… Says Agency To Prosecute Bureaux De Change Involved In $2.1bn Arms Scandal
The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has vowed that more influential Nigerians would soon be arrested to face prosecution as the anti-graft agency under him has reinvigorated the fight against corruption in the country.
Mr. Magu, who spoke on Wednesday in Abuja at a forum with online and broadcast media managers, said since his appointment as acting chairman of the EFCC, he had undertaken the re-ordering of the agency’s priorities for effective implementation of its mandate.
According to him, “the effect of this, which is obvious for all to see, is the investigation, arrest and prosecution of some of the most powerful forces in Nigeria, who have questions to answer on their stewardship whilst in office.
“A former National Security Adviser, former ministers, former governors, serving and retired military men, a media mogul and several others, are among those we have called to answer critical questions concerning the management of our commonwealth.
“As we speak, many more influential Nigerians are on the radar of the EFCC and, in the coming weeks, they would have their days in court and Nigerians will be kept fully abreast of the results of our investigations,” Mr. Magu said.
The EFCC boss said in carrying out the mandate of the commission, he has been guided by the “fear of God, national interest and the rule of law”.
Mr. Magu said apart from bringing corrupt public officers to justice, the EFCC under his leadership is determined, in line with the stance of the current administration under President Muhammadu Buhari to send “unmistakable message” to everyone, that no Nigerian shall be regarded as above the law or treated as sacred cow as far as the fight against corruption is concerned.
The EFCC chairman, however, said the commission cannot succeed in carrying out its mandate without the support of the media.
He said the EFCC already has the support of all relevant bodies and organizations.
He said he held a meeting with the president on Wednesday, and that the message from Mr. Buhari was nothing but total support for the agency.
“By far more inspirational is the political will of Mr. President to fight corruption. This unbending will, which some now call body language has given the needed traction to the anti-graft campaign,” he said.
Mr. Magu said Mr. Buhari’s resolve to fight corruption in Nigeria was underlined by his comments during his maiden media chat last Wednesday where he swore not to spare anyone found to be corrupt.
Mr. Magu quoted the president as saying, “I don’t …tolerate corruption. When I was Head of State, I didn’t put anybody above the law. At this time, I assure you, I will not put anybody above the law… If anyone is caught, I will not only sack (him or her) but will ensure that the case is taken to court”.
He added that the president’s resolve is complemented by that of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, who, during the last All Nigerian Judges’ Conference, declared unwavering support for the war on corruption.
He added that at that same judges conference, Mr. Buhari expressed the concern of the Nigerian people for the undue delays experienced in the trial of corruption suspects.
The judiciary, he said, has responded with some practical steps in the form of the designation of selected courts to try EFCC cases and some practice directions.
“We believe that when holistically and effectively put into practice, the measures would drastically cut the time corruption cases spend in court before Nigerians know whether the accused is guilty as charged or innocent of the crime.
“As a Commission, the EFCC is very determined to put into productive effect, the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, (ACJA), 2015. This law, which has been rightly labeled a legal “revolution”, by none other than Professor Itse Sagay, chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corruption, could not have come at a better time than now, when Nigerians are yearning for justice.
“On the part of the EFCC, I can assure you that the effect of our even more penetrating investigations and commitment to rid Nigeria of all forms of corruption and economic and financial crimes can –and will continue to be– seen from the cases we take to court for trial,” he said.
No political witch hunt
Mr. Magu also responded to comments from participants at the forum that a lot of Nigerians have a feeling that the ongoing war against corruption appears targeted at members of the opposition.
He said by his orientation, he has nothing to with politics and is therefore, not doing the bidding of a political party.
“Such accusations have come up a lot, but, we work with petitions before us, in fact, I am eager and waiting for something from the other side, but nothing has come so far,” he said.
Mr. Magu also said he had never been a fan of plea bargaining, adding however that he works within the laws of the land.
Magu, has said no Bureau De Change operator involved in the ongoing $2.1bn arms deal probe will be spared.
In another development , Mr. Magu, who also spoke during a courtesy call to his office in Abuja by Bureau De Change operators on Tuesday also re-iterated the existing mutual relationship between the Commission and the group in the areas of sensitisation and training.
According to him, “My operatives often tell me what they see you during investigations. We need to talk to you, as some of your operators are fond of carrying huge amounts of money out of the country, since they can no longer withdraw more than $300 using the ATM.
‘‘There are fraudulent involvements of Bureau De Change operators in the arms deal scandal. There are reports of some of your members withdrawing as much as N500million in two, three, four tranches in this arms deal scam. So, I am greatly disturbed. I think there should be a documentation regarding your activities, as this will enable your group to checkmate anyone who is involved in any fraudulent activity.”
Mr. Magu said operator found culpable would be prosecuted.
Earlier, the Chairman of Bureau De Change operators, Aminu Gwadabe, had expressed the resolve of the group to join hands with the Commission in the ongoing war against corruption and economic crimes.
Mr. Gwadabe said the delegation was in the Commission to congratulate Mr. Magu and seek collaboration with the EFCC.
“I want to congratulate you on your appointment as acting Chairman of EFCC and pray for God’s guidance, most especially as it is a period of tough choices and decisions,” he said.
He also highlighted some major challenges the Bureau De Change operators were facing from policy regulators and security agencies.
Mr. Gwadabe decried the activities of black marketers who, according to him, had been giving the licensed operators a bad name.
‘‘Most of the time, fraud is perpetrated within the banking premises. However, whenever there is an issue, it is the Bureau De Change operators who are usually attacked. Another problem is the issue of BVN registration, which I believe should have been extended to three years in order to allow more people to be registered,” he said.
He, therefore, urged the Commission to organise seminars, workshop and sensitization programmes as part of efforts to improve the knowledge of the operators.