Travails Of Anti-Graft Czar


With the Senate shooting down the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and allegations of improprieties leveled against him, MUSA SIMON REEF reports on the travails of a thief catcher now haunted by forces trying to unearth his other side of life.

The rejection by the Senate of President Muhammad Buhari’s nomination of Ibrahim Magu as the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) did not come as a surprise for those conversant with matters surrounding his travails since he was appointed Acting Chairman of the Commission. Described as an insider that is endowed with knowledgeable inner workings of the crime busting body, Magu’s antecedents, according to sources, were bound to have rippling effects on his confirmation by the Senate. However, those against Magu have come up with various allegations, insisting that allowing him to be appointed head of the anti-graft agency could jeopardise the mandate of the commission. With the security report submitted by the Department of State Services (DSS) on him, Magu’s prospects of surviving the onslaught seems slim, as President Muhammadu Buhari is said to have directed the Senate to do what is needful. Presidency sources told Forefront that considering the puritanical disposition of the President, the avalanche of evidences put forward to nail the EFCC Acting Chairman were too weighty to be ignored by any administration that is concerned with putting round pegs in round holes.

Rhythm of Discordant Tunes

Less than 24 hours after the Senate announced its decision not to confirm Magu for the EFCC top position, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, dismissed the Senate’s refusal to confirm the deputy commissioner of police as boss of the anti-graft commission, insisting that whether the Senate confirmed or otherwise, the presidency would continue to renew the appointment of Magu. In an interview published in the current edition of The Interview, Sagay was quoted to have said, “Whether they like it or not, he (Magu) will be there. His chairmanship will keep on being renewed. Since Nuhu Ribadu left, we have not had a man with such sterling qualities as Ibrahim Magu and whether they like it or not, Magu will be there until he completes his term under the law,” Sagay boasted, adding that the non-confirmation of Magu by the Senate was “corruption fighting back.”

Rallying Support For Magu

In the course of ensuring the confirmation of the EFCC helmsman as substantive boss, leaders of Nigeria’s anti-corruption groups had condemned the Senate for delaying the confirmation of Magu, describing the cold disposition of the senators over the delay as an attempt at frustrating the corruption war of the present administration. In a communiqué signed by Debo Adeniran of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL); Lanre Suraju –Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC); Adetokunbo Mumuni – Social-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP); David Ugolor – Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ); Okey Nwanguma – Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN); among others, the activists described Magu as eminently qualified for the EFCC top job. However, there are allegations making the waves that most of the so-called NGOs are being sponsored by the EFCC’s acting Chairman to help drum support for him. Curiously, the position of the anti-corruption activists was similar to that of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) which, in August 2016, lamented the delay in the confirmation of the acting EFCC chairman. The activists wondered why the senators had screened and confirmed Justices of the Supreme Court and Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), long after the submission of Mr. Magu’s name for confirmation as EFCC’s chairman by President Buhari. They contended that the security of tenure for the leadership of anti-corruption agencies saddled with tackling corruption was a globally recognized principle for guaranteeing the independence of anti-corruption agencies. They added, “Fighting corruption without the basic guarantee of security of tenure for the head of anti-corruption agencies as has become the trend in the recent past in Nigeria is one of the major limitations of the fight against the scourge of corruption in Nigeria and the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has a duty to reverse this trend.”

Stormy Days Ahead

With the confirmation coming from Sagay that the presidency is not backing out of having Magu as the EFCC boss, insiders in government predict heady days ahead in relations between the lawmakers and the executive arm. While the issue may take a legal course, if forces in the presidency succeed in sticking to Magu’s as their choice, the resolution of the issue, according to a source, may not be realised from a strict legal perspective, but political solution in ending the quagmire. The standoff over Magu between opposing forces in the presidency, according to another source, reveals a frightening disagreement among various agencies of government. If the DSS had authored the damning report that put paid to Magu’s chances of being confirmed as the EFCC Chairman, then it means there was a clash of interest in the top hierarchy of power on what best means to adopt in fighting corruption in the country. While Sagay’s focus seems to be directed at the Senate, he may have totally forgotten to look inward at the power play within the presidency. According to the source, “Reports on infighting amongst security agencies of government have been rife, but Aso Villa has always dismissed such a report, insisting that it was the figment of imagination of mischief makers. With the DSS reports on Magu being used by the Senate to block the confirmation of the EFCC’s Acting Chairman, it seems pretty obvious that the days ahead may prove heady.” Those opposed to Magu as substantive head of the EFCC are said to be lobbying Saraki to block his confirmation and promised to work behind to ensure the Senate President is let off the hook in his ongoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

