The Sun News

EFCC boss on the precipice

When nearly 18 months ago, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed his personal staff, critical Nigerians lost no time in spotlighting lopsidedness in the new appointees and Buhari, unusually very sensitive in his second coming to criticism, had to explain that he deliberately had to rely on those who stood by him throughout his 30 years out of power. Sceptics still stated the fact that a leader of Buhari’s standing should have been able to retain at least a semblance of loyalty beyond a section of the country.

That even pales into insignificance compared to the shock of major ones among these (Buhari) loyalists being accused of official corruption, an embarrassment contained only by his (Buhari’s) instant response of ordering a full-scale probe and the assurance that any of the accused found guilty would face the law.

Among the lot, only the case of acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, generated the expected interest. A crime-buster himself burst?

Inevitably, Magu would not stand alone as (presumably) unsolicited defenders emerged. As helpful as that might be, these defenders may also mishandle this controversial issue only to cost the poor chap his job and career. In truth, the senators hounding the EFCC boss by refusing to confirm his appointment (at least for now) might be self-serving with the hope of escaping from their various criminal cases in court. That is one side of the story, which may at the end of the day earn the EFCC boss some public sympathy.

The other side is frightening: Ibrahim Magu is on the precipice and, unless very carefully handled, the very mob fighting over themselves in the hope of rescuing the man may inadvertently push Magu over as was the case with Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Here was a man on a murder charge during the Abacha regime, who should have been fighting for his life. Against government’s serious and diligent prosecution, publicity seekers, mainly Abacha’s critics, hijacked Saro-Wiwa’s defence and thereby risked the man’s life, which he eventually lost. In his defence counsel joined the gamble by withdrawing suddenly from the case, obviously with the hope of putting pressure on government or the presiding judge, much to the applause of the mob.

A murder charge in which there was proof of victims? It was not as if some fellow Nigerians of Niger Delta origin were not murdered. Not less than four, among them was Dr. G.B. Leyton, a former federal commissioner of health under the military regime of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. Leyton and the other victims did not kill themselves; they also had families criminally robbed of their relatives/breadwinners.  A former federal minister at that! Other victims of that murder trial were not federal ministers but they were also entitled to the safety of their lives unless they broke the law.

Who killed them? Everybody deserved justice, victims and the accused. Instead, Saro-Wiwa’s trial for murder was trivialised by publicity seekers who, even after judgement, continued to dare the government. For the lives of the convicts, whose only hope rested in the government? Suddenly, it was too late and the convicts were executed. Saro-Wiwa’s family was understandably bitter. That situation could have been avoided if publicity seekers were not allowed to hijack the trial.

That is where and why Magu should rescue himself by pleading with his presumed well-wishers to lie low, if not keep off. Daring the Senate is risky. Without Senate confirmation, Magu is not substantive chairman of the EFCC. Can Magu still be confirmed? Provided his matter is not handled in the Saro-Wiwa way. The only point in favour of Magu so far is that he should have been screened by the DSS even before he was appointed in the first place.

It is also mischievous to be insinuating that, in the absence of Buhari on medical trip abroad, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo sneaked Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation. As Acting President, Osinbajo, or anybody in his capacity, has the power to administer the country as substantive President. In that capacity, governance is the name. Also, forwarding Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation must have been part of matters pending when Buhari was handing over to the Acting President when he (Buhari) was travelling out of the country. But, if not, it was most unlikely (repeat, most unlikely) that Osinbajo would have forwarded Magu’s name to the Senate without clearing with Buhari while abroad.

By the way, disregard Senate leader, Ali Ndume. We are dealing with the refusal of the Senate to confirm or even consider Magu as substantive chairman of the EFCC. If it is true that with that decision senators are having it back on the EFCC boss, then senators well packaged their case and that is what Magu must defend himself against instead of allowing his supporters to antagonise the senators.

Among others, Magu is facing a serious charge of indiscretion rather than corruption. Notably, the charge was made by the Department of State Security and not by the senators. Was it true that Magu travelled on a first class ticket while on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia?

Since assuming office 18 months ago, Buhari directed that no federal government official should travel by first class air ticket. If Magu travelled by first class to Saudi Arabia, that was not a concoction by the Senate but a careless (if not deliberate) violation of a standing directive of the President. Also, if Magu went to Saudi Arabia specifically for pilgrimage, that was also abuse of office. Government has no provision for financing anybody’s pilgrimage, which is a private pleasure/religious trip.  It is also not a condition that to be confirmed as substantive chairman of the EFCC, the appointee must perform the pilgrimage to either Saudi Arabia or Israel. Magu should, therefore, not have gone on pilgrimage; worst still, at government expense.

