By Musa Ilallah
It is no longer in doubt that the year 2020 will remain a watershed in the annals of the history of the PMB adminstration’s key policy priority area of fighting corrupt people and corruption in all its ramifications.
For President Buhari, fighting corruption is not just a policy statement of his administration but a personal life style he has built over the decades that earned him the title of ”a man of integrity”.
From his first day in office and even before, President Buhari has made it clear to Nigerians that his fight against corruption will be total, unbiased, no matter who is involved.
It is therefore on the basis of this pledge that PMB spares no one, no matter how close. He takes further steps to subject even his appointees to carry their crosses and face the law once a case of corruption against them is brought to his notice. President Buhari does not in any way shield corrupt persons.
It is therefore not suprising when President Buhari suspended the Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Police Commissioner Ibrahim Magu from office and dragged him before the Justice Ayo Salami panel to answer allegations of fraud, bribery, corruption, re looting of public recovered funds and assets, money laundering, etc, in the custody of EFCC.
One can vividly recall that Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN had, about two months ago, written to the President alleging an infraction by Magu and calling for his sack.
Ordinarily, President Buhari would have just gone ahead to act on the Justice Minister’s letter coming from Magu’s supervising Minister. As a leader with a principle to apply rule of law and the need for the accused to be given the opportunity to depend himself in the spirit of fair hearing, he set up the Justice Salami Panel to deal with the matter and advise his government on the next steps. The panel is not just to try Magu alone but beyond that to look at the journey so far by EFCC from 2015 to date and make appropriate recommendations for closing gaps and challenges and improvement of its general operations as government’s most strategic agency charged with fighting corruption.
President Buhari’s administration through its Spokesman, Garba Shehu, a Senior Special Assistant to the President, had disclosed that a series of documented allegations were made against EFCC Acting Chairman, and, following a preliminary review of the allegations leveled against him and several other members of his staff, there were grounds for a detailed investigation to be conducted.
Hence, an investigative panel was constituted in compliance with extant laws governing the convening of such a body, with a retired President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami as Chairman.
“As is the proper procedure, when allegations are made against a Chief Executive of an institution, and in this case an institution that ought to be seen as beyond reproach, the Chief Executive has to step down from his post and allow for a transparent and unhindered investigation”, Shehu further explained.
The Justice Isa Ayo Salami investigative panel’s terms of reference include to investigate, verify and review earlier recommendations of the 2017 Presidential committee on audit of recovered assets as it relates to EFCC, with a view to ascertaining complicity of Magu in the mismanagement of funds and assets recovered by EFCC; Identify avenues through which recovered assets are dissipated and seized; recovered, forfeited assets are valued, managed, disposed and/or mismanaged with a view to ascertain compliance with extant laws and procedures; review existing procedures on management of seized, recovered and forfeited assets and proffer standard operational procedures for management of seized, recovered and forfeited assets; determine whether assets recovered during his tenure locally or abroad, are being kept safely in a manner as to preserve their original value and determine if all the assets could be properly accounted for by Magu; confirm if any of the assets has been diverted to him, his family, relations, friends or favoured staff’s benefits and recover such diverted assets and return to EFCC; investigate and report on corruption and money laundering allegations involving Magu and Bureau De Change operators, as well as some of his associates; and among others audit assets and finances of EFCC from 2015-2020, with a view to establish compliance with its procurement procedures in line with Procurement Act.
It is very clear that Magu’ s suspension is no doubt the most appropriate action in the situation to allow for unhindered investigations and access to documents by key staff that the panel may wish to request for.
Most signigicantly this will help the EFCC continue with its mandate without the ‘cloud’ of investigations hanging over its head.
Malam Garba Shehu in a statement in Abuja added: “We must realize that the fight against corruption is not a static event, but a dynamic and ever evolving process in which the EFCC is just one actor; and as we continue to work towards improving our democratic process, so shall every institution of ours also embark on that journey of evolution.
“What is however important is that there must be accountability and transparency and our people must realize that they would be held to account. This is the building block in the fight against corruption, the establishment of the concept of Accountability and the recognition of the Rule of Law”. Nothing can be more pragmatic than this.
The view of most Nigerians is that President Buhari’s war against corruption is so real that it knows no bounds. It is not biased against persons, tribes, religions or regions and that those who ‘see Mr. Magu’s investigation, as a signal that the fight against corruption is failing, have unfortunately, missed the boat’.
