The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has petitioned the UN over alleged intimidation and harassment of Ibrahim Magu, Chairman of the Economic and Financial CrimesCommission, EFCC, by the Senate.
In the petition, addressed to Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, SERAP alleged that the Senate was working against Mr. Magu in concert with other government agencies.
The petition is dated December 16 and signed by the Executive Director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni.
It would be recalled that Senate on Thursday rejected Mr. Magu’s nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari as the substantive Chairman of the EFCC, citing security report as an alibi.
In the said report allegedly prepared by the Department of State Services, DSS, details of which have emerged in a section of the media, Mr. Magu is accused of corruption-related offences.
SERAP questioned the veracity of the “purported report”, noting that the Senate should have known that the report was “baseless and politically motivated to reject Mr. Magu’s confirmation’’.
“By relying on a report they knew or ought to know is baseless and politically motivated to reject Mr. Magu’s appointment as chairman of the EFCC, the Senate has flagrantly violated his right to a fair hearing.
“The upper legislative chamber implicitly working to weaken, intimidate, harass and ultimately undermine the independence and freedom of action of the EFCC in its efforts to combat high-profile official corruption,’’ it said.
The group urged Forst to “urgently intervene in the matter to stop further intimidation and harassment of a prominent anti-corruption campaigner and human rights defender.”
SERAP stated that the action of the Senate and its allies were working to undermine Nigeria’s international obligation to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of the citizens.
The petition read in part: “Apart from the fact that the allegations against Mr Magu are baseless and politically motivated, the Senate of Nigeria flagrantly denied him constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to a fair hearing by not providing him an opportunity to respond to the allegations against him.
“The Senate confirmation hearing therefore amounts to a nullification, or destruction of the very essence of the fundamental principles of fair hearing.
“The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria relying on a baseless and politically motivated report declined to confirm the appointment of Ibrahim Magu as substantive chairman of the country’s leading anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“The Senate claimed that its action was based on a purported security report forwarded to it by the State Security Service.
“But SERAP has reviewed the security report, which primarily alleged that sensitive and unauthorised EFCC official documents were found in Magu’s home.
“However, SERAP is aware that this allegation was part of the conspiracy to harass Magu and frustrate his anticorruption work, as he was unjustly detained for three weeks.
“Following investigation by the police authorities in 2008, Magu was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing, and in fact promoted to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police.
“The report also incorrectly stated Magu currently occupies a residence rented for N40 million at N20 million per annum and paid for by allegedly corrupt person.
“But SERAP’s finding shows that the property was in fact paid for by the Federal Capital Development Administration.
“SERAP thus believes that the purported rejection by the Senate of Nigeria of Magu’s appointment as the chairman of EFCC is politically motivated and in bad faith and part of a persistent move by the National Assembly of Nigeria including the Senate and the House of Representatives,
“and other agencies of government apparently working with them to undermine the ongoing fight against corruption which Magu is leading, and invariably, the independence and freedom of action of anticorruption agencies including the EFCC.
“SERAP is deeply concerned by intimidation, harassment and politically motivated allegations against one of the most efficient, focused, consistent and hardworking anti-corruption campaigners in our country.
“These politically motivated allegations are not only to victimise him as the head of EFCC but also to harass, intimidate and frustrate the work of other anti-corruption and human rights campaigners and institutions in the country.
“SERAP considers Magu to be a human rights defender within the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 1998 (UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders).
“SERAP therefore urges you to urgently assert your mandates to put pressure on the Senate of Nigeria and other agencies of government apparently working with them to end continuing harassment and intimidation of Magu by immediately withdrawing any politically motivated allegations against him.
“We also urge you to send a strong message to the Senate of Nigeria and other agencies of government that the campaign of intimidation and harassment against human rights and anti-corruption campaigners is unacceptable, and will not be tolerated.”