The attempt by a United States lawmaker to block the return of $320 million Abacha loot to Nigeria has been resisted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The commission said on Friday in a statement that the allegation by the Chairman of the U.S Senate Committee on Finance, Charles Grassley, that the money should not be released to Nigeria because EFCC was detaining critics of President Muhamadu Buhari, was a lie from the pit of hell.
The statement, which was signed by the acting Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr Tony Orilade, said that the commission only arrests and charges to court Nigerians who have stolen public funds and does not have any critic of Buhari in its custody.
The Commission said that among those currently in prison were key political allies of President Buhari and those from the opposition who were properly convicted for corruption by courts of competent jurisdiction, and not on partly affiliation.
The 86-year-old US Republican Senator had in a letter dated April 1, 2020, and addressed to the Chief Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section of the U.S Department of Justice, Deborah Connor, maliciously accused Magu of “detaining individuals who have spoken against the Buhari government.”
But EFCC regretted the action of the lawmaker, which it said was borne out of ignorance on the part of the Senator and the actions of some desperate Nigerians to frustrate the Nigerian government from recovering the huge amount which was traced to the late former head of state.
The commission said that Magu could not have been faulted by the lawmaker if he had got his facts right because only recently the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, singled out the EFCC boss and honoured him for boldly tackling corruption in Nigeria.
The statement said it was in recognition of Magu’s transparent work at the EFCC that the FBI recently gave an Award of Excellence to Mr Magu for his unique role in a joint field operation codenamed with the American agency entitled, “Operation Rewired”, which led to the arrest and prosecution of hundreds of wire fraud suspects in Nigeria and abroad.
“It is worrisome that a high-ranking US lawmaker of the status of Grassley could not get his facts rightly nor establish a credible premise of attacking an FBI-celebrated Magu. Would the FBI have come out to acknowledge the effectiveness and credibility of the EFCC under Magu’s watch, if such allegation of oppressing opposition to President Buhari’s government had any merit?
“Besides, only recently, former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Adoke (SAN), and an opposition PDP politician, poured encomiums on Magu on the visible achievements of the EFCC under his watch. According to Adoke, “President Muhammadu Buhari is highly celebrated for fighting corruption and the poster boy of this celebrated achievement is clearly Magu.
“It would interest Sen Grassley to know that three former governors who are ranking members of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, which is President Buhari’s party, are currently serving jail terms for corruption. Is the EFCC also persecuting members of the President’s party?
“Grassley evidently lacks any sound basis for linking the EFCC and Magu with any oppressive or separatist agenda against government opposition.
“Records of convictions of the Commission are in the public domain as well as cases before the courts, which can be subjected to unbiased analysis and scrutiny.
“We wish to reiterate that the EFCC under Magu is too focused on the anti-graft agenda of the government to be distracted by such empty claims of the lawmaker. Grassley and his sponsors are clearly on quicksand on this issue,” the commission said.