The fight agaisnt corruption, corrupt tendencues and corrupt corrupt people by the PMB adminstration is on course. Infact the Magu case is just an energiser to dot the Is and cross the Ts of strategies of the fight against corruption.
What might be more saddening and worrisome to President Buhari in this case is the fact that allegations of corruption are directed at a key driver of his government’s fight against corruption which is one of the key thematic areas of the administration.
In the words of the SSA Media and Publicity to PMB
“Under this President and Government, this is our mantra and guiding principle. There are no sacred cows, and for those who think they have a halo over their heads, their days are also numbered.
“Mr. Magu was not immune – and regardless of the obvious embarrassment that potential acts of wrong doing by him, given the office he held, may appear for the government, no other administration in the history of Nigeria would have moved to bring into the light and public domain such an allegation”.
For the records, some of the allegations against Magu by Justice Minister include alleged discrepancies in the reconciliation records of EFCC and Federal Ministry of Finance on recovered funds, declaration of N539bn as recovered funds instead of N504bn earlier claimed, insubordination to the Office of Minister of Justice, not providing enough evidences for the extradition of former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, alleged late action on the investigation of Process and Industrial Development, P&ID leading to legal dispute and disrespecting court order to unfreeze a N7bn judgment in favour of a former executive director of a bank.
Others are alleged delay in acting on two vessels seized by Navy, alleged favouring of some investigators called ‘Magu Boys’, reporting some judges to their presiding officers without deferring to Justice Minister, alleged sale of seized assets to cronies, associates and friends and also alleged issuance of investigative activities to some media organisations prejudicial to pending cases.
It is common knowledge that Magu’s unforgivable sins are many. Stories have it that Magu lives a flamboyant and affluent life and takes First class flights for his international trips to Dubai and Saudi Arabia for his personal and religious trips.
He has severally refused to support other sister security agencies to carry out their legitimate duties of investigating and recovering about N67bn belonging to the Federal Government.
Worst hit by Magu’s high handedness are the Presidency, Minister of Justice and office of the Inspector General of Police, IGP.
For PMB personally, if the allegations against Magu proved to be true, the President may remain in pains for a long timeto come. Because it will then be a case of betrayal to him personally and Nigeria. Why do I say so? This is because of the trust and confidence PMB had in Magu which made the President to submit his name twice for clearance and confirmation to the Senate under the leadership of Senator Bukola Saraki. His nomination suffered setbacks for political reasons but most importantly for the correspondence by the then Director General of the Department of State Services, DSS, Lawan Daura who asked the Senate not to clear Magu because of fraud and corrupt practices allegation hanging on his neck.
Then Senate President Bukola Saraki had in 2017, while declaring open a ‘strategic retreat on tracking progress on anti corruption bills’, accused anti graft agencies of looting recovered proceeds.
From all indications, the PMB adminstration is facing another challenge in its life. This challenge is ‘Magugate’.
I have full confidence that the current events around EFCC and Magu will go a long way in strengthening PMB to continue his fight against corruption because he has once more demonstrated to Nigerians that there are no sacred cows, no untouchables, no cult members in or out of his government.
The Buhari Media Organisation, BMO in its response said: “President Buhari has demonstrated once again that nobody is indeed above the law as even his appointees, no matter how highly placed, can at any time be asked to respond to issues as they arise.
“This is proof that the President is a stickler for due process; he could have fired Magu, he has that prerogative, but because the acting EFCC Chairman was accused of committing acts of infractions, he was offered due process of fair hearing before an administrative panel.
“We have all seen how the same process was followed in cases that involved former Secretary to Government of the Federation, SGF Babachir Lawal and the immediate past head of the civil service, Winifred Oyo-Ita”, it added.
The greatest consolation in this high profile allegation of corruption against Ibrahim Magu, christened Magugate, is that gradually spoilers in the wheel of progress and development of the country are being exposed and brought to suffer the consequences of their betrayal and abuse of office.
It is most likely that with the determination of President Buhari more and more of Magu’s likes will be exposed to face the music. The journey has just began by PMB to keep vigil and beam his searchlight on all MDAs.
Musa Ilallah writes from Emeka Anyaoku Street, Abuja. Email; email@example.com