•Security heads, anti-graft chair disagree on coverage
From Fred Itua, Abuja
The face-off between the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Lawal Daura and the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, yesterday, came to the fore, when the duo appeared before a Senate Ad hoc committee.
Daura and Magu appeared before the panel set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the November 21 face-off between the two leading agencies.
The stand-off was over moves to arrest the immediate-past Director-General of the Service, Mr. Ekpeyong Ita, at his Maitama, Abuja residence.
In a similar move, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) operatives halted EFCC operatives from arresting the sacked Director-General of the intelligence agency, Mr. Ayo Oke on the same day in Abuja.
Following the face-off, Senate, at its plenary on Tuesday, November 22 set up the ad hoc committee, headed by Francis Alimikhena to investigate the circumstances surrounding the face-off. Although the committee was given two weeks to submit its report, it only commenced its hearing yesterday.
In the Senate, when heads of government agencies are summoned to appear before standing or adhoc committees, they usually exchange pleasantries and sit on a reserved seat on the front row in any of the hearing rooms.
But at yesterday’s investigative hearing, Daura who came into the room, 30 minutes behind Senators, boycotted the front row where Magu was already seated.
Instead, he opted for another seat. They did not exchange any pleasantries before the commencement of the business of the day.
In a similar move, the Acting Director-General of NIA, Mohammed Dauda, who walked in when the hearing was about to commence, also boycotted Magu’s seat and opted for another one. He did not exchange any pleasantries with Magu either.
Barely five minutes into the hearing, Senate Correspondents were told to vacate the hall. The committee chairman, said they needed to create a friendly atmosphere for the guests to speak freely.
Trouble started when Alimikhena asked the trio, Daura, Magu and Dauda if they had any comments to make. While Magu and Dauda did not object to the presence of newsmen, Daura however told the senators that he would only speak freely if journalists were not in the room.
“Mr. Chairman and other members, I have some reservations I need to make. This is a sensitive issue and I want to ask that journalists be asked to leave the room. The issues we will discuss here should not be for public consumption,” Daura said.
Giving nod to Daura’s request, Alimikhena said: “I have heard what you said. The matter is of security importance to this country. We want to see the agencies work together. We will oblige by what you have said. We want to ensure that you are comfortable enough to give something.”
Another member of the committee and Chairman of Senate committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Chukwuka Utazi, supported the position of Alimikhena.
“We want to ensure that everything that is done here is done to ensure that the interest of the country is protected. I agree that journalists should not be allowed to remain here at this time,” he said.
Before the panel went into a closed session, however, Alimikhena alluded to street fight between the two agencies.
“There is nothing hidden because they fought in the street. They fought dirty and Nigerian people will like to know what led to that fight. What happened in that dirty fight, I don’t think it’s something we should hide from the public. For me, I would prefer that we do this openly for Nigerians to see. It’s a shame on all of us for sister security agencies to be fighting dirty in the street. Which means we don’t have spirit de corps. For them to fight in the public, then, they should tell us what led to that fight.”
The senator was the only one among the five committee members who wanted the hearing made public.
Magu fired back immediately. “Mr. Chairman, I really don’t know. There was no street fight, there was no dirty fight. We did not fight anybody. So, the reference to street fight dirty fight, I don’t think it is proper sir. There was never a street fight. My men went there, they were not allowed to execute the due warrant of arrest and the search warrant.” Alimikhena did not respond to his comments before the closed session, thereafter.
The committee also agreed to hold separate hearing for each of the agencies, starting with the EFCC, before inviting the three to a final hearing.