Stormy Beginning

As soon as Magu was appointed by President Buhari, he hurriedly commenced the prosecution of Mrs Toyin Saraki, wife of the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki. This act, according to sources, was seen as a veiled attempt at getting at the then newly elected President of the Senate whose emergence did not go down well with the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at both party level and in the upper chamber of the National Assembly. With the EFCC irrevocably committed to pursuing its mandate of prosecuting its corrupt charges against Mrs Saraki, tough and unpredictable future lie ahead, as the corruption trial of Mrs Saraki pitched the leadership of the Commission against senators. Seen as a lackey of the President, the trial of the wife of the former Kwara State governor was seen as the hand of Esau, with the voice of Jacob. Despite mounting pressures on the EFCC to call off the trial and allow political resolution of the case, top officials of the presidency readily dismissed efforts and Magu was encouraged not to rest on his oars to prosecute the case. With mounting evidence as claimed by the anti-graft commission, it would be only a matter of time to bring the wife of the former Kwara state helmsman to justice.

Lawmakers’ Support For Saraki

While the prosecution of Mrs Saraki continued at the court, and the President of the Senate being grilled at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), members of the upper chamber of the National Assembly formed a bulwark of support for their leader whose election as President of the Senate was fraught with discordant tunes, with APC members in the Senate crying foul over what they described as “backside coup’ undertaken by their colleagues in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West) was one of the arrowheads of the pro-Saraki senators, as he accompanied Mrs Toyin when she was eventually invited by the commission. The appearance of Melaye at the EFCC set tongues wagging and revealed that some members of the upper chamber interpreted the prosecution as a hidden attempt to get at Saraki over defying the party’s decision in zoning the Senate Presidency to the North-east. A source and a member of the leadership of the Senate had confided in Forefront that the prosecution of Saraki was a signal that the graft war could be widened to include all. According to the source, “It is on this basis that we resolved to look beyond Saraki and work towards supporting him scale through the trial.” This magazine was informed that political dialogue was involved to let the President of the Senate and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu off the hook of prosecution over the forgery charges.

Can Magu’s Travails Be Resolved?

The Acting EFCC Chairman is someone believed to be close to the former and pioneer Executive Chairman of the EFCC, Malam Nuhu Ribadu. Apart from the security report that became an albatross for Magu, forces at play in controlling levers of power in government contributed in no small measures to frustrate the confirmation of the police officer as substantive boss of the commission. Apart from unconfirmed allegations against Magu that was said to have formed the fulcrum of the DSS report, not a few are seeing the travails of the deputy commissioner of police as fallout of political struggle among various agencies of government to gain influence. Considering the face-off over Magu’s confirmation, political resolution of the issue may just be the option. If the political strategy is embraced, President Buhari is expected to resend the nomination of Magu to the upper chamber for yet another attempt to confirm Magu as the EFCC boss. Reports of the many alleged sins of Magu has found its way to the public domain, and the days ahead may witness a swing of opinion on the fate of the anti-graft czar said to have stepped on sensitive toes. With the Senate and presidency poised for yet another round of bitter relations, not a few Nigerians are expressing hope that the issue would be resolved and the administration’s resolve to fight the monster of corruption be returned on tracks. Certainly, the days ahead would be as interesting as it would be intriguing just as powerful forces within the corridors of power seem divided over the confirmation of Magu. Will Magu attain the substantive position? The answer to the question would be provided as the time ticks.

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