A group of anti-corruption campaigners on Thursday called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to immediately launch a thorough investigation into allegations that its former acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu, connived with a former senator, Buruji Kashamu, to sabotage other lottery businesses that are in competition with Kashamu’s Western Lotto.
The Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution (CDNDC) tasked the EFCC to uncover how a controversial politician and businessman like Kashamu, who is wanted in the United States, became an associate of its former acting head.
Magu was suspended from office earlier this week by President Muhammadu Buhari on allegations that he was involved in a slew of corrupt practices that were unbecoming of a senior anti-graft official. The president’s action stemmed from a damning memo written against Magu by Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation, who accused Magu of corruption and abuse of office.
Magu, who remained in police detention while investigation into the allegations against him continued, strongly denied all allegations of corruption and said he was ready to defend himself in court.
But CDNDC said the ongoing probe of Magu’s leadership at the EFCC should not be concluded without a strident scrutiny of his relationship with Kashamu.
Kashamu had in late 2019 written a petition to the EFCC alleging corrupt practices against Baba Ijebu’s Premier Lotto and other lottery businesses that have long been in competition with his own Western Lotto.
Following Kashamu’s petition, the EFCC under Magu swiftly moved to arrest Kessington Adebutu, the octogenarian proprietor of Western Lotto.
But following indications that Adebutu was receiving medical treatment in London, the EFCC invited one of his sons, Segun, to its Lagos office, where he was thoroughly grilled.
Last month, the EFCC said Mr Adebutu had remitted over N860 million in back taxes to federal coffers, a development CDNDC said amounted to a shakedown of a legitimate and credible commercial establishment.
“It is unfortunate that Magu, as a supposed anti-corruption chief, would be in bed with a tainted character like Kashamu,” Ariyo-Dare Atoye, the convener of CDNDC, said in a statement. “We want the presidential panel that is looking into Magu’s allegations to also find out what happened between him and Kashamu.”
Atoye said his group had recently caught wind of an ongoing scheme by EFCC agents to move against other lottery businesses with the hope of extracting huge financial commitment from them, saying such action should be ceased to ward off its dangerous implication on the country’s economy.
“The EFCC cannot be going after businesses that are barely surviving amidst a biting worldwide pandemic that has also hit Nigeria hard,” Atoye said. “It would amount to a huge disservice to the nation and we would not allow it to happen.”
“Those behind the attempt to intimidate other lottery businesses on trumped up allegations of unremitted taxes are Magu’s lackies that remained with the EFCC,” he added. “They should all be fished out, investigated and prosecuted to serve as a deterrence to other rogue law enforcement agents.”
A spokesperson for Magu could not be reached for comments Thursday evening.
But Kashamu’s spokesperson, Austin Oniyokor, strongly denied allegations of connivance between his principal and the former EFCC chairman, saying it was baseless and spurious.
“Prince Kashamu only acted in the interest of the country by petitioning Magu to look into the businesses,” Oniyorkor said. “He did it in the best interest of the country