Ibrahim Magu’s Arrest and other Established Patterns in the EFCC

By Segun Ogunlade

Mr Ibrahim Magu is another embattled Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) boss. His arrest by the Department of State Security (DSS) first made headline on Monday, 6th July, 2019. Since his arrest, many allegations have been levelled against him and more could probably be added in the coming days. As we all await the outcome of this matter, whether Magu would be a victim of his own battle that he is waging against corruption, there are some rather unsatisfactory patterns in the EFCC that calls for concern.

Mr Magu is not the first EFCC boss that would face a shameful exit from that office. As a matter of fact, no EFCC has ever had a good ending. The first man to occupy the office, Nuhu Ribadu, did not have the luxury of a good exit. Although he was not charged with corruption, he left office when issues were raised against his rank in the Nigerian Police Force. At the time, he claimed there were two assassination attempts on his life. He also said a state governor gave him one hundred million naira as bribe so he could look away. But he turned the money in as evidence against the governor who had since denied the incident. He was later demoted and sent out of the office in December 2007 when he tried to prosecute Chief James Ibori, who was close to the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Since he left office as the EFCC helmsman, Ribadu has rather gone into oblivion. He contested the presidential post once and later tried to become governor in his home state of Adamawa. Since that time, he seems to have gone on a self-imposed exile.

With Farida Waziri, the situation is also the same. As a matter of fact, EFCC begin to lose its credibility as an anti-graft agency during her chairmanship. She refused to secure convictions for high profile cases of corruption many of which involved former governors including James Ibori, Bukola Saraki and George Akume. As a matter of fact, her appointment was said to have been insisted upon by politicians. Whilst the EFCC under her chairmanship could not convict Chief James Ibori of a single offence, the former Delta state governor was convicted by a UK court and was sent to prison for money laundering.

  1. Magu, Farida Waziri also faced a tough battle with the then Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke. When she was chairman, there were many cases of corruption that went unprosecuted. She also left the office rather uncelebrated following her dismissal by the then President, Goodluck Jonathan in November 2011. Her dismissal was based on ‘national interest’ by Goodluck Jonathan.
  2. Ibrahim Lamorde also didn’t leave the office as a celebrated man when he left in November, 2015. It was under his chairmanship that the president said stealing was not corruption. No wonder there were many cases of corruption at the time and stealing of public funds becomes an established practice. Senator Stella Oduah as the then Minister of Aviation said she bought two bulletproof cars for N255 million. At the same time, Mrs Diezani Allison Madueke was also stealing her millions as the Petroleum Minister. He also didn’t finish well as the EFCC boss because he was sacked and replaced by Ibrahim Magu in 2015. Despite all the allegations against him, he was neither arrested nor prosecuted by this current administration.

    Now, Ibrahim Magu is on his way to an ignoble ending as the EFCC helmsman. He has been suspended already. With the gravity of allegations hanging on his neck, he is on track to be the worst EFCC boss in history if found guilty. Besides, he isn’t coming back to that office even if he is able to scale through this trying time and come out unscathed. It is certain that he would also go into oblivion at the end of his case. What that end will be is not certain yet, but he might also get a soft landing as do Babachir Lawal, the former Secretary to Government of the Federation, who spent N2 million on cutting of grass in some Internally Displaced Persons camps (IDPs). The President was reluctant to sack Lawal as the SGF. And upon his removal, his case file, I am sure, is now gathering dust on the President’s table.

    Ibrahim Magu is not the first EFCC boss to step on toes. As a matter of fact, he could be said to have enjoyed many executive privileges more than anybody that has ever occupied that office. The Senate has refused to confirm him as the substantial chairman of the EFCC since 2015 but President Buhari still allowed him to serve in acting capacity from that time till he was suspended. Well, President Buhari always has a deep trust for people he appointed into office. For me, the ordeal that Magu is facing and the case of Babachir Lawal, the former SGF show that these people that President always vouch for are not as clean as he expected to be and they are as corrupt as any official of the state. Magu’s case is in fact a mockery of the fight against corruption in Nigeria. If Magu as the EFCC boss could have this barrage of accusation against him, it shows the level of hypocrisy with which he has hitherto been prosecuting the war against corruption.

    Unfortunately, Magu seemed to have offended some people that he shouldn’t because he thought he still had the presidential support. With the demise of Abba Kyari his kinsman from Borno, there’s no political force that is strong enough from his side of the country to shield him. From the days of Ribadu till now, no EFCC Chairman has ever this level of charges levelled against him or her even with their inglorious exit from office.

    Apart from all of these men and woman leaving office rather dishonourably, which is one thing they are famous for, they are also recruited from the Nigerian Police Force (NPF). I am not sure if any Inspector General of Police (IGP) has ever liked any EFCC Chairman. All the people that have been chosen to head the agency are not always from the top echelon in the NPF. But when they become chairman, they have almost the same power as the IGP. Very few people wouldn’t take it to heart when the people that used to be below them in rank suddenly assume a position that give them enormous power and could even call them to question. The manner with which Nuhu Ribadu was demoted and forced into retirement is a point in case.

    Also, from Ribadu to Umar, the new EFCC acting chairman, all are northerners and most of them are from the North Eastern part of the country. Nuhu Ribadu is from Adamawa state in the North East; Farida Waziri is from Benue state in the North Central; Ibrahim Lamorde is from Adamawa state in the North East; Ibrahim Magu is from Borno state in the North East and Mohammed Umar is from Yobe state, also in the North East. By this, it means everyone that has ever headed the anti-graft agency has been northerners and almost exclusively from the North East.

    Although I am not a fan of federal character, the fact that no southerner has ever been chosen to head the EFCC is disturbing. Does it mean no southerner has ever qualified to head the agency? I wouldn’t have been worried too much if not that President Buhari has an established pattern of always picking people from his side of the country and religion to occupy some key positions in the country. The appointment of Mohammed Umar as the new EFCC boss shows that the precedent is yet to go against his own precedents in that regard. After all, he had already said we shouldn’t expect him to treat the region that gave him 97 per cent of his winning votes the same way he would treat the region that gave him 5 per cent. He has simply played his nepotism card and it calls for question the President’s sense of judgement.

    Perhaps why all these people failed as EFCC chairman in the prosecution of the battle against corruption is because they are political appointees. They can’t wage a war against the class of people that supported their appointment. That’s why a full scale war against corruption is impossible and the war has hitherto been selective and hypocritical in nature. Whether you will get punished for stealing or not depends so much in your political alliance. If you don’t team up with the people in power that could shield you when the trying times come, you will be punished as a scapegoat. The people that have been convicted by the EFCC are not the greatest thieves in the current system of things. But when you go out of line and dare come face to face with some powers in the upper echelon of the country’s administration, suffer you will.

    With this Magu’s case, it is evident that there are many irregularities in the fight against corruption in Nigeria. From the fact that they are all from one part of the country, practice the same religion, were recruited from the Police Force and are political appointees are irregular patterns that should not be encouraged. For me, the Nigerian Police Force is not the best place to choose EFCC chairman from because the men there are not altogether clear as we have seen. It is high time the country looked elsewhere for the appointment of the man or woman to head the anti-graft agency. Some civilians should be considered for appointment into the chairmanship position too.

    As Mohammed Umar is now the acting Chairman of the EFCC, let’s hope he doesn’t get booted out of office like all his predecessors whilst bearing in mind that the fight against corruption is a parody since the direction the fight will take depends heavily on the personality of the man who call the shot at the highest office in the country.

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