By EMEKA OMEIHE
President Buhari’s clearance and re-nomination of acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, Ibrahim Magu are bound to throw up more puzzles than they intended to resolve. The inability to make public the findings that led to the clean bill of health given to the anti-corruption czar did not help matters.
For now, we are faced with an off-hand dismissal of the weighty allegations raised in the DSS memo given that the president’s letter only said he had got ‘clarifications’ on the issues for which the Senate declined to screen him for confirmation. This casual treatment has been followed up with preachments and sanctimonies as to why the momentum of the fight against corruption has to be sustained with Magu at the steering.
A lot has also been heard of a strong lobby to get the Senate approve the re-nomination taking into advantage, the strong majority of the ruling party in that chamber. And in the seeming desperate attempt to cajole the public to accept Magu, a weird impression is being conveyed that without him, that war cannot make any more progress.
How consistent these are with reality is left to be conjectured. Whether the credibility deficits thrown up by the scandalous allegations would be better served by injecting a new hand into the war or retaining the man whose integrity has been put to question, (Buhari’s clearance notwithstanding) is another kettle of fish.
In all, the unmistakable impression thrown up is that of a government fighting hard to save face; a careful attempt to cover up the seeming duplicity in the fight against corruption. Hard as the government tries in this direction, it would appear it is already caught up by the dialectics of the situation with little or no room for quick escape.
For one, the report which the President totally faulted and had to re-nominate Magu, was issued by the DSS, an agency of the same government domiciled in the presidency. If it is really true that there was no basis for the allegations, then it speaks loud about the credibility of that critical agency.
And for another, it could suggest one or two things. It is either it was done out of mischief and prejudice or some people in the agency had axe to grind with the EFCC helmsman’s and had to concoct all manner of subterfuge to get him out of the way. It could also be a mark of incompetence on the part of the agency for such weighty allegations to have been easily dismissed the way the president did.
Is it possible that the issues traded by the DSS were mere concoctions? Could the agency have gone out of its way to simulate allegations that only exist in the figment of its imagination? Or does the agency stand to gain anything through a spurious report that is loaded with the frightening prospects of stultifying current efforts at stemming the tide of corruption? These are the issues to consider. And the way they are perceived will shed more light into the complications thrown up by the President’s clearance of Magu.
The President should have gone further to make public how the clarifications he got resolved the N40 million apartment said to have been rented and paid for Magu by one Umar Mohammed arrested sometime ago for questionable transactions. We needed evidence that he did not violate the President’s order barring public functionaries from travelling by air on first class. More specifically, evidence that he did not fly Emirate Airlines in first class when he went for the Lesser Hajj would have made the difference.
It would have equally made better sense for the government to have come out with incontrovertible evidence to countermand the damning allegation that Magu maintains a flamboyant and duplicitous lifestyle- one which portrays him as an anti-corruption czar who harbors no friends but at another level hobnobs with corrupt people. It is vital to know how the President resolved the conclusions of the DSS that, Magu “failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration”.
It is not a matter of bandying unsubstantiated allegations as put forward by the chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Itse Sagay when he said Magu was ‘victimized because he was doing his job very well’ and that people were afraid that he was doing an excellent job and they felt threatened.
Coming from such a serious mind, Sagay needed to produce further evidence of those who victimized Magu because of fear over their personal safety in the war. Does this reference apply to those whose report he said has now been found “totally untrue and unsubstantiated” or some others outside of it? Definitely, those who can wield such powers must be within the same government. And that makes the matter more confounding.
The public deserves to know those attempting to victimize Magu and what action if any, the government has taken to punish them for derailing the momentum of the anti-corruption campaign through allegations that have now been dubbed spurious. We needed to know the critical details of such plans and those behind them to reassure the public that these are no mere attempts at cover up. The issue is already in the public domain. Sagay would be helping matters by demonstrating very unambiguously that the allegations bordered on witch-hunting.
Then, the credibility of the DSS would have been put to question. In saner climes, the turn of events would have seen the authors of that report resigning their positions especially where the report was based on credible intelligence. All the same, the DSS will have to contend with credibility deficits of having authored a report which prima facie looked credible but the government has come out to say lacks merits. That is the purport of the clearance and re-nomination. But that is not the end of the matter.
The Senate must come in to determine between the President and the DSS who is right in the positions they have taken in respect of the suitability of Magu for the EFCC job. In this regard, the relevant Senate committee must thoroughly conduct an independent investigation into all the issues raised in the DSS letter to it. In this assignment, it should match whatever evidence at its disposal with the reasons adduced by the president for re-nominating Magu for the sensitive job. All issues must be trashed out in the most credible and transparent manner for us to come to terms with the true picture and direction of the much dramatized war against corruption.
In the case of allegations of misconduct against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal, the matter is much simpler given that the relevant senate committee which investigated and called on the president to relieve him of his post has all the evidence at its disposal. Already, its chairman, Shehu Sani has cried foul over what he termed the doctoring of the report of the committee.
The senator has faulted some of the conclusions on which basis the President cleared the SGF of the allegations raised against him. The Senate has to redeem its image by demonstrating very clearly that there exists strong basis for its conclusions in the matter of the SGF and his interest in contracts pertaining to the humanitarian crisis in the north-east.
Magu’s re-nomination and Lawal’s clearance are at the heart of the credibility test of the anti-corruption campaign. They must be handled in the most credible and transparent manner so that Nigerians can properly tap into the temperament of the anti-corruption campaign. The way they are trashed out will give inkling into whether “corruption is fighting back” through the corridors of the campaign prosecutors or outside of it. It will also address clearly, growing feelings that there exist different sets of laws for different people in this war.