The feud between the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), and the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, took a new turn for the worse as the AGF on Wednesday alleged that Magu’s “ignoble role” was what led to the suspension of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) from the Egmont Group.
In a statement by his spokesperson, Malami alleged that Magu had frustrated efforts geared towards making the NFIU independent of the EFCC as required by the global body of financial intelligence units.
It will be recalled that following Nigeria’s suspension from the Egmont Group earlier in the year owing to what the group cited as lack of independence of the NFIU owing to perceived undue interference largely from the EFCC, the Senate hurriedly passed the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency bill which will grant full autonomy to the body, separating it from the EFCC.
The EFCC had criticized the move, interpreting it as a calculated effort to limit its powers, a position shared by some civil society groups but one which is opposed by the AGF’s office. The AGF had praised the move as a wise and time intervention by the lawmakers.
This development is coming as Magu and Malami are still locked in bitter disagreement over non-release of requested corruption case files. Magu had despite repeated requests by the AGF declined to send over case files resulting in heated public exchanges, a situation which some say merely reflects a deeper issue.
Many will read these new comments by the AGF as further confirmation of his widely speculated long-held sentiments against the EFCC boss, and perhaps the clearest sign yet of a festering long-drawn fundamental disagreement.
In the statement, Malami observed that “the threat of expulsion from the Egmont Group” that might follow the suspension, “calls for a thorough review of the NFIU.”
He added that it also warranted a review of “the manner in which the EFCC leadership has manipulated and misused intelligence to the detriment of the fight against corruption and financial crimes in Nigeria.”
The AGF narrated different instances where Magu had frustrated bills sent by his office aimed at enhancing the anti-corruption fight and making the NFIU independent.
The statement which was titled, ‘EFCC ignoble role that led to Nigeria’s Egmont suspension’, stated in part as follows:
“…It is a sad tale to tell how the Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu-led EFCC has frustrated these efforts and even had to resort to blackmail in some instances oftentimes, alleging that the AGF and the ministry were all out to impede the government’s anti-corruption drive. Magu and other EFCC officials; and atimes through online publications; had at one time or the other accused the minister of trying to compromise the war.
“They have always perceived the Office of the AGF as a threat instead of addressing the issues related to the best strategy to fight corruption advocated by the AGF.
“For instance, during the House of Representatives Committee review session on 18th April, 2017, Magu vehemently rejected the new Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2016 submitted by the President; which according to him, as reported by some national dailies; might prejudice President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption agenda. He even went on his whimsical best by surmising that passing the bill into law now will affect Nigeria’s application for the membership of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). What parody!
“In likewise, the EFCC is now in a state of paranoia, as it dreads the effort of the government to have an independent NFIU which it has stood against stoically since 2006.
“As it presently stands, the NFIU members of staff are all deployed by the EFCC to serve in the interest of whoever is its current chairman.
“This has to stop if it must conform to the new thinking and global best practices. Nigeria cannot be an island of its own.”
It noted that the EFCC “cannot fight corruption in isolation.”
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