RingTrue

By Yemi Adebowale; 07013940521 yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

I was stunned and thought that, perhaps, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami would deny a statement, in which he was quoted as saying that the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, “played an ignoble role”, that led to the suspension of Nigeria from the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Well, the denial did not come. This means that Malami gave clear orders to his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Salihu Othman, to viciously attack Magu. The AGF alleged that Magu had frustrated efforts to make the National Financial Intelligence Unit independent of the EFCC as required by the global financial intelligence body.

The press statement reads: “The threat of expulsion from the Egmont Group, which might follow the suspension, calls for a thorough review of the NFIU. It also calls for the review of the manner in which the EFCC leadership has manipulated and misused intelligence to the detriment of the fight against corruption and financial crimes in Nigeria.”
Malami’s aide also claimed that Magu frustrated bills sent by the AGF’s office, aimed at enhancing the anti-corruption fight and making the NFIU independent, “and even had to resort to blackmail in some instances, oftentimes, alleging that the AGF and the ministry were all out to impede the government’s anti-corruption drive.”

The AGF media aide alleges further: “Magu and other EFCC officials, and at times through ozznline publications, had at one time or the other accused the minister of trying to compromise the war. They have always perceived the Office of the AGF as a threat instead of addressing the issues related to the best strategy for fighting corruption advocated by the AGF. For instance, during the House of Representatives Committee review session on 18th April, 2017, Magu vehemently rejected the new Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2016) submitted by the President, which according to him (as reported by some national dailies) might prejudice President Buhari’s anti-corruption agenda. He even went on his whimsical best by surmising that passing the bill into law now would affect Nigeria’s application for the membership of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). “What parody! In likewise, the EFCC is now in a state of paranoia, as it dreads the effort of the government to have an independent NFIU, which it has stood against stoically since 2006. As it presently stands, the NFIU members of staff are all deployed by the EFCC to serve in the interest of whoever is its current chairman. This has to stop if it must conform to the new thinking and global best practices. Nigeria cannot be an island of its own. The EFCC cannot fight corruption in isolation.”

This bitter rivalry between Malami and Magu has been on for almost two years. Just few weeks back, these men fought openly when a request from the office of the AGF, asking Magu to release the case files of high profile suspects and corrupt public office holders was turned down by the EFCC. It is depressing to see a federal ministry and a federal agency dancing naked in public. I am also shocked that the man who appointed the two of them, President Buhari, has not taken any concrete step to curb this quarrel. Is Buhari pretending not to see the feud as a setback to this war against corruption, one of the cardinal points of his administration? Well, let him continue pretending about his skewed war against corruption. However, genuine patriots want to see an end to the embarrassment that Magu and Malami are creating for this country. It is obvious that they can’t work together. Buhari has to sack one of these men. In the interest of the entire country, our President has to make up his mind whether he wants Magu or Malami.

For me, Malami should go. Much as I agree with his position that the NFIU be expunged from the EFCC and should operate as an independent body, this AGF has persistently displayed extreme overzealousness on his job. Malami’s specious exuberance is not good for this strategic office and causes discomfiture to this country. A good example here is the recent case in which Malami hired Professor Yemi Akinseye-George to claim $793.2 million allegedly hidden in seven commercial banks in Nigeria by three federal agencies. At the initial stage, many thought that Malami had genuinely discovered stashed money, but it turned out to be a charade. Facts and figures presented by the accused agencies and banks showed that there were no such stashed funds anywhere. The NNPC was the first to punch holes in the phony recovery, describing Malami’s claim as “untrue and misleading.”

It said that the corporation had earlier taken steps to inform the Presidency, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, as well as the Central Bank of the existence of the said accounts prior to the creation of the Asset Recovery Account by the government.
After embarrassing the banks, with the attendant collateral damages, claims that the funds were hidden and unknown to the government turned out to be dubious. Our implausible AGF went back to the court (after obtaining an interim forfeiture order) to withdraw the suit and was made to pay damages to the banks. This is one issue that the AGF could have resolved with the NNPC, without this unnecessary awkwardness. Malami simply wants to be seen working.

