wish to state as follows:
“We are unaware of the source of the story and we are actually shocked that such a false story is being orchestrated in the public space, contrary to the stage of ongoing proceedings before the panel. We wish to state with high sense of responsibility that our client is yet to formally present his defence.
“THISDAY Newspaper front-page lead story of Sunday 23rd August 2020 in a banner headline reported “Magu May Face More Investigations, Criminal Prosecution”, I am at a loss of how the paper arrived at this conclusion when it is clear to all that the only thing going for Magu is his innocence. We will not join further issues on the publication with the paper at this stage.
“We urge those bent on prejudicing the proceedings of the panel by planting false stories in the public space to think of the interest of our country and not prejudge our client whose commitment all along is service to the country”, Shittu added.
Now, it is very interesting that Magu’s innocence or whether he is guilty rest in the hands of another Kwaran and former jurist of high repute, retired Justice Ayo Isa Salami from Ganma town who was former President of the Court of Appeal. Already online report on TheCable quoted Salami telling Shittu to worry more about Magu than the interim report said to have indicted him.
“The story arising from the so-called interim report is not from us. What should concern you and your client is what the chairman said. Inviting the promoters of the story will not serve any useful purpose as they will not disclose their sources of the story,” Salami was quoted to have said by Shittu.
While his trial is yet to be concluded, there is no doubt that these three Kwarans will be reputed to have played very prominent roles in the whole affairs of Magu in the public space.

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