Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, along with the Director General of the Department of State Security (DSS) and newspaper publisher Nduka Obaigbena, has commenced a full-scale war against Ibrahim Magu, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Under the scheme, Magu will be replaced with a man, already identified, who is more amenable to the ways of Mr. Kyari and other kitchen cabinet persons.
Sources at the Presidency said there has been a cold war between Magu and members of the President’s kitchen cabinet, who seek to interfere with ongoing corruption cases at the EFCC.
Related issues of contention include the planned commencement of the trial of Jide Omokore, a shady businessman known to have been involved in multi-billion oil deals with former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke. The Chief of Staff had apparently assured Mr. Omokore that he would not be prosecuted by the EFCC.
Our sources revealed that Magu’s letter of nomination to the Senate for confirmation was delayed by the Chief of Staff and the Attorney General of the Federation because of Magu’s “intransigence.”
On the part of the DSS, sources within the administration say Magu was held to have stepped on their toes by constantly questioning why they usurped the role of EFCC in carrying out raids into the homes of corrupt former government officials, which is the domain of the EFCC. The DSS reportedly raided at least 30 homes of officials and aides of former President Goodluck Jonathan, but only managed to deliver a meager N47m and $1.943m. Worse still, some of the monies recovered were never delivered to the federal government treasury and during reconciliation, some of the foreign currencies were found to be fake.
In that connection, the sources cited the February raid on the Abuja home of the son of Ngozi Olojeme, who was axed as Chair of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund after Buhari came to power. While the DSS agents reportedly found $500,000, only $50,000 was delivered to the Treasury. Olojeme was never prosecuted either, where she would have revealed exactly how much money she lost.
The tension between the EFCC and the DSS grew to unimaginable proportions until yesterday when the DSS raided the home of a member of the Arms Probe Committee, Air Commodore Umar Muhammed (rtd.) who reportedly had $1.5million hidden in the premises in Abuja from bribes he purportedly received on behalf of other panel members. The reporting of the story appeared in Thisday newspaper, owned by Nduka Obaigbena, the publisher of which had been forced by the EFCC to return monies he collected from the office of the National Security Adviser for a contract that was never implemented.
Knowledgeable sources in government and law enforcement told reported last night that Obaigbena was stopped from traveling to the United Kingdom last weekend by airport immigration officials who told him he was on the EFCC no-fly list.
The sources say Mr. Kyari, a former member of the Editorial Board of ThisDay, then intervened, following which Obaigbena was eventually allowed to travel the next day. He is now in London. Sources at the EFCC said that by securing Obaigbena’s travels, Mr. Kyari, and the DSS DG apparently obtained his cooperation to commence a media war on the chairperson of the agency.
Despite Obaigbena being on the security watch list of the EFCC, Mr. Kyari and Information Minister Lai Mohammed recently organized a high-profile meeting between President Buhari and the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) at the Presidential Villa in which the publisher featured prominently. Mr. Mohammed had his issues with Magu as well, as the EFCC boss had frozen about N10b in funds of the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) as former officials there began last-minute looting. Mohammed intervened to get Magu to unfreeze the account so that it could be used while he awaited approval of his budget, but Magu refused.
The minister also reportedly sent a request to the EFCC chairman to return monies retrieved from Obaigbena and other newspaper proprietors who were caught in the $2.1b scandal, but Magu also refused to budge. Furthermore, Mr. Magu and his officials are said to have extended their probe to include others in the media that include another publisher, Comfort Obi, whose account was also frozen.
ThisDay’s role in releasing information about the arrest of the retired Air Commodore accused of receiving a bribe was consolidated as his travel ban was lifted, one source revealed.
According to reports, Obaigbena confirmed that he was actually stopped at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport last Sunday but claimed it was because of an EFCC warrant left at the airport last December. He denied that anyone intervened to facilitate his travel thereafter, but did not state how the warrant was overturned except saying that the head of the Immigration department in Abuja apologized to him by phone. Asked about his relationship with Kyari, he admitted that Kyari once served on the Editorial Board of his newspaper.
Sources revealed that the DSS is making moves to invite Magu for interrogation and possibly detain him claiming that retired Air Commodore Umar Muhammad from Bauchi took $300k from some persons under corruption probe so that they could hold a meeting with Magu during his visit to IDP camps in Maiduguri two weeks ago. It is unclear if Magu had such meetings.
Air Commodore Umar Muhammad appears to be the best shot yet at Magu from the onslaught launched by Abba Kyari and his collaborators.
Credible sources revealed that the Arms Procurement Investigation Committee had also been fractured along lines of bias, as pressure was mounted on them not to probe a former Chief of Army, Lt General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau, who is now the Minister of Internal Affairs. Magu and a few others are said to have favored inviting and investigating him.
Crying foul, the EFCC in a press statement on Tuesday contended of the ThisDay report linking the agency to corruption associated with retired Air Commodore Umar, that this is simply a case of corruption fighting back.
People knowledgeable about the retired Air Commodore said he was married to late oil Minister Rilwan Lukman’s daughter and that he has always lived a flamboyant lifestyle close to former Presidents, including late President Umar Yar’Adua. They characterized him as a conduit for passing funds to other Heads of State and governments in Africa. During former President Jonathan’s era, for instance, he was said to have been a go-between with several African Heads of State, particularly those of Niger and Ghana. He runs a massive office in Abuja where he refers to himself as “Don”.
His posh home in Abuja reportedly has at least 50 luxury cars, and he was regularly in the company of high-profile local and international visitors. Former FCT Minister Bala Mohammed was a regular visitor to his home, and he reportedly was involved in passing money to the Chadian government during the botched Boko Haram negotiation involving Hassan Tukur, the former Principal Secretary to President Jonathan, who was arrested two weeks ago.
It is unclear how the retired Air Commodore, given such profile, was put on a panel by the Buhari government to investigate high-profile corruption cases.
If Magu is removed from the leadership of the EFCC, the Chief of Staff and his collaborators plan to replace him with another police officer so far simply identified as “Abdulrahman,” an instructor at the Nigerian Police College in Kaduna.
“Abdulrahman” is said to have once worked with Farida Waziri, during the darkest days of impunity and corruption in Nigeria, and appears to be the kitchen cabinet’s perfect replacement for Magu as they will control him just as Farida was controlled by Umaru Yar’Adua’s Aso Rock gang.
The DSS probe, our sources were unanimous, is aimed at generating a report that would end Magu’s tenure.
The vultures are gathering now,” a political analyst said in New York on Wednesday.
“If Buhari cannot find the conviction to chop off the head of the crocodile he has reared as a pet in Aso Rock,” he continued, “ his anti-corruption claims will be in silent mode by the time he returns from the United Nations General Assembly in September, and will be the laughing stock of the world by the time he reads his Christmas speech.”