By ABBA MAHMOOD —
Mr Ibrahim Mustapha Magu, a senior police officer and one of the pioneer staff members of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as acting chairman of the commission in November 2015. Normally, such appointments occur after a thorough vetting process, including background checks, by the security agencies. Six months after Magu had acted as EFCC chairman, a letter was transmitted to the Senate by the vice president, who was then acting president, for the Senate to confirm him as substantive EFCC chairman. It was five months after that letter, and on the very last day of the legislative sitting this year, that the Senate called Magu for confirmation hearing. The first question is: why all the long delay?
Magu promptly arrived at the Senate chamber that fateful Thursday, December 15, 2016, and in less than 20 minutes the Senate spokesman came out to tell the world that based on a “security report” transmitted to them by the Department of State Services (DSS) the Senate had rejected Magu! The president is the nominating authority while the Senate is the confirming authority after hearing. In the case of Magu there was no hearing, let alone fair hearing which is a constitutional right of all citizens. This lack of any hearing has made the whole Senate process and conclusion flawed and therefore unconstitutional. Why was Magu not allowed to defend himself, however weighty the allegations?
What was called a “security report” that the Senate based its conclusions on turned out to be at best funny. What was called a security report that came out to the public domain spoke of Magu’s air ticket and house rent! At best, that should have been called intelligence report. What is even bizarre is that the DSS sent two reports on the same subject to the Senate. The normal thing would have been to send to the president through the NSA and, if the president found that the allegations were true, he would then withdraw the nomination to save the country any embarrassment. But the DSS sent it to the Senate. Is the president of the Senate now a co-president?
The two main issues raised in the DSS report were about Magu’s house rent which it alleged was paid for by retired Air Commodore Mohammed who had been earlier arrested and detained for five months by the DSS on allegations of money laundering. Magu has since tendered the receipt for the payment of his Maitama home which, as it turned out, was actually paid for by the Federal Capital Development Authority on his appointment, since there was no institutional house for EFCC chair. The second issue was about Magu flying first-class for the lesser Hajj to Saudi Arabia in June. The report did not indicate that the money for the ticket was from government coffers. Or can Magu not pay from his pocket for a private religious trip on a first-class ticket just because he is a public figure?
One thing that came out of the Magu issue is the fact that there is no proper coordination or necessary cohesion in the Buhari administration. Otherwise, how does one explain a situation whereby a head of an agency appointed by the president is trying everything to see that another head of a sister agency appointed by the same president is not confirmed? Or was there no vetting before Magu was appointed to head the EFCC in the first place?
President Buhari has tried to extend hands of fellowship to the illegitimate Senate leadership. To this end, the attorney-general of the federation terminated the trial of the Senate leadership for criminal forgery of the Senate Standing Rules that brought the current leadership to office. Since then, the Senate has rejected the second ambassadorial list of the president, has rejected the president’s request for loan to get money to work for the people, and has rejected the confirmation of Magu who is at the centre of this administration’s anti-corruption successes. So what has the president gained since he tried to accommodate the current Senate leadership, if one may ask?
Ibrahim Magu’s records are there for all to see. The EFCC under his leadership has recovered looted assets from corrupt persons in these months more than what the commission did in all the 12 years since it was established. And, despite the fact that the EFCC under Magu has been starved of funds, it has been able to secure 167 convictions since Magu took over. This is apart from tackling Boko Haram, the major achievement of the Buhari regime which an alliance of criminals in and out of the Senate is trying to rubbish. Will any EFCC chair ever be answerable to the president again if they succeed in blocking Magu?
Bukola Saraki and his backers are so lucky they are working with a president who appears not to know the extent of his constitutional powers. Buhari made the mistake of being indifferent to who emerges as Senate president and ended up having one prone to treachery and is mired in criminal charges in courts. How many Senate presidents did Obasanjo make during his time? Every senator is elected by only one-third of a state. So how does the president who is elected by the whole country and is holding sovereignty on behalf of over 180 million people be held to ransom by one who is standing trial for criminal act and has refused to vacate his seat? If Magu is being asked by some to step down over unproven allegations, then, why is Saraki remaining as head of the Senate when he is already standing trial in the court for corruption?
The Senate has indicted the secretary to the government of the federation, Babachir David Lawal, and asked the president to remove and prosecute him. The Senate has similarly asked the president to replace EFCC chair Magu. Without considering the merit or legality of the Senate’s action, the president has asked the attorney-general to go ahead and investigate these and others.
It appears the Buhari presidency is so undermined and diminished in authority and prestige that there is a power vacuum which the Senate is trying to fill. No one will be surprised if we wake up and see the Fintiri [of Adamawa State] model being replicated at the federal level, at the rate we are going. Criminals do not care about scruples. A word is enough for the wise.
History is on the side of the oppressed.