The newly appointed minister of defence for Nigeria, Bashir Magashi, has been dragged into the muddy waters of the past while serving as a top army officer.
In a report monitored by Naija News on Premium Times, the former military governor of Sokoto State abused the public trust by stealing and shipping abroad not less than $550,000 while in service.
According to findings, Mr. Magashi, 74, was a prominent and trusted member of Mr Abacha’s inner caucus. which gives him access to the nation’s coffers. At times, they were illegally allocated crude oil which they sold for hefty amounts of money. Mr. Magashi benefitted generously from that arrangement.
After Mr Abacha died in 1998, the officer was appointed commandant of the Nigerian Defence Academy, a position he held till 1999 when the new Olusegun Obasanjo administration compulsorily retired all military officers who had served for six or more months in government. Mr Magashi was among those affected by the policy.
Shortly after coming to power, the Obasanjo administration rolled out an ambitious anti-corruption programme. Apart from setting up anti-corruption agencies, that government also hired Swiss lawyer, Enrico Monfrini, to help it track and repatriate funds stolen and stashed abroad by Mr Abacha and his collaborators.
Investigation shows that one of the accounts uncovered by Mr Monfrini was a nominee (secret) one held for Mr Magashi at the Jessey, UK, branch of Bank PNP Paribus. The account had $550,000 (about N200million -at N362 to a dollar).
Those familiar with the matter said immediately Mr Obasanjo was briefed by the Swiss lawyer, he directed the then National Security Adviser, Abdullahi Mukhtar, to contact Mr Magashi and other past and serving officials who abused their offices and stashed public funds in foreign banks. They must be compelled to surrender their loots, the then president ordered.
On October 26, 2006, the NSA, via memo NSA/A/225/I/C, updated Mr Obasanjo on the cases of Mr Magashi and four others.
“The account (held for Mr Magashi) has a total deposit of $550,000 and it remained intact until it was frozen in 2001,” Mr Mukhtar wrote in his memo.
The then NSA said when confronted, Mr Magashi admitted wrongdoing, saying the money was a proceed of illegal crude oil allocation Mr Abacha made to members of the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) under his government. The officer was not a registered oil trader at the time. And being a public servant, it was illegal for him to directly engage in private businesses.
President Obasanjo then directed that the entire sum be recovered from the retired general, the then NSA said.
However, “General Magashi pleaded for a concession and Mr President left for him $150,000 from the said sum and to remit $400,000 to FGN which he has complied with as evidenced at Annex A, hereby attached,” Mr Mukhtar said.
Mr Magashi was granted that concession, and no charges were brought against him.
Source: Naija News