By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi.
This year’s anti corruption day, usually celebrated on the 3rd of June of every year, since the passage of the United Nation’s Convention against corruption; has come with much drama and all kinds of topsy-turvy with regards to Nigeria’s agency for the fight against corruption, EFCC, and its Chairman, Ibrahim Magu. One news outlet says he has been arrested by the DSS, and moments after, the DSS denies it. Tons of other outlets report that he has been suspended and yet there was no statement to that effect until 2 days after, before a statement from the ministry of Justice confirmed that he has been suspended. From the foregoing and all that has encircled the EFFCC chair, it suffices to say that he is the longest serving chairman of the agency and definitely the most successful. During his tenure, the EFCC has recorded a whopping 1 trillion naira in cash and assets as proceeds from the anti corruption war of the PMB administration with about 509 or 539 billion in cash. He has also been able to record an all time high of 369 convictions from his anti corruption crusade.
Magu has been in a marriage with trouble from the get-go as the National Assembly would not confirm his appointment. This happened twice, including an indicting and damning report from the DSS over him. Not withstanding, PMB stuck to him and kept him as EFCC boss which was not surprising as he was definitely doing a good job and ofcourse since the National Assembly wanted him out, Buhari was sure that there was more to Magu’s rejection. Justifiably, PMB kept Magu in his office as the Nigerian anti corruption war gained momentum with several accolades and recognitions from the FBI and other International financial-crime fighting organisations. The FBI specifically mentioned and thanked the EFCC for its help during its investigations that led to the arrest of Invictus Obi, a high profile Internet Fraudster, along with a host of other cartels that were in the online scams market.
A little over a month ago, fresh ‘kwanta’ started brewing for Magu in his marriage with trouble as there was a purportedly leaked memo, that emanated from the Attorney General’s office to Mr. President, asking that he be axed as EFCC boss. Much wasn’t made of that memo until this year’s anti corruption day coincided with the setting up of a Presidential Investigation Panel to probe allegations against Magu. Most of the salient points captured by the allegedly leaked memo seem to tally with the questions that Magu had to answer from the Presidential panel of inquiry. Some of them include; Insubordination to the Office of the AGF, Declaration of 539 billion as recovered funds instead of the 504 billion as earlier stated, not respecting court order to unfreeze a 7 billion naira judgement in favor of a former bank chief executive, alleged sale of recovered assets to cronies, associates and friends etc. Most of the questions raised had already been answered by Magu back in 2016, when the DSS raised some concerns over the manner in which he worked at the EFCC and his relationship with Commodore Mohammed Umar (rtd). He had explained that his relationship was because of their engagement as members of the Presidential Committee on the Investigation of Arms Procurement. He had used the Commodore’s private jet twice only and not as suggested by another report that he was using it quite often.
PMB must have made up his mind to have an independent, fair and dependable report over Magu’s tenure as EFCC boss and that was why he appointed Justice Ayo Salami (rtd), to head the Presidential Investigative Panel. PMB also appointed a member of the Civil Societies Organisations, CSOs, to shield the probe from manipulation from government officials. The news of the suspension of Magu came days after the panel had started its work and the head of operations at the EFCC had been called in to answer some questions from the probe panel. This is a clear indication that some powerful persons want Magu out and are already pulling all the strings to send him packing. These include reports that Magu had investigated a former President, Gen. Abubakar, and former Defence chief, TY Danjuma, to which both gentlemen have issued official statements contradicting the claims. Obviously a lot is being done to pitch Magu against highly placed persons, especially those termed to be friends of the President.
One fact stands out, and that is without an iota of doubt; Magu has done marvellously well as EFCC boss. So much has been recovered and so many high profile persons have been brought to book. So many individuals have returned billions to the EFCC. Even Mama ‘P’ has returned billions of Naira and millions of dollars and still counting. Billions have been returned from the ‘slush’ arms funds during the previous administration that was shared to politicians and many other election warriors for 2015 elections. Many other government officials from PMB’s administration have been indicted by the EFCC and are being prosecuted. Same with civil servants under this government. PMB came on with very high hopes and aspirations for a fight against corruption and what Magu has recorded is the index by which those hopes and aspirations are to be measured by. A trillion is not bad and if by the end of his tenure in 2023, another 2 trillion can be recovered, it is not so bad; infact it will be a very good indicator of a successful battle.
If Magu is axed, there must be overwhelming, conclusive and damning evidence against him. If he has been putting his fingers in Baba’s cookie jar, his will be the worst and I am sure Baba will deal with him ruthlessly. Those that have wanted him out will make sure of that I am certain. But however, if most of the allegations against him can be fully addressed by him successfully, then he deserves a confirmation as EFCC boss. If he is innocent of the charges against him and he is axed all the same, then it would be a case of throwing away the baby with the bath water. It may perhaps rubbish PMB’s war against corruption and inadvertently put the anti financial-crime office on a ventilator, with its war chest open to unscrupulous persons to pilfer and make a mockery of PMB’s war on corruption. Whatever happens, PMB needs someone like Magu or better than Magu at the EFCC, otherwise all he has worked for will go in vain. We must have someone that will practise sufficient social distancing from the recovered loot at the EFCC. A thief with a facemask masquerading as a saint should be kept far away from heading the EFCC.