On July 7, 2020, the erstwhile Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) Mr. Ibrahim Magu was arrested and interrogated by a Presidential Panel of Enquiry headed by former President of Appeal Court, Justice Ayo Salami on the strength of the petition filed by the Honorable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN). Among other things, Magu was accused of corruption, insubordination, diversion of recovered loots and sale of seized assets to cronies, associates and friends. And to make way for unhindered enquiry by the Presidential Investigation Panel, Mr. Magu was suspended from office and Mr. Mohammed Umar appointed to act as the new helms man of the commission. He was however released after spending ten days in incarceration. And ever since, the media space have been dominated with the speculations and analyses of the actual reasons behind the axing of the Magu.
And in another development, in what looked like “corruption fighting back” to borrow the language of the Anti-graft agencies, Sahara Reporters as it is characteristics of it, is making unsubstantiated corruption allegations against the honorable Minister prompting the minister to threaten legal action against the online media outfit. Sahara Reporters allegation is viewed by some concerned observers as a distraction to deter the Honorable Minister and the probe panel from executing their duties.
No doubt, Ibrahim Magu’s tenure at EFCC is marred by controversies. When the 9th Senate declined to confirm Magu’s appointment as EFCC boss, many including Magu expressed reservations and called for the head of the then Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki. Specifically, rather than being circumspect, Magu himself bragged and threatened fire and brim stone for members of Senate. But now the unfolding events seem to support the position of the former Senate. Those who cried foul then are still baring their teeth even in the face of overwhelming need to re-invigorate and strengthen our anti-corruption agencies in the face of official laxity and increasing complexities of corruption cases.
Despite the hullabaloo about fighting corruption under Magu’s EFCC our rating in the International corruption index continued to plummet due to a number of factors. It is therefore not surprised to me that the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Malami (SAN) has to intervene accordingly. The intervention was necessary albeit late in coming.
In actuality, the whole noise about anti-corruption war, the screaming newspaper headlines, the reported discovery of monies in strange places, the braggadocio of the of the EFCC Czar did not in any way synchronize with the realities on the ground; corruption continues to thrive in high places and no significant convictions of offenders, fueling speculations that the government’s anti-corruption war was a hoax. Thus, the decisive intervention of the Honorable Minister of Justice is commendable especially when viewed against the weighty allegations against Magu.
Ibrahim Magu’s tenure at EFCC is characterized by impunity, controversy, corruption, showmanship, yet, it was all motion without movement. He spent so much time and resources on media fireworks than the actual work of anti-corruption war. There was too much emphasis on media trials of suspects – a little wonder he has very few high profile convictions (except the very few he inherited from his predecessor, Ibrahim Lamorde) despite the humongous annual budget of the commission. Obviously, there is a limit to media wars/glitz. The mass media can launder your image, publicize your work but cannot do your work for you. What speaks for you is your competence, integrity, sincerity of purpose and commitment to carrying out your assigned mandate. Magu relied so much on the media hirelings, the godfathers and his brief-benefiting pals but they failed woefully this time round.
The fall of Ibrahim Magu is a lesson for public office holders. Political appointments are ephemeral positions; they should not be used to vaunt, witch-hunt, persecute, intimidate, blackmail or oppress others. Rather, they should be used as an opportunity and a platform to serve the people.
In these Magu’s entire suspension saga, I think the hero is the Honorable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN). He has demonstrated rare courage, uncommon sense of responsibility and patriotism. He has actually shown that he is the chief law officer of the land. As the Minister of Justice, his Ministry exercises oversight function over the anti-graft agencies and so the Honorable Ministers minister’s intervention is in order. Democracy thrives on the concept of the Rule of Law which means equality before the law. As an objective law officer, he believed nobody is above the law. That was why in 2019, when the former National Security Adviser (NSA) petitioned the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC) seeking to strip him of his Senior Advocate of Nigeria rank for alleged misconduct over his continued incarceration in spite of court orders; he opted to appear before the committee to clear his name.
By his intervention, he has shown that the government is indeed committed to anti-corruption war despite the public opinion pointing to the contrary. It is a big plus to the government especially in the anti-corruption crusade. It is also an indication that there are no sacred cows in the government. When Buhari’s cabinet was announced in November, 2015 with Abubakar Malami as the youngest member of the cabinet, many believed he was going to do well and he has not disappointed ever since. He has the profile of an achiever. Although, this piece is not designed as a tribute to Abubakar Malami but, I think that it is necessary to highlight a few achievements of his tenure as the Minister of Justice.
I am not holding brief for the Minister but I think since his coming into office as the Attorney-General of the Federation, he has put in a number of legal frameworks to stem the cancer of corruption ravaging the nation presently. Again, it is on record that the Ministry of Justice under his watch is committed to the recovery of public stolen assets stashed away in offshore jurisdictions by facilitating strategic and result-yielding bilateral and multilateral meetings and negotiations with different countries which has culminated in the reparation of more than five hundred million United States Dollars in cash to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Hajia Mohammed, an actress, social activist, politician, writes from London, UK, via [email protected]