Nigeria: In the Eye of the Storm - Magu and Next Level of Anti-Corruption War

22 January 2020
opinion

Former Nigeria's Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in her seminal book, with the title: Fighting Corruption in Nigeria is Dangerous, captured the obstacles and dangers inherent in tackling corruption in the country.

This assertion is premised on the corrosive nature of the scourge and the unscrupulous culture that sustains it among the Nigerian elite and the general public.

The craze to occupy government office has been to appropriate the resources of the state for personal use. The scourge of corruption became so pervasive that there is hardly any facet of the Nigerian society that is not tainted by corruption. Corruption gave Nigeria a very bad name in the international community and probably defined official policies. Even at unofficial levels, corruption is ravaging the Nigerian system.

When Ibrahim Magu was appointed acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, he left no one in doubts as to his zeal to anchor the avowed anti-corruption war of President Muhamadu Buhari's government, which is one of the major planks of the Buhari administration. Magu employed his expertise as a seasoned investigator; he mobilized a crack team of intelligent and resourceful staff and even external hands to wage the war. He was fearless as he was ruthless and remains so.

Today, Magu has used the instruments of his office to investigate high profile personalities and some dubious companies doing illicit businesses in Nigeria. Many who felt threatened by this audacious move tried to use all means fair and foul to discredit him and the commission. They sponsored invidious articles on the pages of newspapers and even went secretly to dissuade him from investigating them, but he never budged.

The results of his resolute action started pouring in immediately and some of the then alleged criminals arrested were taken to court where many of them pleaded guilty. Many of them have been jailed. Under his watch the Commission has secured conviction as the courts have jailed three former governors: Jolly Nyame of Taraba State, Joshua Dariye of Plateau State and recently Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State. They are serving various jail sentences having been found guilty of embezzling public funds. More former governors are still having their cases in court, while others are under investigation.

The EFCC in December 2019, liaised with the Interpol to secure the extradition of former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, to face prosecution for over $2 billion Malabu oil deal. The EFCC is also making strong effort to extradite the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison Madueke, from Britain to face corruption charges.

Achievements of the commission in asset recovery between January 2018 and August 2019 are amazing. During this period the commission secured more than 156 convictions convictions and recovered N108 billion within the same period, all to his credit. The commission also recovered 106,516,222; 1,635,925 dollars; 629,193 pounds and 25,575 euro. This is just to say the least. Generally more than 2,500 convictions have so far been secured by the Magu led EFCC as stated by him during his recent visit to the Port Harcourt zonal office of the Commission.

The Magu-led EFCC has also embarked on massive seizure of ill-gotten properties in Abuja, Lagos and other major cities in Nigeria. It is instructive to recall that on Thursday, August 8, 2019, the commission handed over a 13-bedroom one-storey building and basement seized as proceeds of crime to the management of North East Development Commission, NEDC.

A civil society organisation, Initiative for Leadership and Economic Watch in Nigeria had through its Secretary Abubakar Ibrahim, quite rightly observed that members of the eighth National Assembly refused to confirm Magu as the substantive chairman because they had ulterior motives.

"The refusal by the eighth assembly to confirm the appointment of Ibrahim Magu without any concrete reason is due to the fearless nature with which the acting chairman is tackling corruption in Nigeria. It has sent quiver to the hearts of those who already have their hands soiled in corruption before coming to the National Assembly which has resulted to their outright refusal to confirm Magu as substantive chairman of the EFCC.

"Several of the lawmakers facing financial crime charges in court in which majority of them were former governors who stole from their respective states as governor for eight years are now in the National Assembly fighting Magu's confirmation because of his firmness and support for Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari's anti-corruption stance," the group said.

Magu has also declared war on internet fraudsters popularly called "Yahoo boys". Many of them have been jailed and their property confiscated. Magu has also set up schemes in Nigerian schools to educate the young one on the dangers of internet fraud trying to do moral rearmament. Those who have fought against the Magu led EFCC know that he is an impediment to their evil regime and tradition.

Many people have shown indignation as to why President Buhari will continue to retain Magu even after the National Assembly refused to confirm him. But irrespective of their feelings, Buhari stood behind Magu because of his apparent demonstration of transparency and accountability in his functions and especially in managing recovered assets.

The fact that Magu is the undisputed armour bearer of the President in the war against corruption makes his job more sensitive. Hence the need for Mr. President to transmit his name to the ninth National Assembly for confirmation as the substantive of the EFCC. This will protect the anti corruption legacy of the president from being eroded and the gains from crashing.

It is expedient to note that the success so far recorded by this administration on the war against corruption hangs in the balance if effort is not put in to confirm Magu which by itself will keep the struggle free from the traps of nay sayers.

Magu definitely may not be the best Nigerian but his capacity and competence cannot be questioned justifiably. All that stand against him hold nothing but hate and bias and not genuine concern of any form. Can anyone deny Magu the display of patriotic spirit and nationalism in his job? It will be difficult to do so in conscience and in truth.

Although some argue that his tenure has lapsed, but the fact remains that he is not yet tenured being an acting chairman. Only a substantive chairman can be tenured according to the EFCC Act. This again leaves the National Assembly with the task to revisit and amend the EFCC Act with a view to inserting an express provision definining the terms and duration for an acting chairman for the anti graft body. To this extent you can not hold Magu's position against him or the President because the law does not provide expressly against the appointment of an acting chairman.

Stakeholders in this war on corruption must see the need to lend every level of support to win this battle particularly the judiciary which is vested with powers to try and convict in keeping with the due process of our laws. The EFCC must not be left solely with the burden of the anti corruption fight. Both communities and civil society organisations including citizenship engagement must be fully activated to jointly ensure victory in this struggle so we can regain our dignity in the international plane for our national pride.

Wechie, Executive Director, The Integrity Friends For Truth and Peace Initiative, wrote from Abuja

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