The actual trigger for the State Security Service – SSS to have written the report upon which the Senate rejected the nomination of Ibrahim Magu for the top job at the anti-graft EFCC has been uncovered.
At a hurriedly arranged press conference about the same time the Senate was ending a closed-door session on Thursday, the spokesperson for the Senate, Abdullahi Sabi, announced that Mr. Magu’s nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari as EFCC chairman had been rejected. He cited “available security report” for the rejection.
On Monday, the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, claimed the Senate did not reject Mr. Magu’s nomination but only suspended discussions on the matter until the SSS’ concerns are resolved.
Ongoing investigation into the procedural issues involved in the handling of Mr. Magu’s nomination showed the State Security Service actually turned in two reports on Mr. Magu. Both, though signed by one official, Folashade Ojo, on behalf of the Director General, Lawal Daura, are contradictory, having different conclusions.
Reasons the SSS acted the way it did – directly sending a report to the Senate to block a presidential nominee – have remained unanswered.
Investigations, however, reveal that the SSS acted only after it received requests from both the presidency and the Senate to vet Mr. Magu.
The Presidency, through Mr. Buhari’s senior special assistant on National Assembly, Ita Enang, made the request that Mr. Magu be vetted via an August 26 letter SSAP/NASS/SEN/I67 to the SSS.
The Senate’s version went to the SSS through its Clerk on September 21 via letter NASS/CS/SA/01/16/08/1.
While the Senate sought vetting of Mr. Magu and other nominees for the EFCC Board, the presidency asked that only Mr. Magu be screened.
Incidentally, the SSS replied both the Senate and the Presidency on October 3 with separate reports SV.114/2 and SV.114/3 respectively.
A review of how the Presidency, the Senate and the SSS handled Mr. Magu’s nomination revealed procedural lapses and questions the capacity of Nigeria’s secret police to gather factual information about subjects under investigation.
The Presidency made the request for Mr. Magu’s confirmation in July through a letter signed by Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo in his capacity as acting president when Mr. Buhari travelled abroad for medical treatment.
But it was after one month of seeking the confirmation – and after eight months in acting capacity – that the presidency sought security vetting for Mr. Magu.
By standard practice, nominees of the president get security clearance before their names are sent to the National Assembly for confirmation.
Since Mr. Magu’s nomination did not come with security clearance, the Senate, whose members, including its President, Bukola Saraki, have at different times been investigated by Mr. Magu, had a window to approach the intelligence agency for security vetting.
However, the most serious issue arising is the fact that claims made by the SSS in its reports are not factual.
A fact-check over the weekend exposed the falsehood in the reports. For instance, our report showed the SSS lied on the claim that Mr. Magu lives in a rented Abuja apartment paid for by a “questionable” business man and retired air commodore Umar Mohammed at the rate of N20 million per annum.
Meanwhile, the two SSS reports gave contradictory conclusions. The one to the Senate advised against Mr. Magu’s confirmation, saying he had failed the integrity test; but the SSS asked the Presidency to give the subject “benefit of doubt and be considered” in view “of his achievements since assumption of office in acting capacity” although his “integrity may be in doubt”.
MUTED PRESIDENCY, SENATE
The Presidency could not be reached to comment for this story. Repeated calls and a text to Femi Adesina, Mr. Buhari’s special adviser on media and publicity, were neither answered nor returned. His colleague, Garba Shehu, initially promised to get back but did not do so.
The presidential assistant on the Senate through whom the presidency’s request for security vetting was made, Mr. Enang, did not also answer calls or reply our text message.
Similarly, the Senate’s spokesperson, Aliyu Abdullahi, did not answer several calls and a text message.
SENATE DID NO WRONG
A senior lawyer and presidential adviser on anti-corruption campaign, Itse Sagay, said the Senate did no wrong by approaching the SSS for information on Mr. Magu.
“It is not wrong for the legislature to ask an agency for information on somebody under its consideration. You don’t need any power for that,” Mr. Sagay said.
He, however, said the Senate did not act in good faith, saying “the whole thing is stage managed.”
“Senate wants an excuse for turning down the appointment.”
Asked for his comment on our finding that the Presidency sought vetting of Mr. Magu after he had been nominated, Mr. Sagay said, “I don’t know about that. There is no basis for that (SSS) report. The man has held positions before. The whole thing is bogus.”