As Aso Rock takes the bite out of EFCC’s top sleuthhound in Nigeria’s anti-graft war, the backroom boys should also get their pay master a flak jacket
By ELIJAH OLUSEGUN
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari likes to take himself for a perfectionist. So he bides his time before making a move. But political analysts believe he’s taking a tad too long responding to what many consider a conspiracy against EFCC’s Chairman Ibrahim Magu–the arrowhead of the APC government anti-corruption crusade.
And Buhari’s silence, groaning with consequences, is not usually about puritanism. For many, it already appears a tacit nod for the Senate (and its anti-corruption committee) effort to unhinge Magu from the commission. It was the same cold shoulder Buhari gave Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin when he blew the whistle on his colleagues alleged to have padded the 2016 budget with N40 billion. Jibrin, suspended for six months, is on exile now in the U.K. and the anti-corruption fighter in Buhari has yet to day a word.
The Magu development has already been ticked up as one more win for corruption fighting back in Nigeria. The fight, certainly, has been on two fronts. One morethe electorate that got sold on Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign sing-alongmay be added.
Prof Itse Sagay, chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corruption, told a publication last week that “whether they like it or not, Magu will be there. His chairmanship will keep on being renewed”.
Sagay could boast that much because of his position on the committee. But as hard politics goes, he lacks the clout and network of movers and shakers he needs to keep Magu in that office. The forces against the EFCC boss are deep and unforgiving.
On the one hand are close associates of Buhari, among whom are CoS Abba Kyari, Interior Minister Abdulraham Dambazzau, using the Lawan Daura of the Department of State Security Service in a proxy war with Magu. The anti-corruption fighter is also believed to be the battle axe of NSA Babagana Momguno equally locked in the supremacy war among Buhari’s security agencies.
Magu has proved difficult for Kyari, who is about the closest to the president, to rein back, especially when Kyari’s cronies, are caught in the dragnet. Jide Omokore and a string of other players investigated in the oil and gas sector are being shielded, according to reports, by the CoS. Likewise a couple of others, including media magnate Nduka Obaigbena, involved in the $2.1 billion Dasukigate. That EFCC went hard after these sleazeballs has been creating conflict between Kyari and Magu. The attorney-general of the federation and justice minister, too, has been brought into the conspiracy.
Abubakar Malami is now having a running battle with the EFCC boss because he doesn’t take orders from the AGF office.
So it becomes obvious the conspiracy has widened, sucking in politicians, especially federal lawmakers who have got an axe to grind with Magu. The most plausible thing the anti-Magu forces can then do, analysts say, is seek collaborators in the National Assembly where he badly needs confirmation–and where principal officers with huge dossiers of corrupt practices are doing their hardest to weasel out of the commission’s net. Sen. President Bukola Saraki, Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio, and others have had toor will soonguest in at the commission’s head office in Abuja. Dep. Sen. President Ike Ekweremadu also has his beef against Magu for rubbishing the Anti-corruption Ambassador title some EFCC officials (NASS Liaison) dashed the senator in April.
And after five months of dithering over the confirmation of Magu as the EFCC substantive chairman, the Senate rejected him Thursday. The DSS had petitioned them about the ineligibility of Magu who, according to the department’s security report, is allegedly corrupt.
As the chapter and verse of the security reporta N40-million rented apartment, a first-class flight, and professional misconduct–seep to the media, it is clear the DSS boss and his cohort are out to prove a point: they have the might to disqualify Magu. Which means a lot to Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade success.
“Since Nuhu Ribadu left, we have not had a man with such sterling qualities as Ibrahim Magu,’ said Sagay. As of May, the agency claimed it secured 140 convictions, and recovered billions of naira in looted fund.
Magu himself isn’t afraid of tooting his own horn. “We have achieved a lot in terms of recovery of looted funds and property in the past 11 months more than was achieved in the last 12 years of the existence of the commission,” he boasted in October.
But Buhari has yet to take the EFCC boss as inevitable. Media reports have even confirmed Magu has been blocked–thanks to Kyari–from meeting his boss over the rejection.
Observers say the president is showing that apathy because he’s on tenterhooks. He doesn’t want to hurt his buddies–or lose their friendship.
He, however, risks losing a lot of political capital watching the Senate freeze Magu out of office. What the upper house did, according to anti-corruption watchers, was a no-no.
“SERAP believes that the action by the Senate of Nigeria and other agencies of government apparently working with them undermines and violates Nigeria’s international obligation to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of the citizens, which inevitably creates a duty for the government to establish efficient and independent anti-corruption mechanisms,’ said the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project on the weekend.
Others are of the opinion that Aso Rock couldn’t have claimed ignorance of the security report about to ruin Magu’s chances. As if to establish the report, the president has even ordered a hostile Malami to investigate all government officials pinned to one corruption allegation or the other. It is anybody’s guess Magu, too, might get rustled. Buhari might just have decided to pink-slip the EFCC toughest fighter by taking advantage of the Senate excuse.
And that apparently may pit the president even against the biggest admirers of his anti-graft war. Sagay, like many lawyers, believes the Senate rejection of Magu is no damage to the fight yet. “His chairmanship will keep on being renewed,” he said. Rights activist and SAN Femi Falana is a little down-right in his take. “What the law says is that the Senate shall confirm an EFCC chairman; not an executive session, not a committee and the Senate has not done this,” he said on the weekend.
The EFCC Act is no hidden corpus to the Senate in the first place. The lawmakers, parliament watchers said, chose to use the committee for a purpose: to avoid voting on the confirmation. Now that Nigerians seem to have got them and their sleight of hand, the upper house will reach for their grab bag of intrigues, and play some more. They can call Magu back much later–longer than five months–killing more time as they dig up reasons to tweak the EFCC Act.
They can also legislate for their own immunity until time wears out Buhari’s raging adrenalin to fight corruption, or benign government takes over. After all, Magu only has a tenured chairmanship.