Back to the feud with the EFCC; Malami does not want to face the reality that this anti-graft agency is an independent body. EFCC’s relationship with his office starts and ends with issue of prosecution alone. This is the fact. Malami’s power of prosecution should not be used as an opportunity to force the EFCC under his control. This country needs a Minister of Justice that understands this. Clearly, Malami can’t live with this and should just go. As for Magu, his exuberance can be positively utilised by a good leader. He is a lesser evil. For now, the most vital ingredient missing in his modus operandi in this war against corruption is the lack of respect for the Rule of Law. Magu can be flogged into line and forced to learn to operate within the ambits of the law. Magu’s idea of media trial and freezing of people’s accounts without court approval should be curtailed.

Skewed Progress Report on Boko Haram
Adamu Kamale, representing Michika/Madagali Federal Constituency of Adamawa State in the House of Representatives, has joined the few patriots punching holes in the lies the military leadership has been propagating about the war against Boko Haram. Kamale, a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, is now in the club of few Nigerians courageously telling President Buhari the truth about the war. The reality, which I have been hammering on in the last two years, is that Boko Haram terrorists are still very much potent and occupy territories in Borno State. Hundreds of towns and villages are not safe. This is why over two million IDPs can’t return to their homes. Kamale declared on Monday: “The Nigerian military often fed President Buhari with the wrong information on the capacity of Boko Haram to carry out deadly strikes in the North-East. The truth remains that the group is still very active. The situation in Madagali had been grossly under-reported in a series of security reports filed by the military to Buhari.

“No week passes without one ugly incident or another taking place in the border communities. I am from this place (Madagali) and I can authoritatively tell you that my people are not safe. The military are always feeding Mr. President with the wrong information that things are normalising; it’s not true. We are happy that Mr. President made a reference to the Boko Haram issue in his broadcast to the nation when he returned from his medical vacation to the United Kingdom. However, we advise Mr. President to match the broadcast with actions because the insurgents are truly killing more people than he is even aware of. The situation here (Madagali) is worse than the reports he gets from the military. Insurgents are still very active, killing people, kidnapping women and children and raping them. As I speak, insurgents live and operate just within two kilometres to the Sambisa Forest from Madagali.”
The leadership of the military has indeed been economical with the truth on this war. If our President is desirous of progress, he has to retire those in the top hierarchy of this war and appoint fresh hands. The likes of Gabriel Olonishakin, Tukur Buratai and Sadique Abubakar have done their best, but it i
s just not good enough for this war. They must make way for new hands in the interest of Nigeria.

British High Commission’s Exploitative ‘Super Priority Visa Service’
The United Kingdom has evidently turned its visa offices in Nigeria into cash cows. Its entry permit fees have always been outrageous, with fees ranging from a minimum of $121 to $1043. What is widely regarded as the highest service fee in any of its outposts in the world will now be charged in Nigeria following the launch of the optional “Super Priority Visa Service”. Nigerians interested in processing their applications within 24 hours will have to cough out £750 as fee for this elective Super Priority Visa Service. At official exchange rate, this would be a monstrous N375,000. This is in addition to the visa fee indicated earlier. The British High Commissioner, Paul Arkwright said the new service was to particularly meet the needs of those who required urgent service to travel. But must this be done at a cutthroat price? Can’t the British High Commission provide greater processing flexibility and improvements to its visa services in Nigeria without this exploitative addition? Nigerians visiting the UK deserve premium visa services without unfair additions. The Nigerian government needs to look into this exploitative visa service fee by the British Government and retaliate, if need be.

Governor Yari and Zamfara Workers
The Nigeria Labour Congress, Zamfara State chapter, looks set for a showdown with Governor Abdulazize Yari. Already, the workers have issued a 21-day ultimatum (effective August 21) to him, to meet their demands or face “total strike action.” They have a long list of grudges against Yari, top of which is the alleged diversion of bailout funds. According to the state chairman of the NLC, Bashir Marafa, aside from failing to meet agreements it reached with labour leaders on welfare of workers and pensioners, Yari also “diverted bailout funds it received from the federal government.” This is a just battle by Zamfara workers, and the leadership of the NLC/TUC at the national level must back these oppressed workers in this struggle against a governor that pummels workers with impunity. I am particularly pained that Yari has allegedly refused to pay the 1,400 graduates he employed in 2014 into the Zamfara State civil service. It seems this governor is unaware that he would account for his stewardship in less than two years’ time. The people of Zamfara are earnestly waiting.