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Panel probes Magu over alleged ownership of Dubai properties

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The suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu’s problems worsened on Wednesday as the presidential panel investigating corruption allegations against him shifted its focus to properties he allegedly acquired in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.

The suspended EFCC boss, who has been in the police custody since his arrest on Monday, was interrogated for the third time on Wednesday.

Fresh allegations emerged against Magu as the panel continued its sitting just as he was again detained after Wednesday’s interrogation.

Magu was accosted by security agents in plain clothes in front of the old EFCC headquarters on Fomella Street, Wuse 2, Abuja, at noon on Monday and compelled to appear before the panel.

He has been in police custody at the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Garki, since Monday from where he has been appearing before the panel to respond to questions on the allegations raised against him by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).

Like what happened on Monday and Tuesday when the panel quizzed Magu for several hours, journalists were again on Wednesday not allowed access to the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa,  venue of the interrogation.

Some State House reporters who attempted to enter the press gallery located inside the building were politely turned back.

Even those who attempted to park their vehicles in the car park of the facility were asked to make use of other parks within the Presidential Villa.

Justice Ayo Salami-led panel was interested in establishing if indeed Magu bought properties abroad, particularly in Dubai, where he was said to have travelled to several times on official and private visits.

It was further learnt that the panel also was preoccupied with allegations that  N39bn  had been diverted from the recovered loot.

Sources said the panel would carry out forensics on documents recovered from Magu’s house as well as an analysis of his earnings and bank records.

A source stated,  “The panel is working to verify allegations that Magu has properties in Dubai and other parts of the world. It is also probing an allegation that funds were diverted from recovered loot.

“I don’t know how far the panel has gone in exploring these interesting angles, but real estate titles and bank records would leave a trail that cannot be hidden. The panel planned to subject documents recovered from Magu’s residence and office to forensics analysis.”

After being questioned for eight hours on Wednesday,  Magu was taken back the police custody, where he spent Monday and Tuesday nights.

Magu faces fresh allegations

Fresh allegations have continued to emerge in the course of the investigation which had caused the investigation to linger.

For instance, Magu was alleged to have sold off or mysteriously released about 157 oil tankers without following due process.

The vehicles were alleged to have been seized by the Port Harcourt zonal office of the EFCC.

The money was said not to have been remitted to the government’s coffers while those released were said to have been done after bribes were given to senior EFCC officials loyal to Magu.

A report by the Auditor-General of the Federation last year also noted that about N13.96bn reported as salaries and wages in the consolidated financial statement of the EFCC were not in the anti-graft agency’s trial balance submitted for reconciliation.

Besides, the EFCC was listed as one of the agencies with “doubtful cash balance” of over N315m. These allegations are also being looked into.

A top government official said, “Magu is not just the chairman but the chief accounting officer of the EFCC. So, every allegation regarding diversion or misplaced funds must be directed at him.

“There are allegations that about 157 oil tankers seized by the Port Harcourt disappeared. Some were sold while some were returned to the owners after massive bribes were given through operatives we believe to be Magu’s proxies.

“We are also working on some reports from the Office of the Auditor-General and the Federal Inland Revenue Service regarding some financial lapses in the EFCC. For some of the allegations, Magu was not able to explain while for some, he offered explanations.

“Whenever he gives explanations, we investigate and cross-check and based on the outcome of the investigation, more questions are asked.”

When asked if it was not against the law to hold Magu beyond 48 hours in line with the constitutional provision, the source said Magu was being held by the police and he remains a member of that organisation.

He said, “Magu is a senior policeman. The police are also represented on the panel in the person of DIG Ogbezi. Magu is being kept in police custody in line with police rules just like the way other senior officers are detained during a probe. This is not illegal detention.”

Besides Salami others of the presidential panel investigating Magu are a  Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Mike Ogbizi representing the Nigeria Police Force; Hassan Abdullahi representing the Department of State Services and Douglas Ekwueme who is an official of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit.

Others include Mallam Shamsudeen representing the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mohammed Abubakar from the Federal Ministry of Justice and Mr Kazeem Atilebi representing Civil Society Organisations.

The six geopolitical zones in the country are also represented on the panel.

We’ll apply for bail today, says lawyer

Meanwhile, Magu’s lawyer, Mr. Tosin Ojaomo, has said he would be applying for the bail of the EFCC boss on Thursday (today).

Ojaomo said that he had approached the police on Wednesday but was asked to return on Thursday morning to seek his client’s bail.

The lawyer also described as untrue reports that Magu had been suspended and the Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar, had taken over.

“The truth will soon be out. I was there today (Wednesday) but I couldn’t see him. They said I should come early in the morning so I will be there to apply for his bail. The news that someone has been appointed to replace him or that he is under suspension is not true. There is no letter of suspension. You will be shocked how this will end,” Ojaomo said.

Ojaomo said he visited Garki Area 10, in Abuja, to seek his bail, to no avail. He added, “I have not been shown any court order permitting his detention for more than 48 hours.

“I asked for the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge, to ask for information about what was going and possibly applied for his bail, but I was told he was not on seat.

Magu’s probe continued to generate reactions on Wednesday. A group, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, attacked  Malami.

The group, which contended that the method adopted in Magu’s probe left  much to be desired, accused the AGF of “building a network of people opposed to accountability and transparency in governance.”

The group said this in a statement, titled, “Corrupt politicians must not celebrate over Magu’s ordeal,” signed by one of its promoters, Sina Odugbemi.

The group described as a mockery of the rule of law Magu’s detention by the panel meant to conduct an impartial probe into the allegations against him.

The CSNAC also faulted what it called the short notice given to Magu to appear before the panel, saying it was the same way the pioneer Chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, was humiliated out of office by a network of corrupt politicians.

