Prominent groups involved in anti-corruption efforts globally have told President Muhammadu Buhari that the recent verdict of the United Kingdom court in Nigeria’s case with Process and Industrial Development was a clear vindication of former Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu.
The groups include The Corner House, Re: Common, Global Witness and Nigerian-based Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre).
Nigeria had secured a landmark victory in judgment delivered on September 4 in its pursuit to overturn a $10bn arbitral award against it in the case against P&ID.
Ross Cranston, a judge of the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales, granted Nigeria’s application for an extension of time and relief from sanctions.
Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation, had accused Magu of neglecting a presidential directive mandating him to investigate the P&ID deal in 2018.
He said Magu’s negligence could have caused Nigeria to lose an “estimate of N47bn”.
In a joint letter to the President, the anti-corruption groups said the efficiency with which the EFCC under Magu conducted its investigation aided the court’s ruling in favour of Nigeria.
The letter was signed by Lucas Manes of Re:Common, Nicholas Hildyard of Corner House, Simon Taylor of Globalwitness – all European organisations – and Olanrewaju Suraju of the HEDA in Nigeria.
“Magu has been held for more than two months and the accusations against him have not been proved. The international community have a lot of respect for Magu. A critical review of allegations against him will earn your country the prestige it deserves,” the groups said in the letter.
According to them, the ruling has special significance for anti-corruption campaigners in the United Kingdom where there has long been a concern that the UK courts were being used to launder money through fraudulent claims.
The groups said findings by Sir Ross Cranson that there was a strong prima facie case that P&ID’s gas processing contract “was procured by bribery” was key to his ruling that Nigeria should be granted an extension of time to challenge the arbitration award against it.
The anti-corruption coalition said neutral readers of Sir Ross’ judgment will be left in no doubts as to the service that the EFCC had done for Nigeria, adding that as the Federal Government itself noted in its skeleton argument, the investigation was “carried out much faster than similar investigations in the past”.
They praised the former EFCC Chairman for his diligence in the prosecution, adding that in a very short period of time, the EFCC under Magu conducted interviews, obtained bank statements, traced funds, established that P&ID was not a company with the wherewithal to fulfill the contract and documented alleged bribes.
“As experienced investigators ourselves, we know how long collecting such evidence can take: the EFCC’s efforts were nothing short of Herculean and Nigeria has now reaped the reward,” the groups said.
They argued that Sir Ross saw through the false allegations made by Malami that the EFCC under Magu’s leadership had failed to accord the presidential directive with any serious attention until the scale had already tilted dangerously against Nigeria.
“Mr Malami’s allegations were (inevitably) picked up by P&ID in an effort to undermine the Federal Government’ case. Were it not for Sir Ross’ careful analysis of the facts, this might have succeeded,” they said.
The groups said for more than two months, the tribunal set up by President Buhari had failed to nail Magu.
It asked that the accusation against Magu be withdrawn.
“The facts demand that he be exonerated of this charge. Contrary to several attempts by Malami to divert attention from his act of sabotage and indecorous action, what now needs to be investigated by the Presidency is why Mr Malami allowed a personal vendetta against Magu to provide ammunition to the Federal Government’s opponents and to jeopardise its righteous claim,” they said.
The groups said were it not for the perspicacity of Sir Ross, the case could have gone against Nigeria, in large part due to Malami’s false allegations against Magu.
It noted that President Buhari should not let the embarrassment caused by Malami cloud the victory.