No matter how many times you google his name, you are most unlikely to get any useful information or any high resolution photograph — that is if you get any photograph at all.
In fact, Ibrahim Magu has only one photograph in the public space, taken by James Wallace of NPR. The pixels are so small you will struggle to see his face. Welcome to the world of Magu, a deputy commissioner of police and the newly appointed acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
His little frame will easily deceive you, but he is one of the toughest interrogators the anti-graft commission has had in its history — one that even former governors under investigation specifically begged not to be interrogated by.
“Magu is the toughest interrogator you can ever think of. When he grills suspects, they sweat even in the coldest of rooms. He takes his time, does not rush his questions but he can question you for a whole day and wear you down,” a former governor quoted by TheCable saif of the new EFCC boss. “We used to plead with Ribadu that he should not allow Magu to grill us, that we would rather be grilled by another officer.”
The Borno-born officer is a “tough cop”, a senior lawyer told TheCable, recalling the day Nuhu Ribadu, the former EFCC chairman, asked Magu to release someone from detention and ask him to come back. “Magu, while saluting Ribadu, said, ‘We shall release him, Sir, after he has answered our questions.’ That was how tough he was with suspects. He was not easily moved by emotions,” he said.
FEARED MORE THAN RIBADU
Magu was feared more than Ribadu, who was removed as the anti-graft czar in controversial circumstances in 2007 by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Ribadu was understood to be a victim of power play as Yar’Adua political associates, led by James Ibori, former governor of Delta state, sought to castrate the agency.
Ibori is currently serving a jail sentence in the UK. Not only was Ribadu removed from the commission through a controversial re-posting and an order to proceed to the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), his core team was effectively dismantled. Ibrahim Lamorde, who was removed by President Muhammadu Buhari as EFCC chairman on Monday, was posted to Ningi, Bauchi state, while Magu was sent to Delta state, Ibori’s territory. “When he was posted to Delta, he was so surprised that he said, ‘Why don’t you just tie me up and shoot me rather than post me to Ibori’s domain?’ It was a cynical posting and there were fears that it was a deliberate plot to get rid of him,” an EFCC insider told TheCable.
This needs to be put in its proper context. Magu was one of the officers who investigated Ibori and came up with the indictment that was used against him in court. The eventual weakening of EFCC was linked to this particular case, and posting Mangu to Delta was bound to be seen as not just humiliation but also an indirect sentence to live in fear. He eventually spent only three weeks in Delta before he was given another posting, and at some point attempts were made to retire him from the police so that he does not raise his head again.
Ribadu, his erstwhile boss, was dismissed from the force at the height of his struggles as he engaged the powers that be in a public spat. The federal might ended his career abruptly, although former President Goodluck Jonathan converted his dismissal to retirement in 2010 after Ribadu won a court case. Magu, meanwhile, was in the wilderness of his life, unable to fit into the proper police force as his talent and training were being wasted in routine police duties.
For a long time, he remained an assistant commissioner of police without any hopes of being promoted. But some bit of fortune smiled on him when Lamorde was appointed EFCC chairman by Jonathan in 2011. Lamorde brought Magu back into the EFCC, and the Borno-born officer began to find fulfilment again.
Magu, apart from the Ibori, was also involved in big investigations, including the Halliburton bribery scandal. No government has acted on the report which indicted top government officials.
The corruption allegations were related to the natural liquefied gas project which came under intense international scrutiny, with the US government handing out indictments and heavy fines.
Recently, Magu was appointed by the government of Buhari to investigate the purchase of arms by the armed forces under the previous administration. The 14-man panel is investigating how some of the retired military chiefs spent the votes for arms while they were in office.
The panel, inaugurated by Babagana Monguno, the national security adviser, was asked to investigate, among others, $466.5m contract to weaponise six Puma helicopters by Jonathan administration; N3billion contract for the supply of six units of K-38 patrol boats to the disbanded Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Security (PICOMSS) and theft of over €200m by PICOMMS, including the purchase of two private jets.
Other allegations were: the $9.3m cash-for-arms deal seized by South Africa; whereabouts of $1billion loan approved by the 7th senate for arms purchase to fight Boko Haram; what became of unaccessed N7b budget for the military and the contract for the rehabilitation of the Military Reference Hospital in Kaduna.
Little did Magu know that he was only preparing to become the country’s anti-corruption czar.
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