Justice Minister Abubakar Malami and Ibrahim Magu of EFCC
Justice Minister Abubakar Malami and Ibrahim Magu of EFCC

On Magu, VIPs and Security Agencies
By Mohammed Dahiru Lawal

Since the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was founded in 2003 and its establishment act (2004) empowers it to prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalise economic and financial crimes in addition to the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of other laws and regulations relating to economic and financial crimes, it has become some sort of jinx that every individual to have ever chaired the commission tends to get upended on the line of duty in such a manner that gives rise to public bickering.

There is no gainsaying that fighting corruption is indeed dangerous in a clime such as ours and in this line of duty, certain things can neither be contradicted nor denied. By virtue of this responsibility, a Chairman of the Commission ought to carry himself along with the powers that come with the office and by so doing must be ready to face and endure danger or pain by being exceptionally courageous, fearless and undeniably ruthless towards criminals and in working to root out corruption, vested interests must be disrupted. Such showdown is never likely to go down without a fightback.

For going after the perceived biggest financier of the Yaradua/Jonathan Presidential campaign, pioneer Chairman of the Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was virtually kicked out of the office and demoted while on a course at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Kuru. The ensuing saga resulted to his subsequent dismissal from service in 2008. His successor Farida Waziri was removed from her position by President Goodluck Jonathan on 23 November 2011 and on 28 November 2011 was replaced by Ibrahim Lamorde as acting chairman.

The dismissal of Farida may have been related to accusations that the EFCC had been selective in its investigations, or to her falling out with the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke over the prosecution of cases that were brought before the court. With his own baggage of controversy, on 9 November 2015, President Buhari sacked Ibrahim Lamorde, replacing him with Ibrahim Magu as the new EFCC chairman.

Lamorde claimed he was planning to publish a list of seized assets before his sack. About four years down the drain, Magu is on the same collision course with the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami as was Farida Waziri with then Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke nine years ago. So one is therefore tempted to ask if the problem is coming from the individuals to occupy this position or from a skewed system where vested interests are known to plant their stooges in order to do their biddings or even both?

This is why I think the Olusegun Adeniyi’s brilliant piece on the Magu subject arose curiosity more than it appeased contentions when he stated pointed out that Magu’s ordeal entered acceleration mode when he was alleged to have stepped on some powerful toes including that of renowned power broker, General T. Y. Danjuma and former head of state General Abdulsalam Abubakar. Meanwhile, both personalities have directly or indirectly denied the report of having any problem with the EFCC.

Section 7(b) of the EFCC establishment act (2004) granted the commission special powers to cause investigations to be conducted into the properties of any person if it appears to the Commission that the person’s lifestyle and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income.

So, Magu may not have acted out of range on these citizens but in any case, knowing that he has a job to protect, could Magu be so reckless to move on other powerful personalities and their organisations without a relevant court warrant and at least the express knowledge of the President? In fact, when the Department of States Security, DSS, wanted him to share information on high profile cases, Magu reportedly rebuffed, confirming that he “reports directly to the President.”

Of course, the recent allegations against Magu are weighty and should be followed to a logical conclusion because Nigerians are tired of the corruption, which they believe is preventing the country from realising its full economic potentials.

Hobnobbing with questionable characters, flying a N2.9m first class ticket, living in a N40m empire among other allegations are questionable for a man of his status and calling, but it was Adeniyi in his own book, Power Politics and Death that exposed how facts can be distorted in such a way that unsuspecting readers will assume them to be the truth.

Aren’t we therefore in such a hurry to crucify Magu? It is absolutely possible Magu may be guilty as charged just as it may be possible AGF Mallami is playing the script of some vested interests.

Inter-Agency crisis and superiority rift is nothing new under the Buhari administration and I agree it is not only condescending but capable of scuttling target aims.

Weeks before ordering a siege to the home of a former Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayodele Oke, an administrative panel set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to resolve national security crisis at the foreign intelligence office urged Ibrahim Magu to hold back on taking such measures.

But the acting chairman of EFCC proceeded anyway, sanctioning a siege that nearly turned fatal amongst security and law enforcement agencies last week.

The EFCC team also fruitlessly laboured to arrest a former Director-General of the SSS, Ita Ekpeyong, in the same neighbourhood at the same hour, although the EFCC did not state if the cases are related or not.

National security analysts said the confrontation, which was condemned by the Nigerian Senate as appalling and dangerous, could have been averted had Mr. Magu yielded to the appeal of the administrative panel, even though he had the superior legal standing as the head of a statutory agency.

This confirms the Gestapo style allegations against Magu by former DSS Boss, Lawal Daura. But doesn’t it sound a little off that Magu would dare to run the agency based on public rumours and gossips? Something is surely not adding up, but then, could Daura have seen it all? We are not sure.

If the so called “Magu’s Boys” do exist within the commission, then this may be suggestive that the Chairman is either creating a clique within the commission to shield himself from his own fears or he is using them for unconventional appreaches to achieve uncommon results because one is tempted to ask of these “Magu’s Boys” are directly instrumental to the EFCC securing 1,900 convictions and recovering about N794 billion in four years.

Meanwhile, despite his own baggage of controversies, in terms of the actual anti-corruption war, Magu may have outsurpassed his predicessors. He started out well by reinvigorating the EFCC from hibernation mode and igniting hope in people that corruption can actually be taken on its horn.

Steadily but surely, he ramped up the war against corruption with at least 794 convictions between 2015 and 2018, and 890 convictions in 2019 including high profile cases.

Some of this high profile case convictions include Bala Ngilari former Adamawa State Governor, Jolly Nyame former Taraba State Governor, Joshua Dariye former Plateau State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu a serving Senator among others.

The EFCC is not a perfect organisation but in the last four years, we have witnessed his clear and sustained efforts to improve its efficiency. The autonomy granted the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, the improved record of conviction, are pointers.

According to Azu Ishiekwene in his 2019 piece, “Magu, Still the Most Dangerous Man,” The war on corruption “may still have its rough edges, but Magu has pursued a number of those who pocketed public funds and forced them to pay. He has worked with other institutions to tighten financial controls and plugged leakages through which the country was losing billions of naira yearly.

A certain observer wrote, “We can only observe what’s going on. We can’t vouch for any of Malami or Magu because both could be corrupt as much as they could be angels”.

As stated by award-winning Investigative Journalist and Associate Editor at Premium Times, Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, during a recent workshop, “we are in the era of alternative facts.” Therefore, one can hardly tell these days what is and what is not. As I said, Magu started well and if he is clean, he will end well, BUT, is Magu clean?

Mohammad Dahiru Lawal a Development Journalist writes from Kano