By Dr. Johnson Greg
Time is said to be the greatest arbiter of truth and justice. In the fullness of time, the truth shall be laid bare. This truism seems to have been demonstrated amply by the narrative rendered by Mohammed Lawal, Office Assistant to Ibrahim Magu, the recently suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). It is better to present unadulterated the narrative of Mr. Lawal, which reveals the conspiracy that led to the sudden conviction of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu by Justice Idris of the Nigerian Court of Appeals, (an appellate judge that usurped the position of a trial judge just to convict a marked man).
Many Nigerians understood that there was more to the conviction of Senator Kalu than was shown on the pages of the newspapers and screens of social media platforms. But the whole truth is emerging now only when a witness to the plot has chosen to speak out.
THE MEN BEHIND THE PLOT TO TAKE ORJI UZOR KALU OUT OF THE GAME (By Mohammed Lawal)
My name is Mohammed Lawal, Special Assistant to the former Acting Chairman of EFCC, C.P. Ibrahim Magu. I worked with him directly and I traveled with him within Nigeria most of the time.
I am familiar with the details of my boss’ involvement in the case of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu. I first noticed that the Vice President Osinbajo was actively interested in the case of Senator Kalu when I accompanied my boss to the office of the Vice President on the matter. Though I was not in the meetings between my boss and the Vice President, I knew the meetings were about Senator Kalu because we went to the meetings with only one file and it was Senator Kalu’s file. Also, on many occasions, I overheard phone conversations between my boss and various people in connection with the case of Orji Uzor Kalu, then pending at the Federal High Court, Lagos.
Basically, my boss was following the request or directives of the Vice President and Governor Ahmed Tinubu. My boss had no personal interest in Orji Uzor Kalu. But my boss is very close to Tinubu and the Vice President, as they have been his greatest supporters, especially after the Senate failed to confirm him. The Vice President was his pillar of support in making sure that he remained the Acting Chairman of the EFCC irrespective of the fact that the Senate refused to confirm him as the substantive Chairman. My boss became very very close to the Vice President. The loyalty of my boss to Tinubu was also connected with his understanding that Senator Saraki blocked his confirmation and he believed that Tinubu and Saraki hated each other.
My understanding is that a group of strange bedfellows were working together to get Orji Uzor Kalu out of the way, and their best option was to work with the EFCC and judge handling the case pending against the Senator. The people working together against Kalu were Tinubu, the Vice President Osinbajo, Senator Ken Nnamani, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, and Chief Emeka Offor, who is a business partner with Ken Nnamani. These people have different motives but for some reason, they felt they needed each order. Senator Ken Nnamani tries to position himself as a leader of the APC in Igbo land. It is all a game of influence within the APC in the South East. With access to the party leadership, Nnamani and Emeka Offor cornered a chunk of government contracts going to the South East. Their company, the Enugu power distribution company, has been a vital interest that needed government protection. The company has not performed despite the huge public funds pumped into it. The men needed continued closeness to Federal Government in order for the government not to raise issues about the non-performance of that company and similar interests.
So, it is all about who could be said to lead the APC in the South East. The speedy rise of Orji Uzor Kalu within the APC is perceived as a threat to the interest of Senator Nnamani and Chief Emeka Offor. That is the foundation of their opposition and rivalry toward Senator Orji Uzor Kalu. Nnamani, aware that Kalu’s name had been often mentioned by key stakeholders as a potential presidential candidate in 2023, approached Tinubu for mutual support against Kalu. They made the case to Tinubu that Senator Kalu was an obstacle to be addressed ahead of time.
Everybody understood that Tinubu had an ambition for the presidency. Tunubu understood that Orji Uzor Kalu was a potential rival. There was a common interest between Tinubu and Ken Nnamani/Emeka Offor in neutralizing Orji Uzor Kalu. With Kalu out of the way, Nnamani and Offor would have no serious rival as the leader of APC in the South East and Tinubu would have one potential rival for the presidency out of the way.
The Vice President had been working to support Tinubu’s ambition. He and Tinubu were happy to use the two well-known Igbo figures to neutralize Orji Uzor Kalu. So, Senator Nnamani’s and Emeka Offor’s quest for unrivaled influence in the South East and Senator Abaribe’s personal grudge against Orji Uzor Kalu became very useful to Tinubu. And these men worked together to achieve the common goal of taking Orji Uzor Kalu down by any means possible, provided they would not be seen to have been the ones behind that outcome.
My boss, Magu, came into the picture because Tinubu and the Vice President saw our (EFCC) case against Senator Kalu as the perfect opportunity to get Kalu. We (EFCC) had a good relationship with Justice Idris then of the Federal High Court, Lagos. Also, both Tinubu and the Vice President have considerable influence with the judge. My boss met with Justice Idris many times over Orji Uzor Kalu’s case. I remember vividly one meeting in Tinubu’s house in Lagos, which was attended by my boss, the Vice President and the judge. My boss went into that meeting with only one file and that was the file of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.
I am also aware of certain information in the file, that was manufactured and manipulated and used against Kalu. For instance, the total amount of the cheques covering the money Orji Uzor Kalu was accused of embezzling was actually 2.1 billion naira, not the 7.6 billion that we made it out to be. And the cheques in question were drawn against the security votes account. I know what was done to turn things around and make the figures to become 7.6 billion, and present it as if taken from the state treasury instead of the security votes account. Senator Orji Uzor Kalu’s conviction was carefully arranged and it worked out as planned, at least initially.
Three factors led me to disclose the truth of what happened here. Firstly, the conviction of Senator Kalu was quashed, making nonsense of the plot to put him away. And his popularity within the party leadership remained high throughout the time he was in prison. Secondly, my boss has been so unfairly treated in the manner he was publicly humiliated and ridiculed out of office. The Vice President and Tinubu did not do enough to protect him, despite that he was loyal to them. And thirdly, Chief Fani-Kayode, former Minister of Aviation, recently published an article disclosing that my boss was working for Tinubu and the Vice President, and that they used him. If he knew that much, it shows that I am not the only one that knew about the role these men played to get Orji Uzor Kalu jailed. I have no incentive to keep quiet about what happened to my boss.