By Lawal Ogienagbon
WHAT some, especially his colleagues in the security agencies saw long ago, many of us seemed not to see until the bubble burst last week. It was a matter of time before it happened and when it did, it was with a bang. Many of the stories we are being told today about him, we heard them then too. But, the tales were waved aside because many believed they were meant to stall his confirmation as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC job comes with its own troubles. No matter what its head does, he is in the midst of enemies. It does not matter whether he has done anything wrong. The only wrong he might have done if one can call it that is accepting the EFCC job. Having seen what happened to all his predecessors, Ibrahim Mustapha Magu was expected to know better and so exercise utmost caution in the discharge of his duties. He came to the job highly recommended. He was said to have been the linchpin of the agency under Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and Ibrahim Lamorde.
When he was named acting chairman in November 2015, some who knew him lauded his appointment; while some cautioned against expecting too much from him. From afar, many Nigerians perceived him as doing a good job despite cries in political and business cycles that he was overreaching himself. Besides, he, like his predecessors, also had inter-agency rivalry to contend with. The EFCC was not seeing eye to eye with the Department of State Service (DSS), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and other allied agencies. These are agencies that should work together for the betterment of the country and collaborate in the anti-graft war. But they were and are still working at cross purpose irrespective of what they want the public to believe.
So, the issue of Magu’s confirmation became a problem following a damning report on him by the DSS. Whether the report was informed by inter-agency rivalry or was a product of good intelligence work the public does not know up till today. The picture is becoming clearer by the day, though. The DSS and the Senate, which rejected his nomination twice based on that report were called names. The senators, in particular, were attacked by those rooting for Magu. They said they never expected the senators to confirm Magu since many of them were being probed or tried by EFCC. The problem with us as a people is that we like to beg the issue rather than address it frontally when it is still hot. This instant case is a ready made example.
It took almost four years after the EFCC report for the government to come to terms with some of the things contained therein whether true or not, at least for now. Basically, the report, which followed the Senate’s request for Magu’s security screening before his confirmation, said he “lacks integrity” to lead EFCC. The report detailed some of the ‘sins’ of Magu, warning that he could only be made EFCC chair at the nation’s peril. Rather than take a critical look at that report, which the DSS reaffirmed on March 14, 2017, about six months after the first one it issued on October 7, 2016, the government turned a blind eye to the document. The government insisted on Magu for the job. That is why Magu acted for almost five years as EFCC chair without confirmation.
Sadly, many of those who believed that it was “corruption fighting back” so that Magu would not be confirmed are distancing themselves from him now. Magu has become an outcast who should face whatever has come his way alone. This speaks volume about us as a people. Why are those friends and institutions abandoning Magu today when he has not been found guilty of any offence? The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption ( PACAC) carried the Magu-must-be-confirmed mission virtually on its head. The Senate, it said, was only afraid of its shadow, insisting that whether confirmed or not, Magu would continue to act as EFCC chair at the pleasure of the President who appointed him. Many renowned lawyers too spoke in the same vein and with their words encouraged Magu to ‘carry on the good job’ he is doing.
The President too left Magu to be as he is the ‘anti-graft czar in whom the administration is well pleased’. To the Presidency, PACAC, the rights community and civil society organisations, Magu could do no wrong. What happened between then and now that the Presidency is no longer for Magu? Is it that he stepped on powerful toes? Is it possible to fight corruption without stepping on toes? Why did the Presidency not consider the EFCC report which indicted Magu in 2016 and 2017? Where is that report? Is it not worth revisiting in light of what is happening to Magu today? What are the new things contained in the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami’s allegations against Magu that are not in that report? What are the findings of the committee said to have probed EFCC activities under Magu’s watch? Did he appear before the panel?
Those findings are now before the Justice Salami panel before which he was bundled on July 6. Since then Magu has been in detention. The Magu matter is becoming worrisome because of the way part of the report of the first panel is being leaked to the media. Does this not say something about his ongoing probe by the Salami panel which came into being like the first one unannounced?
That Magu is entangled in corruption allegations today is of his own making. He, of all people, should know that those who live in glass houses do not throw stones. I pity him because he has become an orphan today. All those goading him on, making him believe that they are always there for him have thrown him out. Until he ran into trouble, PACAC and some lawyers could swear by him. PACAC has since denied a “preliminary reaction” by a member, accusing “Malami’s power bloc” of being behind Magu’s travail.
If it were to be those days when Magu was the apple of their eyes, PACAC and those lawyers would be falling over themselves, defending him and threatening those against him with fire and brimstone. Yet, these were the same people who said he could act in office for as long as the President wished despite the Senate’s rejection of his nomination. They refused to acknowledge that the Senate’s action was based on the report of DSS, an organ of the executive. Can it be said that the Senate and DSS have now been vindicated? The outcome of Magu’s ongoing probe will tell.
For now, Magu is on his own. But some believe he is lucky that he is appearing before a panel headed by former Court of Appeal President Justice Ayo Salami. They say the jurist, from his antecedents, is not someone that can be used to deal with others. Magu is therefore expected to get justice before Salami, but the former EFCC chief would have disappointed his admirers, if at the end of the day, the allegations against him are proven. With the way he was going, his admirers never expected him to be anything but above board. They will be heartbroken if the DSS’ prediction that “he will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption war of the government” comes to pass.
- Magu was released from custody on Wednesday.