NASS REJECTION OF MAGU: A CASE OF CORRUPTION FIGHTING BACK?
The confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as the substantive Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) suffered another debilitating blow with the eventual rejection of his nomination by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Magu was appointed the acting chair of EFCC after the removal of Ibrahim Lamorde on November 9, 2015. His name was forwarded to the Senate for confirmation on July 14, through a letter signed by the Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo in his capacity as Acting President while the president was away on medical trip. The way and manner his name was sent to the Senate especially at a time President Buhari was away in the estimation of many smelt of a big rat. The palpable sign of his rejection has been hovering for quite some time with the Senate bidding it’s time to concoct one flimsy excuse on failure of integrity test as reason to drop him. After five months of foot dragging and two postponements of invitations to appear before the Senate for drilling, the hope of the ant-corruption czar was completely dashed. This time around, the Senate suddenly relied on a report by the Directorate of State Services indicting Magu of some malfeasance as the basis for rejecting his confirmation. Briefing the newsmen, the Senate spokesman Abdullahi Sabi said, “the Senate hereby rejects the said nomination and has returned the said nomination to Mr. President for further action. There is no confusion here. We have said it is based on security reports.” The Senate did not decide Magu’s case in the committee of the whole but deceived itself and Nigerians by announcing the decision to reject him after a closed door session when the gallery was cleared. Why were the votes not taken in the public?
The Senate traditionally relies on security reports emanating from the Directorate of State Services as a precursor to confirmation of any individuals billed to take up public offices. However, such reports are not automatically binding on the Senate to accept hook- line-and-sinker. The issue of two separate reports emanating from the same DSS on the same person deserves public scrutiny and questioning. Therefore, choosing the damning report above the favorable one as the basis for disqualifying the nominee is unfair and unsustainable. Some Senators and unseen political hands against Magu are on the trial list of EFCC; therefore, the anti-corruption czar who is seen as a major obstacle to wriggling out of their cases is a good riddance to bad rubbish. Is this not a case of corruption as usual fighting back? It will take only president Buhari’s intervention and re-submission of his name to keep this hope alive.
EFCC has had to contend with issues of high-handedness and other sundry allegations ranging from accusation of corrupt enrichment of officers of the commission. It is on record that Nuhu Ribadu was eased out of office for the above reasons. EFCC at the period of Farida Waziri’s lost its teeth and relevance completely as the commission was said to have condoned the excesses of some elements said to be corrupt. The turbulent times for EFCC continued even during the time of Ibrahim Lamorde. At the twilight of his chairmanship, he was immersed in corrupt controversy leading to his appearance before the House of Representatives committee on Anti-Corruption. The issue is still at the front burner. Ibrahim Magu has rekindled the fire of anti-corruption crusade since assumption of office. He has leveraged on the track record of the past administrations and showed much resilience in the pursuit of corruption related cases. His sterling record of performance has spoken well of him, thus must not be deliberately rubbished. As the government tool for fighting corruption, EFCC under his watch has secured more convictions and recovered stolen wealth more than any other. Therefore, the president is called upon to disregard the said security report leading to his rejection, set up an independent committee to verify its truism and if found to be a witch hunt re-submit his name once again to the Senate for consideration.
The delay in Magu’s confirmation has raised a number of suspicions on our genuine desire as a nation to fight corruption. First, without being told, the ensuing drama is not about Magu per se but about demystifying EFCC as an institution and finally nail the coffin of any genuine attempt to fight corruption. Second, there is this growing apprehension in the camp of political elites represented by the National Assembly that with the diligence put to his job, Magu cannot be tamed or rubber stamped. Third, there are increasing cases of muscle flexing and power play within those in the corridors of power with each group trying to outwit the other. Stories of supremacy, relevance and of which investigative or security apparatus has the ear of the presidency was said to have bred this rift. Fourth, it was also insinuated that Magu’s obstinacy and unbent disposition to some corrupt cases which some powerful individuals are interested in were his albatross. Magu seems to have been caught in the same web and same banana peels placed on the ways of Nuhu Ribadu and Ibrahim Lamorde. It is certain that Magu had stepped on the toes of powerful men in the course of discharging his duties. These people will leave no stone unturned to ensure that he is not confirmed. Corruptly enriched individuals and institutions have been fingered in their desperation to distabilise any processes aimed at bringing them to book. They deploy every deadly arsenal at their disposal to frustrate genuine attempt to bring them to justice. The mass media especially the social media platforms are the willing tools in this proxy war.
The commission to many Nigerians has ostensibly remained an attack dog of government in power. Many damning petitions against some APC stalwarts in possession of EFCC are deliberately left unattended to while it bared its fangs against some notable appointees of the past administrations who are tried in the media and also hauled into detention. EFCC has failed to accomplish its set goals for conceding to the over bearing negative influence of men of timber and calibre on the commission. When one wants to kill a dog one gives it a bad name. Allegations levied against every head of the agency have led to their removal. Ribadu was accused of over-zealousness while diligently carrying out his duties. Nobody is perfect and we do not expect an angel to head the anti-corruption agency. If the error margin of performance is tolerable, one thinks that is good enough. However, those occupying public offices must be standard bearers. They must be seen to be above board and carry out their responsibilities without fear or favour. Meanwhile, those positioning some preferred individuals as possible replacement do not scheme with altruistic patriotism in mind. President Buhari should be aware. The role Magu failed to play for these people are the first lined up for execution by their crony when appointed. The fight against corruption in Nigeria has suffered tremendous setbacks. With the political will power inherently lacking amongst political leaders and elites to support this anti-corruption war, the commission, Magu or any other chairman is stranded and has little or no magic to perform.
Sunday Onyemaechi Eze, a Media and Communications Specialist is the publisher of thenewinsightng.blogspot.com. He wrote from Kaduna via email@example.com and can be reached on 08060901201