Thursday, January 5, 2017

Alleged Corruption: How Not To Save Magu

By Paul Onomuakpokpo
Those who really want President Muhammadu Buhari to succeed in his campaign against corruption must be scandalised by the efforts of his so-called supporters to persuade him to dismiss the allegations of corruption against Ibrahim Magu as merely constituting a self-serving canard that is not worth his attention. The president’s friends do not see the need to investigate the allegations by the Senate that the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is amenable to the patronage of those he is supposed to investigate for corruption and his complicity in other myriad unethical practices that have rendered him ineligible to occupy that high office.
*Ibrahim Magu
These friends and those of Magu have instigated a rash of lobbying activities geared at making the president to re-nominate Magu for confirmation as the EFCC chair. It has been said that the debate on whether to retain Magu or not has split the kitchen cabinet of the president. The Senate is equally split as some senators led by Senate Majority Leader Ali Ndume are trying to persuade their colleagues to rescind their decision not to confirm Magu.
Yet, the issue requires far more than lobbying. For whether the anti-corruption campaign of Buhari retains whatever credibility it still has now or not depends on how the Magu issue is resolved. Thus for the anti-corruption campaign to continue and indeed gain greater verve, the allegations against Magu must not be glossed over. True, the Senate that accused Magu of corruption is perceived to have lost its lustre in a murky cesspool of malfeasance. Its leader, Bukola Saraki is being tried by the Code of Conduct Tribunal for corruption-related cases.
There are other members of the Senate, especially former governors, who are facing cases of corruption. Despite the mounting pressure from the public, the Senate has refused to be transparent in its finances. The fogginess about their salaries and allowances and their extravagant lifestyles conflict with the desperate economic crisis of the nation. But we must resist the temptation to quickly dismiss the senators’ position until their allegations are investigated. It is only after this that we can be sure whether the Senate took their position in furtherance of their own interest or that of the nation. It is hasty to argue that by the Senate’s position, it is evident that corruption is fighting back.
Those who are insisting on saving Magu without investigating the allegations against him are not helping the anti-corruption fight. For even if the president is able to persuade the Senate to make a barefaced volte-face and confirm Magu, this would not help the anti-corruption campaign as long as there are no convincing responses by him to the allegations of corruption. To the extent that Magu on whom unresolved corruption charges are hanging retains his job as the chief prosecutor of the fight against sleaze in public offices, the anti-corruption fight has suffered an intolerable travesty that would only render the nation a butt of crude jokes in the comity of transparent nations. If Magu is found guilty of the charges, Buhari should allow him to face prosecution.

Contrary to the position of the increasing band of Magu lobbyists, this would rather redound to Buhari’s credibility than bring him shame. This would rather save the anti-corruption campaign and demonstrate that the president has the will not to tolerate corruption around himself. After all, the citizenry’s skepticism about the anti-corruption campaign has been fuelled by the president’s obvious inability to prosecute those close to him. This is why despite the allegations of corruption by the Senate against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal over his misappropriation of the funds meant for the victims of Boko Haram terrorism, that has led to their starvation and sexual exploitation, he is in Buhari’s government. He has not resigned or be forced by the president to do so despite the unequivocal position of the Senate that he must quit.
Thankfully, Buhari seems to know better than these befuddled lobbyists. Thus, he seems to be encouraging an investigation into the allegations raised by the Senate. This is why he has asked his attorney general to investigate the allegations, and has equally directed the vice president to make input into the outcome of the report on the investigation. While the investigation is on, Buhari should have asked Magu to step aside. Yes, in these climes, public officials accused of corruption do not step aside for investigations to take place. This is why Saraki who is standing trial for corruption cases is still presiding over the affairs of the Senate. Yet, the citizens expect Buhari to ask Magu to step aside simply because the president wants the entire world to see his much-touted revolt against corruption as his niche in the political space.
What would effectively blight the anti-corruption campaign is if Magu is found guilty of the allegations against him, and the president seeks to protect him. Doing that would only confirm the perception that he has only been using him to prosecute a turf war. Buhari must demonstrate that he is sincere with the fight against corruption by finding another replacement for Magu. There are many qualified Nigerians who can replace Magu. Magu is not the first person to head the EFCC. Even after the exit of the pioneer chairman Nuhu Ribadu, who has been considered as the most credible leader of the EFCC so far, the commission has not collapsed.
We must also note that the reasons for the Senate’s rejection of Magu were not originated by the upper legislative chamber. They came from the Department of State Services (DSS). So are we so soon discrediting the DSS because its report was on Magu? This is the same DSS whose raids and reports have formed the basis of the prosecution of judges. The president and the supporters of his anti-corruption campaign rapturously lauded the DSS for what were approvingly dubbed sting operations.

In this regard, we must see the weighty implications of the Magu saga. If the allegations are frivolous, the matter must not end by Magu just being cleared for him to continue with his job. The leaders of the DSS who masterminded this report must be sacked and prosecuted for attempting to derail the anti-corruption fight. In fact, the president should be in a big dilemma now. This is because his not sacking Magu would mean that an agency of his government, the DSS, has worked to undermine him. So, he has to sack Magu to show that he approved the investigation by the DSS on the anti-corruption chief.

Those who want Magu to remain as the chairman of the EFCC without the allegations against him being resolved are the ones who are rather now encouraging corruption by insisting on a person accused of lacking the requisite moral credentials to lead the campaign against the national malaise. If they really want Magu to continue to lead the fight against corruption, the best way for them to help him to retain his job is by asking him to clear himself of the charges against him.

*Dr. Onomuakpokpo is on the Editorial Board of The Guardian 

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