But the Coalition for Good Governance and Justice urged those criticising investigation of  Magu to allow the  Salami-led presidential panel to complete its tasks.

The Convener of the CCGC, Mr Emmanuel Umohinyang, told journalists on Wednesday that the investigation was an indication that the Buhari regime would not spare or sweep anything under the carpet.

He said, “I think the issue of Ibrahim Magu is a case of the hunter becoming the hunted and it also gives credence to the fact that the Buhari-led administration will not spare or sweep anything under the carpet.”

Another civil society group, the Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative,  faulted the reactions of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Femi Odekunle,  to the probe of Magu.

The anti-graft group said SERAP and Odekunle should encourage Magu to prove allegations levelled against him by Malami wrong.

The ARDI Executive Secretary, Chief Dennis Aghanya, in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday, said it was inappropriate for Odekunle, a presidential appointee on anti-graft,  to condemn the action taken to investigate alleged corruption and misconduct.

This was contained in a statement dated July 8, 2020, titled, ‘PACAC, SERAP should appreciate Malami for living up to his constitutional responsibilities as the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation,’ signed by Aghanya.

SERAP and Odekunle had, in separate reactions to the arrest of Magu, criticised the action which they described as the result of the power play in the Presidency.

But responding to the criticism, Aghanya said, “Odekunle described the weighty allegations enunciated by the Honourable  Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, in his memo to Mr President and the quizzing of Magu for interrogation by a presidential panel, chaired by a former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami as (implying) a witch-hunt.

“Odekunle’s outburst against the office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation, in our considered opinion, is the actual act of sabotage of Mr President’s fight against corruption, openly antagonising another constituted authority of the Federal Government.”

The group said SERAP should encourage Magu to debunk the allegations levelled against him.

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NIGERIA

No going back on Water Resources Bill – FG

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The Federal Government has declared it will go ahead with the Water Resources Bill.

Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed told reporters the bill was not designed to cause water wars in the country.

He said the bill is a panacea to likely water conflicts in the country.

He said critics of the bill have either not read it or might be mischievous.

He said there is no hidden agenda behind the bill.

He said it is not a subterfuge reintroduction of RUGA.

Mohammed made the clarifications at a joint briefing with the Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu in Abuja.

He said: “There is nothing new about the National Water Resources Bill. This is because it is an amalgamation of Water Resources Laws that have been in existence for a long time.

These are:

– Water Resources Act, Cap W2 LFN 2004

– The River Basin Development Authority Act, Cap R9 LFN 2004

– The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (Establishment) Act, Cap N1100A, LFN 2004

– National Water Resources Institute Act, Cap N83 LFN 2004

“So, why are the laws being re-packaged as the National Water Resources Bill 2020?

“The answer is that they are being re-enacted with necessary modifications to bring them in line with current global trends as well as best practices in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

“The overall objective of this amalgamation is the efficient management of the Water Resources Sector for the economic development of Nigeria and the well-being of its citizens.

“The Bill provides for professional and efficient management of all surface and ground water for the use of the people (i.e. for domestic and non-domestic use, irrigation, agricultural purposes, generation of hydro-electric energy, navigation, fisheries and recreation).

“The Bill will ensure that the nation’s water resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable manner for the benefit of all persons.

“Critics contend that the Bill is aimed at taking the resources of a certain part of the country for the use of herders. In other words, the Federal Government is seeking to implement RUGA by subterfuge.

“We also want to state that the Bill is for the good of the nation, and has no hidden agenda whatsoever.”

Adamu said the bill was sent to all the states for concurrence without any object.

He said the bill predated the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

He said:” This was never a Buhari bill, it is a bill for Nigeria. It started 2008 long before the President thought of winning election.”

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NIGERIA

#Fuel hike: No going back on strike, protest – NLC

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The Nigeria Labour Congress has vowed to proceed with its planned strike and protest with effect from September 28 following the failure of the Federal Government to reverse the hike in electricity tariff and fuel price.

Rising from its National Executive Council meeting in Abuja a few minutes ago, the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said the proposed action by the organised labour would proceed from next week.

He stated that the decision was unanimously taken by the chairmen of the 36 states and FCT chapters of the NLC.

Details later…

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Business

#Technology: Sanusi Urges Youths To Explore and not Rely on Government

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The Former Central Bank Governor, CBN, Mohammed Sanusi (II), has urged Nigeria youths not to rely on government but to explore and create opportunities for themselves, especially with technology.

The former CBN governor who was the guest speaker on the second day of the Kaduna Investment Summit explained that over-reliance on oil has left the country unproductive.

“We need to think over and over again as to how we understand economics and what we see. How do we understand technology or electricity are we consumers or are we producers and that’s why investment in human capital is so important.

“Produce young men who know that they are worth more than just using their phone to import a pair of shoes,” he said.

Sanusi said Nigeria has to take economic diversification more seriously in order to experience growth and development.

Referencing Malaysia, Sanusi gave a breakdown of the economic growth of both countries within a 30-year period.

According to him, for Nigeria “there was an increase in wealth but without any structural transformation”.

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“We were growing but we did not diversify and that explains the huge levels of poverty in the country, it explains the huge levels of inequality in the country, it explains the vulnerability of the economy to shocks, it also explains the relatively slow pace of growth because when Malaysia started, they started from a GDP per capita level lower than Nigeria’s GDP per capita in 1985. It started from $310 to $4,045 while we started from $345 to $2,055”.

He also stressed the importance of the government creating the right environment and infrastructure for private businesses to thrive.

The former CBN governor who is also the Vice-Chairman of the Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency noted that with the right environment, the country can move away from being only consumers to producers of technology.

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