I have had cause in the past decade to write severally about the Hon. Mr Justice Isa Salami, that jurist of incandescent integrity, and the very epitome of what the Nigerian judiciary should be but is, unfortunately, not.
Two of the articles are: Justice Salami Must Assume Jurisdiction in the Ekiti case and Weep Not For Justice Salami both of which appeared on these pages and can be Googled .
In the former, which I wrote when the series of Ekiti Election tribunals were becoming something of a conundrum, I suggested that Justice Salami should assume jurisdiction as was done by the Hon Justice Abdullahi, a former President of the Court of Appeal, when he took over the Edo and Ondo cases.
In it I wrote: “The judiciary should be left to sink or swim solely on its record of performance bearing in mind the fact that it has now become analogous to the Nigerian army which General Salihu, a former Chief of Army staff , once described as an army of anything goes.
It is a shame really that it has come to this because, truth be told, there are still thousands of men and women of good conscience in that arm of government”.
Within and outside the Nigerian judiciary, Justice Salami shines like a thousand roses. Therefore, not a few Nigerians were happy when in November, 2017, he declined to serve as Chairman of the Corruption Monitoring Committee because he could not, in good conscience, serve with some of the lawyers on the committee.
Why then did he accept to serve as Chairman of Presidential Investigative Panel which literally held Magu, the former Acting EFCC Chairman, incommunicado for far more days than was legally permissible and with all his rights, as a citizen of Nigeria, denied him?
Was it out of respect for the President even though the Attorney – General who must have nominated him is Magu’s chief accuser?
While his acceptance demonstrated respect for the president, wasn’t Justice Salami seized of the mode of Magu’s state capture, on the streets, in a manner so repugnant a group of global anti corruption organisations, which had, incidentally, cooperated copiously with the EFCC in the past, has since protested to the president?
Knowing the President as we do as a man of incontestable personal integrity, it is obvious that nobody can be considered as being above the law.
So let Magu be investigated for months, if need be and be tried, if found culpable, but for Christ’s sake do not treat him like a war prisoner. Why was a court order not sought and obtained?
After all he had not been convicted of any crime.
This is why I was surprised that with one of our finest jurists at the helm of affairs, the man in the eye of the storm allegedly didnt know the charges preferred against him but was, instead, being bombarded with a deluge of charges which he was expected to answer, there and then, even as he had no access to his files.
Meanwhile, the Press, both the serious and the mundane, not forgetting the social media, were literally roasting him, putting him under extreme pressure, as his lawyer later complained.
I felt personally scandalized at his ordeal as none of the media reported that Magu was being protected by his lordship, even where such might have happened. Not even those who collapsed banks in this country went through such rigour.
I was, however, not surprised at his ordeal because those who want him out really did their ground work. After all, they must have their pound of flesh for his alleged insurbodination.
And for them Mr Justice Salami’s integrity was a perfect cover; a sort of anesthesia for Nigerians, to be rest assured that all is well.
It can be assumed, with considerable justification, that had the eminent jurist threatened to recuse himself if Magu would not be treated with all decorum I am sure nobody, or organisation, would today be writing the president to complain.
Subjecting Magu, the very face of President Buhari’s anti corruption war, to such extremely pitiable treatment was, to say the least, unfortunate. and a highly regarded Justice Salami should have insisted on being put on record as a conscientious objector.
What was wrong in letting him come from his house, daily, to answer to the charges even if you had to put a battalion of soldiers or police men on him?
But, of course, Magu has been such an adroit fighter against corruption that he had made by far too many enemies.
Ensuring that some powerful officials could neither protect their corrupt associates, or proteges, or allow files disappear upstairs, in some higher offices was for them totally unacceptable .
He had also constituted himself into a major problem to those who would have made a Deziani look like an angel.
However, since every administration has it’s own fair share of rogues, it is as sure as day follows the night, that comeuppance cometh.
Those who today feel like they are untouchable had better be careful, and watch their every step.
Nigerians are no fools and can see those who, even in a pandemic are throwing money all around, yet vigorously denying their squandermania, even when the country itself has had to downsize its budget.
That Magu was able to stay as long as he did, can only be by the grace of God and the President’s own belief in him.
Even with the legislature and the DSS bent on throwing him away like a wet rag, President Buhari stuck by him for a whole five years during which he epitomised the Nigerian anti corruption war, both here at home and abroad. I have no doubt that, like Ribadu, Magu will come to be appreciated
What exactly did they not do, to roast Magu ? Even in total disregard for the President, some security officials had the audacity to write a negative confidential report to controvert the favourable one which the President attached to his letter to the Senate seeking his confirmation as chairman.
It will be extremely difficult to find anything more repugnant than that, in- your – face opposition to the President. They completely took the President for granted.
What then are the consequences of this riveting Magu apotheosis? Well, they have began to come in, fast and furious.
As mentioned earlier, a group of global anti corruption organisations have since protested to the President warning of dire consequences to his anti corruption war.
Their letter reads as follows: “The unceremonious exit of former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) Acting Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, may erode the recent gains in the fight against corruption, What is going on in Nigeria is of concern to the international community.
Mr Magu has proved himself to be up to the task. His determination to fight corruption is evident by the recovery of stolen funds and properties plus his own high moral ground, earned at the cost of diligence and hardwork never before seen.
His political removal questions the will of Nigeria to deal with a major cause of the country’s underdevelopment which is corruption”.
They did not stop there but, knowing Nigeria as they do, having been collaborating with the EFCC on many investigations, went on to “express deep concern over the travails of Magu saying that the former EFCC boss may be a pawn in the desperate attempts by corrupt officials to kill the EFCC or turn the agency into a willing tool of corrupt politicians”.
What more can I say.
As is already well known, serpentine plots will already be on to headhunt Magu’s successor from the usual quarters, that is the North, as if the EFCC chairman must be a police man or come from the North.
Nigerians have now witnessed four former EFCC chairmen, all police officers, and all from the North that have literally been disgraced out of office that the time is now opportune for a paradigm shift.
The President should now seriously consider appointing a solid and respected academic, with a legal background, but this time from the south, constitute the EFCC board with all its relevant committees put in place so that the organisation can function properly like any other government agency.
For best results, EFCC must be truly independent meaning that its chairman should not be appointed by a sitting president. Obasanjo and Ribadu’s so called investigation of him should have long taught us that fact.
The greatest problem with what is going on in the EFCC today, however, concerns the President more than anybody else because, when we all would have played our part, and departed, names of very many would not even appear on the footnotes of Nigerian history.
That, obviously can never be true of President Muhammadu Buhari, a two time Nigerian Head of state, who must always be mindful of his place in history. It is my prayer, and hope, that he would emerge on its right side.
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