MAGU AND THE ANTI-CORRUPTION WAR

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Ibrahim Magu

Ibrahim Magu has displayed courage and leadership in the fight against corruption, writes Phrank Shaibu

Love him or hate him, one argument that cannot be contested is the fact that Ibrahim Magu, the Ag. Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has taken the anti-corruption fight in Nigeria to hitherto uncharted levels where many people thought could never be attained.

Deconstructing corruption fight in Nigeria is a binding moral duty for common good and it requires seeing beyond political affiliations, standpoint, preference or ideology. In Nigeria, Ibrahim Mustapha Magu, is the scourge of corrupt Nigerians, no matter your status or engagement and this has become worthy of public analysis and historic documentation whether aligned to the ruling party or not.

In fact, l had taken a long break from commenting on public discourse that will conflict with my political opposition status but if truth be told, the fight against corruption is for a better Nigeria and it is a collective pursuit that deserves objective periodic review on how those charged with such responsibilities are conducting the affairs of government agencies they manage. Thus, my decision to research on the EFCC and its affairs is a call to duty as public analyst and it changes nothing about my political attachment and roles played as political campaign spokesperson.

Specifically, about four years ago, on 9th November 2015, President Buhari sacked the then EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde and promptly replaced him with Magu, the next day, 10th November.

Under Magu, the mention of EFCC became the beginning of the endgame for corrupt public and private officers including individuals who had carried on for years as though they were above the law.

Ibrahim Magu, the poster boy of the anti-corruption crusade which has become the signature policy engagement of the President Buhari administration and has attracted both continental and global commendations for tackling what has been described across international platforms, as the number one factor militating against the growth and development of African nations and economies.

Magu was one of the early recruits into the anti-graft agency in the dizzying days of its pioneer chairman Malam Nuhu Ribadu. In 2015, Magu before becoming the EFCC boss was a member of the committee set up by the Buhari administration to probe the procurement of arms in the Armed Forces from 2007 to 2015 which eventually uncovered a cesspool of corruption that shocked the nation and still continues to reverberate with new and astonishing revelations. Given Magu’s perceived incorruptible posture, he was made the head of the sensitive Economic Governance Unit (EGU), which handled investigations of senior public officials and as head of the EGU, spearheaded some sensitive investigations including the collapse of Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria. Magu also played a major role in the investigation and eventual jailing of former Managing Director of the Bank of the North, Shettima Mohammed Bulama, said to be his own brother in law.

It was widely believed that after Ribadu was removed as EFCC boss in controversial circumstances by former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Magu was also targeted for redeployment by new EFCC boss, Farida Waziri, who took over in 2008 and was said to be uncomfortable with his presence over issues surrounding loyalty.

Magu’s troubles crystalized when he was accused of illegally keeping case files of top politicians being investigated by the commission in August 2008. His house in Abuja was searched and his property, including a laptop computer with sensitive files, was carted away by officials of the EFCC.

He was then redeployed to the police after days of detention with nothing incriminating found against him and later suspended from the force, without salaries for several months. But like the cat with nine lives, Magu was brought back to EFCC, when his old colleague Ibrahim Lamorde was appointed as substantive EFCC boss in 2012. For those that understood how the mind of the new President Buhari works, the prediction that Magu would emerge as new EFCC boss could not have been tough. No doubt, President Buhari needed a no-nonsense administrator to give bite to its agenda on fight against corruption after his 2015 victory in the presidential polls. For Buhari, there was no better man to fit the bill than Magu, who quickly replaced Lamorde.

Magu, a thoroughbred EFCC man swung into action as the new anti-graft agency boss. Already he had a 12-year career track record in the commission before the latest appointment and had worked as the head of EFCC administration and finance in 2003, was the supervising officer, head of administration at special task force organized by the Nigerian President in 2006, served as deputy head of Police department in Ekiti State in 2009 and worked in the Special Investigation Bureau of Anambra State police. Thereafter, he returned to EFCC and kept working in different departments across the country, attending seminars, gaining new knowledge in financial investigation spheres and collaborating with international police departments, including the famous Scotland Yard, amongst others.

There was never any ambuiguity that Ibrahim Magu was President Buhari’s preferred choice for the EFCC chair and his appointment, which came six months after the president’s inauguration, would have come a bit sooner, if not for the fact that there was need to clear the small matter of CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar and the Ibrahim Lamorde connection which probably meant proverbially killing two birds with one stone, by clearing the way for Magu’s appointment in an acting capacity and commencing the Senator Bukola Saraki Code of Conduct trial.

