Nigeria: In Defence of Ibrahim Magu

20 July 2020

Magu did remarkably well in the fight against corruption, argues

Ibrahim Magu, the embattled acting chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who was recently suspended on allegations of corrupt practices is going through a path no anti-corruption fighter would like to be put on: to be indicted or tried for the same crime they live and fight against.

On the back of a phony order reportedly issued by a presidential investigative committee, Magu, who is a profound symbol of everything good about President Muhammadu Buhari's anti-corruption campaign was arrested and quizzed over claims that are at best flimsy and malicious. So far, no one has been able to prove the claims levelled against Magu.

When Magu was arrested and interrogated over these allegations, it looked more like a game of vendetta playing out. This was even made more suspicious by the source from which the petition came. For a while, we have observed silent conflicts of interests between Magu and an occupant of the office from which the petition against him came. We have equally seen media reports questioning the commitment of this same source to President Buhari's anti-corruption fight and it is clear that the petition and actions followed are hypocritical.

America's three-sport athlete, Wes Fesler, once said that, 'hypocrisy is the audacity to preach integrity from a den of corruption,' and true to Fesler's words, the source of the petition against Magu can best be described this way. It is clear that the persons after Magu are those whose hands are not clean and are afraid of the man who has put governors, top military officers and captains of industry to jail for stealing public funds and abusing public trust.

It is unfortunate that this is happening to a man whose accomplishments are clear and evident. The biggest credibility of President Buhari's government and indeed that of the APC lays with Magu. Through his dogged fight and commitment to Mr. President's corruption fight, Magu has been able to drastically cut down the level of stealing of public funds; the fear of Magu indeed is the beginning of wisdom. Those after him know this and want him out by all means. The president should be aware of this.

I have never met Magu, but let me say this today, that the joke isn't on Magu who has been suspended from office after a kangaroo interrogation; the joke is on those who have grudges against him. For whatever the case against Magu may be, it is clear that the agents of the petition against him were unhappy with his style at the EFCC which stopped them from carrying on with their corrupt tendencies, from stealing from Nigerians.

If government processes are to be followed, petitions against public officers are carefully investigated, and the defendants given opportunities to respond or defend whatever charges brought against them. Most times, the process includes administrative inquiries, and in the case of a first-rate officer like Magu, setting up a competent and neutral panel should be the only logical practice in the case of the allegation against him, and not the hasty process that was adopted.

Amongst those accusing Magu of corruption, none would have done the job he was doing better than him; and if indeed there is any of them without sin, let him like Jesus Christ asked the Pharisees in the Bible, throw the first stone. In any corruption war, there will always be people backing the status quo; they will do everything possible to fight back and sustain the corrupt practices. The case of Magu is simply about corruption fighting back and Mr. President must be aware of this.

When it is considered objectively, Magu has remained an efficient anti-corruption fighter and trusted ally of the president's campaign. Magu has accomplished a lot in his capacity as acting chair of the EFCC. In his five years in office, he has been able to secure about 2,240 convictions. In 2015 alone, the commission secured 103 convictions; the number went up to 109 in 2016, 189 in 2017, 315 in 2018, 1281 in 2019.

As at mid-2020, about 243 convictions have been recorded already, in addition to high profile convictions of former governors and politically exposed persons, including captains of industries who have been found guilty of corrupt practices across the country.

Globally, Magu's accomplishments at the EFCC lifted Nigeria's outlook in reference to financial crimes. He has helped this government recover huge sums of stolen money and property which have been useful to its revitalisation of the economy. Magu has given Nigeria and the APC government a huge global recognition as anti-corruption fighters through his works and collaborations with other anticorruption agencies across the world.

A plaque from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) was recently presented to him in recognition of this commitment and determination to rid Nigeria of financial fraudsters and crimes. Such person who has given so much energy and heart to President Buhari's anticorruption should not be treated the way he is being treated now.

The FBI presented Magu a plaque for his 'unique role' in the joint field operation code-named, 'Operation Rewired' which was intended to crackdown global cyber-crime.

Operation Rewired, was a coordinated law enforcement effort by the US Department of Justice, in conjunction with anti-corruption agencies around the world including the EFCC. This was a joint effort that lasted for more than four months and it led to the arrest of 281 fraudsters in the US, Nigeria, Turkey and Ghana, as well as in France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, and the UK. The operation resulted in the seizure of nearly $3.7 million.

Beyond the EFCC's efforts against business email compromise (BEC) menace in Nigeria, Magu's commitment to stopping crooked politicians from gaining political powers and access to public treasury is known; it is always expected that interests would fight back, but then it was never thought that such interests will be found in the same government that Magu serves. I will urge the president to take seriously the present saga playing out against Magu to avoid occasions where people hijack and bring down his government.

One thing is clear, and as put by Indian politician and attorney, A.K. Antony, 'there is no compromise when it comes to corruption; you have to fight it.' Magu is an asset that must not be treated shabbily or allowed to go away; President Buhari has to decide his anticorruption intents and recall Magu to continue the good works he has started at the EFCC.

Chief Hinks, former chairman of Ekeremo local government area, wrote from Bayelsa

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