If the EFCC boss took ill and the treatment was available in Saudi Arabia at the least, such a trip would be justifiable. Even then, such a trip, as directed by Mr. President, should not be by first class. In fact, going on pilgrimage while on duty is debatable.

We have so deteriorated in this country that undue importance is attached to religion. Yet, the malady continues unabated. It should, therefore, be that, in public positions, face either the job or your religion. But with Magu’s trip on pilgrimage, he couldn’t have travelled out of  the country, more so on pilgrimage, without Buhari’s approval. But, surely, not on first class. Magu must be surcharged to refund the fare.

Whether by the DSS or the Senate, it was petty and unreasonable to have made an issue of Magu’s accommodation. Anywhere in the world, the position of a chief law enforcement officer is so delicate that the first consideration is his personal security, especially for fighting criminals in Nigeria. Have we forgotten so soon, the bitter lesson of the murder of serving Attorney-General Bola Ige in his house in Ibadan, Oyo State? Till today, there is no clue to that crime. Forty million naira rent for two years accommodation for the chairman of the EFCC? So what? No security can ever be too much for the occupant of that post. Being Magu should, therefore, not deprive him of that entitlement, so Nigeria does not have a repeat ofthe type of Ige’s murder.

Meanwhile, the EFCC under Magu must produce substance to distinguish between publicity and propaganda. It is positive publicity to arrest, investigate, prosecute and obtain conviction of ex-ministers, ex-governors, substantial purpose for which the agency was established rather than so-called thousands of inconsequential Nigerians. That is official achievement. But propaganda kills and discredits. Such propaganda is the intermittent leaking of purported imminent arrest/prosecution of ex-ministers, re-cycling such stories not only once but many times on the pages of newspapers without such ever happening. A particular ex-minister and business associates had been arrested and tried many times on the pages of newspapers for, depending on EFCC’s fancy, the alleged theft of $2 billion, $30 billion dollars, N400 billion etc., all gragra and nothing happening.

And, recently, the Halliburton bribery scandal was resurrected  with nothing ever happening on that issue. The most amateurish of the propaganda is the leaking of false stories to newspapers and when efforts are made to confirm such stories with EFCC sources, phones would have been switched off. A standard, unconvincing excuse that exposes the newspapers to ridicule.

By the way, if Ibrahim Magu were to lose his job, could the speculation be true that former EFCC chairman, Nuhu Ribadu could be (among) possible replacement? Were Nigeria not, as once assessed by ex-Army chief Salihu Ibrahim, a country of anything goes, such a speculation might be discarded. Who was that head of the American FBI or British Scotland Yard removed from office and was ever, years later, re-appointed? And if Ribadu were to be re-appointed, why not Farida Waziri, another former EFCC chairman removed to pre-empt her from prosecuting somebody’s first lady for corrupt enrichment?

There was also Ribadu’s record as EFCC chairman of aiding former President Olusegun Obasanjo to victimise state governors and the Vice President opposed to Obasanjo’s third term plan. All such cases of victimisation were nullified by courts. And, only recently, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar disclosed that Ribadu approached him privately to apologise for being used to malign him (Atiku).

A partisan politician as chairman of the EFCC? Ribadu contested the 2015 gubernatorial election in Adamawa on the platform of the PDP and lost. As a re-instated EFCC boss to protect the interests of PDP ex-ministers and ex-governors on trial? Ribadu has since re-joined the APC. As a re-appointed EFCC chairman, how would he fail to also protect the interests of ex-APC ministers and ex-governors on trial?

If, by all means, Magu must go, then Buhari must seize the opportunity to remove the impression that the EFCC was specially created to be headed by only one part of the country.

Obasanjo appointed Ribadu, a northerner. Umaru Yar’Adua appointed Farida Waziri, a northerner. Jonathan appointed Ibrahim Lamurde, a northerner. Buhari appointed Magu, a northerner. Should there be a change at EFCC now, let that change be real. Gaskiya ne.

Correction

Last week, this page was mutilated by production confusion on the very important topic of “Legitimacy of secession…”

Here are some of corrections necessary: Omnibus atrocities were committed in Africa by political actors (and not “factors” as published.) one of the circumstantial factors listed was the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of one another rather than the published “principle of non-internal affairs of another.” Elections held in President Jammeh’s Gambia and not “Ghana” as published.

Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown by the armed forces while on an official trip to China and not “Ghana.”

The plea was that we should learn to discuss, negotiate concede and agree, not on anybody’s or group’s terms but on EVERYBODY’S (not “anybody’s” published) and every group’s terms.

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