This beginning was to however shape the next four years of Magu’s tenure and ensure that he remained in an acting capacity till the end of the 8th Senate which consistently refused to confirm his appointment under the leadership of Saraki as Senate President.

Reacting to the refusal of the Senate to confirm him, Magu simply said that his confirmation was rejected by the Senate because he is doing a good job, adding however that his non-confirmation will not stop him for spearheading the fight against corruption. “I don’t think it (non-confirmation) has given the public a cause for concern. I think it is a lot of encouragement. The fact that I am not confirmed shows I am working. In the anti-corruption environment, if they rush to confirm you, it means you are not doing your work properly. A number of the people we are investigating are also in the National Assembly. I cannot be distracted with those things. Nobody can purchase me, I cannot compromise what I am doing,” he had declared at that time.

True to his words, Magu’s acting tenure has perhaps turned out to be the most robust and achievement-filled stint since the creation of the anti-corruption agency. It is little wonder therefore that despite his non-confirmation, President Buhari, who is the ultimate authority in deciding his fate, has not only kept faith with Magu, but encouraged and supported him.

The relationship between President Buhari and Ibrahim Magu is almost kinetic. It has helped in fostering an anti-corruption agenda, which has been hailed across the continent and beyond. Therefore, in defining the next phase of the anti-corruption agency in President Buhari’s second term, the president, who has displayed a solid conservatism in retaining those he believes in to work with him, will also determine who spearheads his anti-corruption crusade, going forward.

Magu, who has already set a kind of record as the longest serving head of the EFCC since its creation in 2003, had also positioned the agency as one of the most vibrant government institutions in Nigeria by laying down stringent and oftentimes unpalatable prevention strategies as a cardinal agenda in the fight against corruption.

The fact that Magu is winning the war in his capacity as EFCC boss is clearly manifest in the groundswell of public perception and participation achieved through the various preventive initiatives designed towards public re-orientation and enlightenment.

These programmes include the Nigerian Women Against Corruption Project (NWAC) which was developed to increase women participation in the fight against corruption and the Clean Hands Campaign for Children, designed primarily to promote the values of integrity and probity among the younger generation is gaining acceptance.

EFCC under Magu has also embraced pro-active re-orientation strategies including musical concerts staged to draw more attention to the commission’s anti-corruption messages as well as partnerships with civil society organizations, organized labour unions and stakeholders in the public and private spheres, town hall interactive meetings with community religious leaders and various groups within communities in the grassroots.

These are in addition to the creation of more offices across the country to complement those in the six geo-political zones of the country in the last four years.

The EFCC as part of its reforms to address emerging challenges in criminality has strengthened its enforcement mandate, created additional departments and sections including the Asset Forfeiture Department, the Forensic Department and the Public Affairs Department.

The commission may not have achieved all that is needed to kill corruption in Nigeria but within the last four years, it has conducted massive recruitment exercises across all cadres with the newly recruited officers in the detective superintendent, detective inspector and detective assistant cadres, for the purpose of closing the gap of shortage of officers and the successful candidates were trained with the best of facilities at the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna.

The icing on the cake of Magu’s successful completion of the EFCC new head office building whose construction was abandoned over the years. Furthermore, initiatives such as the whistleblowing policy of the federal government initiated in December, 2016, primarily to support the fight against financial crimes and corruption, through increasing exposure of financial crimes and monetary reward for whistle-blowers has also encouraged citizens to volunteer information which has led to the recovery of stolen funds, especially with the added boost of creating the EFCC corruption reporting platforms through which individuals have volunteered information that led to the recovery of billions of dollars hidden away by looters.

Major achievements through this scheme include the discovery of $9.8m hidden in the slum of Sabon Tasha, in Kaduna State said to belong to Dr. Andrew Yakubu, a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, and the discovery and recovery of a stash of cash in local and foreign currencies in an apartment on the seventh floor of Osborne Towers in Ikoyi, Lagos, a major breakthrough which opened the way for the implementation of the Technical Objective Number Four of the National Anti- Corruption Strategy.

Under Magu’s tenure, the EFCC has not only reinvigorated the anti-corruption narrative and set a standard for law enforcement agencies and criminal prosecution within and outside of the country, it has also shored up global confidence as several donor organizations and foreign law enforcement agencies have willingly partnered with the EFCC in opening fresh areas of collaboration.

Shaibu wrote from Abuja