Corruption Allegations Rock Nigeria’s G-Men

Malami and Magu at the Heart of Campaign to Manufacture Evidence against P&ID

In an ironic twist of fate, Nigeria’s self-described corruption fighters – Attorney General Malami, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, and Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) – are beset by rival allegations of corruption and fraud.

Over the last few days, several Nigerian news sources have reported on a purported memo written to President Buhari by AG Malami urging the sacking of EFCC Chair Magu.

According to a top official in the PDP, Kola Ologbodiyan, AG Malami’s memo exposed “abysmal corruption, deception, and hypocrisy.” He further claims “the world can now see that the much-hyped anti-corruption fight of the Buhari administration, has been nothing but a huge fraud and a racket… to harass political opponents, intimidate and extort money…

More alarming, some news organisations have suggested that Magu was involved in a diversion of recovered loot (i.e. – Abacha monies) that rightly belongs to the people of Nigeria.

This is a serious charge by AG Malami, if true. Less than two months ago, similar concerns were raised by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley in a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice over the return of $300 million in stolen Abacha monies. At the time, the U.S. DOJ made it clear that should it “conclude that any of the returned funds had been used for an ineligible expenditure, a “claw-back” provision would then obligate the FRN (Nigeria) to replace fully any such improperly diverted monies.”

Despite such credible concerns, the U.S.’s DOJ and the State Department greenlighted these monies be paid to a contractor with a history of questionable behavior, including Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations.

Allies of Magu have hit back against the Malami accusations. Their implication, made in Nigerian media, is that Malami is himself corrupt and sees acting chairman Magu as a potential threat or rival who could expose the AG’s corruption. They contend that Malami’s accusations are contrived and easily disproved.

Only time will tell if one, or both, of these accusations turn out to be true, and whether the Buhari Administration diverted these Abacha monies, or other repatriated monies – and indeed whether there will ever be action taken by the proper authorities to investigate the very serious allegations being levelled against Malami and Magu.

Manufactured Evidence

This raises questions far wider than simply internecine Abuja politics. Chairman Magu and AG Malami are the two principal figures at the heart of the campaign by the Buhari government to manufacture evidence against P&ID to overturn a decision in the English Commercial Court.

For anyone who has followed the shocking lack of due process afforded to anyone involved with P&ID, the allegations against Messrs Magu and Malami will not surprise.

Magu and his lead interrogator, Bala Sanga, worked in tandem with AG Malami to cast aspersion on the independently-decided P&ID Award. The sham investigation overseen by Magu included the use of illegal detentions, blatant violations of human rights and due process and forced confessions.

This included:

  • Detaining several individuals (including Nigerian and foreign citizens) for upwards of, to six weeks without charge, in an unventilated underground chamber, and without access to legal counsel or medical care;
  • Violating the rights of lawyers affiliated with P&ID, including detaining several for merely conducting the arbitration and seizing documents protected by attorney-client privilege;
  • Obtaining a criminal conviction against P&ID in a show-trial in a Nigerian court. P&ID was given no notice of the proceedings, or any opportunity to mount a defence, apparently in violation of Nigeria’s own laws regarding service of proceedings on criminal defendants;
  • Securing this conviction of P&ID on the basis of a guilty plea coerced from an elderly former employee of P&ID’s Nigerian affiliate, who never had legal authority to act for P&ID (let alone enter a guilty plea on its behalf); and
  • On the basis of this ill-gotten show-trial conviction, obtaining a Nigerian court order purporting to forfeit all assets belonging to P&ID or its Nigerian affiliate, in an apparent attempt to steal the arbitral award granted to P&ID by the independent tribunal.

Attacking a Dead Person

Worse, as part of the frantic effort to shift blame away from the Buhari Administration, including himself, AG Malami has sworn under oath in his Fourth & Fifth Witness Statement to the English Courts accusing Dr Lukman, the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, of corruption in the P&ID deal. AG Malami has yet to produce a shred of evidence to support the allegation.

Sadly, AG Malami has attacked a deceased person unable to defend himself against this cynical and unsubstantiated attempt to smear his reputation. Dr Lukman was a man of the highest integrity and one of the most respected Nigerian Government officials of recent decades: a two-time OPEC Secretary-General with a sterling reputation, and former President Yar’Adua’s Minister of Petroleum Resources. These ludicrous allegations against a man of the highest standing, are being placed at the centre of AG Malami’s case against P&ID. This screams of desperation – it is just another piece of the profoundly flawed, weak “fraud” claims the AG is peddling.

All Eyes on London

As Nigeria seeks to nullify the P&ID Award in the English courts, the allegations of wrongdoing by chairman Magu and AG Malami only serve to undermine the legitimacy of Nigeria’s desperate claims. AG Malami has made himself the star witness for Nigeria, submitting multiple sworn statements in his own name. The serious corruption allegations against him colour his character and credibility to the extent that questions will be asked about whether he can be considered a reliable or credible witness in the proceedings. Likewise, the EFCC’s manufactured and politically-motivated investigation of P&ID will receive even more scrutiny given that the EFCC’s acting chairman now is also being accused of corruption.

This soap opera in Abuja is likely to continue, and it seems inevitable that further damaging revelations will be uncovered about the conduct and character of AG Malami and acting chairman Magu.