By Lukman Olabiyi Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed October 16, to rule on whether or not to discharge a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA ), Patrick Akpobolokemi, who was charged with N2.6bn fraud. The court fixed the date Friday after hearing…
In the coming weeks, the Senate will take out time to debate and screen the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Deputy Commissioner of Police Ibrahim Magu. During the exercise, the federal lawmakers will confirm Magu, as the substantive chairman of the anti-graft agency, or formally reject him, once and for all. It will be a make or mar decision, which will have a far-reaching implication for the country, the Federal Government and the people.
Yes, in screening Magu, the Senate would be acceding to President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to consider his approval as the driver of the government’s war against corruption. President Buhari’s request for the reconsideration of Magu was sequel to Senate’s earlier suspension of his screening, owing to a security report by the Department of State Services (DSS). The DSS report highlighted some malfeasance allegedly committed by Magu, which the Senate wanted President Buhari to look into. The damning report accused Magu of living above his means and corruption, in the main.
As the Senate requested, President Buhari did look into the allegations against Magu. He had mandated the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to investigate the allegation against Magu and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, whom the Senate accused of corruption over Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) camps contract. To the surprise of many, President Buhari had cleared Magu and SGF Lawal. He, therefore, asked the Senate to reconsider its stand on Magu by confirming him as chairman of the EFCC. He also told senators that he had confidence in Magu to accomplish the government’s programme on fight against corruption.
I do not have a problem with President Buhari renominating, for screening, a particular candidates earlier “rejected” by the Senate. However, in insisting on the screening and subsequent confirmation, one must ask this: Is this in the interest of the nation? Or is it in the interest of President Buhari? Yes, there is a difference between a government policy being in the interest of the country and such policy being in the interest of Buhari, as a president. The answer to these questions should inform the Senate’s decision, in screening Magu.
Indeed, ever since President Buhari sent Magu’s name back to the Senate for confirmation, I have been wondering if he and the Presidency really know what they have done. The DSS wrote a report, based on intelligence gathering, about Magu, which it was so confident about to append its name. The DSS, believing the report to be true, sent it to the Senate. The Senate, looking at the report and believing that the content is weighty, referred it to President Buhari, since, as the Igbo say: The snake seen by one man may look like a python. Now, by sending Magu’s name back to the Senate, President Buhari is saying that he does not believe the DSS. He’s indirectly saying that the DSS report was false. He has, therefore, passed a vote of no confidence in the DSS, as a government agency and the report of the agency, as an intelligence job.
Pray, in trying to push the candidacy of Magu, President Buhari has rubbished everything the DSS stands for or has ever done. If President Buhari has doubt about the veracity of the DSS report on Magu and, therefore, rejected it, this is a message to Nigerians not to believe everything the DSS says or has ever done. If, therefore, Buhari does not believe the DSS report on Magu, why should anybody believe the agency’s report that judges and judicial officers are corrupt, which has caused the prosecution of some of them? Why should anybody believe the DSS report that detained Nnamdi Kanu of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was involved in treason? Why should anybody believe the DSS report on Boko Haram?
I suspect that President Buhari does not know the damage he has done to the DSS. He may not know that he has directly and indirectly told Nigerians that the DSS should not be believed. What baffles me, however, is the fact that he did not disband the intelligence agency, for writing unbelievable report or at best fire the Director General of the DSS. I am shocked, indeed, that the DG of the DSS is still at his desk? If he has some honour, he ought to have resigned. This is because Buhari’s rejection of the DSS report is an indictment.
Buhari’s fixation about Magu is surprising, indeed. Leaders in other countries are making efforts to build and make institutions strong. This is why immediate past President of the United States, Barack Obama, advised Africa to build strong institutions, instead of strong people. But by insisting that Magu must be EFCC chairman, President Buhari paints a picture as someone more interested in building strong people rather than strong institutions. His singular action of pushing for Magu’s confirmation and saying that he was not guilty of allegations contained in the DSS report reduces the credibility and reputation of the DSS in the eyes of right-thinking members of the public. This, I dare say, weakens the DSS.
Well, since President Buhari does not know the damage he has done, I expect that the Senate should know the implication of confirming Magu. If the Senate had asked DSS for a security report on Magu, as part of its screening process, it means that it has confidence that the DSS knows what it is doing. If the Senate had to suspend the screening of Magu, based on the DSS report, it follows that it may have believed the content therein. Now that President Buhari has sent Magu’s name back for confirmation, the onus is on the Senate to do the needful. And the needful should be the outright rejection of Magu. This will save the institution called the DSS. It will save the Senate from ridicule. It will save the country from contempt.
No matter what President Buhari or anybody says about Magu, the fact that a report by an intelligence agency, whether President Buhari believes it or not, raised questions about his integrity disqualifies him for the position he is nominated for. Some people would say that no court of law has convicted Magu and, therefore, he is innocent of the allegations until proved guilty. Of course, yes. However, the fact that there is doubt about him should keep him out of the war against corruption. In any case, does Magu understand that people accused of whatever crime are innocent until proved guilty? If he does, I doubt if the EFCC will be prosecuting and “convicting” accused persons on the pages of newspaper instead of waiting for the courts to decide.
Time has come for the Senate to prove that it is not only independent but also has a mind of its own. President Buhari wants Magu and insists on him, despite DSS report. The president’s men have said that whether the Senate likes it or not, Magu must be EFCC chairman. Nigerians are waiting to see what the Senate would do. What the Senate must know is this: The decision on Magu will determine how Nigerians would take it. However, the leadership of the Senate should allow the senators take the decision. When the matter is put to vote and the “Nays” reverberate, for instance, Senate President Bukola Saraki should not ask for another vote, to ensure that the “Ayes” have it, as happened in the past over certain confirmations. The senators must decide and be seen to have decided.