The Presidential Investigative Panel headed by former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, is being used by Nigeria's Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to frustrate some high-profile cases handled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission he has personal interest in, SaharaReporters has gathered.
The panel is investigating corruption allegations against the suspended Acting Chairman of the anti-graft agency, Ibrahim Magu.
Magu’s travail followed a memo by Malami accusing him of grave malfeasance and mismanagement of recovered loot.
He was also alleged to have sold seized assets to associates and refused to subject himself to the supervision of the office of the AGF.
Arrested on July 6 by a combined team of security personnel including officers of the Department of State Services and policemen before being taken to Aso Villa to face the investigative panel, Magu was detained for 10 days at the Nigeria Police Force Criminal Investigation Department in Abuja before being released on bail.
He has since denied all allegations levelled against him, describing them as baseless.
Magu has also accused Malami of always interfering with the EFCC's investigations and working with others to strip it of its statutory powers.
Giving more insight into the situation on Monday, a source, who spoke with SaharaReporters, disclosed that Malami had already been using the Presidential Investigative Panel to kill a number of high-profile cases handled by the EFCC.
Without prejudice to his ongoing corruption trial, the AGF brought a former Executive Director of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Dauda Lawal, to appear before the panel to testify against Magu with a promise that the money laundering charges against him will be dropped.
Lawal is currently standing trial before a Federal High Court in Lagos for allegedly receiving $25m out of the $153m loot traced to a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The EFCC had frozen Lawal’s accounts and applied for the permanent forfeiture of his funds, which the ex-banker challenged.
In a counter-affidavit he deposed to which formed the basis for his invitation by the panel, Lawal said the EFCC detained him for 11 days in 2016 and promised to release him only on the condition that he return some funds.
On how he received the $25m, Lawal said he received a call from a friend, Stanley Lawson, in March 2015 to help collect the money, which he subsequently paid into an account provided to him.
SaharaReporters gathered that another witness, which Malami promised to discontinue his case using the Presidential Investigative Panel, is a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), who is currently standing trial on money laundering-related charges involving about N400m.
The case marked FHC/ABJ/CR/39/2017, is before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Adoke was accused of among others receiving the dollar equivalent of N300m from Abubakar, paying the dollar equivalent of N367,318,800 to one Usman Mohammed Bello, and allegedly using the sum of N300m, which was alleged to be part of the proceeds of unlawful activities all in violation of various provisions of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011.
He was also accused of making “structured cash payments in 22 tranches” amounting to N80m, another of such structured payments in 13 tranches summing up to N50m into his Unity Bank account.
EFCC alleged that the funds were not only part of the proceeds of unlawful acts but they also exceeded “thresholds outside a financial institution” and that the payments were done with the intention of concealing the origins of the funds contrary to section 15(2(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 and punishable under section 15(3) of the same law.
Meanwhile, a letter from the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company Limited in 2017 seen by SaharaReporters, commended the suspended Acting EFCC boss for the commission’s diligent handling of the recovery of debts from oil marketers.
There were media reports that the investigative panel probing allegations of corruption against Magu raised the issue of alleged misappropriation of the NNPC funds.
However, the commendation by the PPMC may have countered that argument.
“Further to our previous correspondences to your office in respect of the above subject matter, please note that till date, the debts recovered from major marketers include N87,028,851,268.17 and N242,121,256,468.03 for legacy and current debts respectively leaving a balance of N20,604,109,123.90 (broken down into N4,426,439,240.00 - legacy debts and N16,177,669,883.90 - current debts).
“These amounts have been agreed with the marketers that they shall be deducted and paid from their outstanding entitlements or payments due to the marketers from the Federal Ministry of Finance and which will bring to an end the debt recovery effort.
“We wish to express our profound gratitude for the successful collaboration between EFCC and PPMC/NNPC which largely resulted in the huge recovery of debts from the marketers, from the inception of the recovery exercise in 2016 till date. We appreciate your commission’s professional and diligent handling of the recovery of debts from the marketers throughout the period and we look forward for further collaboration,” the letter signed by Umai I Ajiya, Managing Director of PPMC, read.