The Justice Ayo Salami-led probe panel on sundry infractions against the suspended acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has recommended the appointment of personnel of other security services to head the anti-graft agency.
The panel, while presenting its report, including four boxes of exhibits, to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber of the State House, Abuja, yesterday, in one of its recommendations, specifically stressed that in appointing a new chairman henceforth, consideration should be given to candidates from other law enforcement or security agencies, noting that the four chairmen of EFCC since inception were from the Police.
In his remarks, Salami said: “Your Excellency, permit me to say that four successive chairmen of the EFCC from inception have been drawn from the Police. Therefore, in appointing a new chairman of EFCC, consideration should be given to candidates from other law enforcement or security agencies and qualified core staff of EFCC, as provided in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment Act 2004).
“It is also important to point out that at the moment, 970 policemen (114 drivers, 641 mobile policemen and 215 operations) are on secondment in the EFCC. Therefore, an exit plan for the disengagement of the Police and other personnel within two years from now should be considered. This will address the issue of non-promotion of core staff for over nine years.
“Your Excellency, our thinking here is that whoever you are appointing, other than a core EFCC staff, should be in transitional capacity of two years, during which period, arrangement would be made for appointment of any of the core staff who has been commended by National Crime Agency, UK, and other international law enforcement for their professionalism.”
Receiving the report, Buhari said his desire was to make Nigeria a country with zero tolerance for corruption and where the menace is vigorously battled, adding: ‘’Corruption is present in all countries. Some governments treat it with levity; some fight it all the time. I want Nigeria to be counted among those countries that do not tolerate, but fight corruption.’’
To protect Nigeria’s political and economic systems and the continuous existence of the Nigerian State from the serious threat of corruption, the President called on all stakeholders and Nigerians to own the fight against corruption at their respective levels.
While pledging that the fight against corruption is one that must be fought without fear or favour, Buhari thanked members of the panel for their dedication and commitment.
“The sad reality confronting us as a people is that there is corruption almost everywhere; at many levels of government and nearly every stratum of our society. Mindful of the threat that corruption poses to us as a nation, this administration has specifically focused on the fight against corruption.
‘’As a government and in furtherance of our anti-corruption programme, we have since inception engaged in many reforms in removing corruption, including but not limited to the enforcement of Treasury Single Account (TSA), strict implementation of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) Policy and signing unto the Open Government Partnership. A lot of efforts have gone into building and development of our anti-corruption institutions.
We have so far kept faith with our promise and shall remain committed until Nigeria triumphs over the evil of corruption, attains a prosperous economic status and surmounts her security challenges.
‘’However, the stark reality of widespread corruption becomes poignant when allegations of corruption touches on the leadership of an institution set up by law to coordinate and enforce all economic and financial crimes. It is an abomination that strikes at the root and undermines the government’s anti-corruption programme.”
He added: ‘’It was in response to the serious allegations against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that I set up a panel headed by Justice Isa Ayo Salami, retired president of the Court of Appeal, via an instrument dated July 3, 2020, pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry Act (Cap T21, LFN, 2004).
‘’We recognise that there are more grounds to cover in the war against corruption and we are prepared to go out to possess those lands by cutting off any stream that nourishes the seed of corruption and supports its growth.
‘’Let it be known that in the fight against corruption, no one is too big to tackle, as no individual is bigger than the Nigerian State!’’
Salami had in his speech explained that Magu and 113 witnesses appeared and testified before the panel, adding that 46 petitions and memoranda were presented by individuals and organisations with complaints against Magu, EFCC or both.
He disclosed that the panel also embarked on a nationwide physical verification of recovered forfeited assets, comprising real estates, automobiles, vessels and non-cash assets.
He commended the President for the initiative to dispose all forfeited assets ‘’because of the poor condition of the assets we saw during our physical verification nationwide,’’ and expressed gratitude to Buhari for giving the panel members the opportunity to serve the nation.
The panel, which was inaugurated by the President in July, was given 45 days to carry out its assignment, but the timeframe was later extended after it requested for more time to enable for thoroughness.
Magu was allegedly accused of corruption, mismanagement, lack of transparency in managing recovered assets by the commission and abuse of office by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.