Magu: Ignoble End of an Anti-graft Czar


Last week’s suspension of a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, was shocking and shameful, writes Shola Oyeyipo

From the beginning to the end, the entire period Ibrahim Magu acted as the chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was characterised by turbulence. His era finally ended in a mess, because as at the time of compiling this report, the presidency had suspended him from office and appointed a replacement, Mohammed Umar. That is ultimately his final exit from the anti-graft agency.

His sad end was due to allegations of corruption, insubordination and abuse of office levied against him by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, which followed his arrest and brought before a presidential panel at the presidential villa, where he detained and summarily suspended.
Now that he is suddenly in the thick of the storm, so many allegations are rolling out.

In Malami’s memo indicting Magu, he was alleged of insubordination to the office of the AGF, re-looting of recovered loots, selling seized assets to his cronies, associates and friends, giving preferential treatment to some select EFCC investigators known as the ‘Magu Boys’, leaking investigative reports to the media, discrepancies in records of the EFCC and the Federal Ministry of Finance on recovered funds, and declaring N539b as recovered funds instead of N504b.

He was also alleged of not providing concrete evidence against some suspects including former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke to ensure her extradition, reporting some judges to their presiding officers without deferring to the AGF, refusal to promptly investigate the P&ID – a transaction about to make Nigeria lose about $9.6bn to a UK firm, disregarding a court judgment to unfreeze a N7bn belonging to a former director of a bank and other underbellies.

Though there are series of conspiracy theories making the round about the embattled former anti-graft boss, prominent of these is the insinuation that he is simply a victim of power play between the cabal in Aso Rock and former Lagos State governor and National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, whose loyalists are believed to be victims of orchestrated attacks due to his 2023 presidential ambition. But the question is, could Magu have had a clean record?

In 2016, when the APC-led Nigerian Senate under Dr. Bukola Saraki rejected his nomination as substantive head of the commission and demanded that President Buhari sent a fresh nominee due to a damaging report by the Department of State Security (DSS), which accused him of double life, sabotage and corruption.

The DSS is perhaps the elite force in Nigeria as regard intelligence gathering and even though people wondered why the APC seemed divided over Magu, indications were that he probably had a skeleton in his cupboard.
As he did in the case of a number of his aides alleged of corrupt dealing, President Muhammadu Buhari wrote to the Senate clearing Magu of any malpractice but the content of the DSS security report has not been erased. He was said to be under investigation, because of his close relationship with an indicted retired Nigerian Air Force officer, Commodore Umar Mohammed, who was fingered as the one behind his flamboyant lifestyle, particularly paying the N20 million per annum rent of his home and furnishing same at N43 million.

The DSS added, among other things, that during the era of Mrs. Farida Waziri as the EFCC chairman, in an August 2008 investigation, which resulted in a search at Magu’s residence, some sensitive documents that were not supposed to be in his possession were discovered in his house. He was detained and redeployed to the regular police over this development.

His eventual arrest and subsequent suspension have however vindicated the Bukola Saraki-led eighth Senate, which maintained its refusal to confirm Magu as the EFCC chairman.
Though amid his controversial stint at the EFCC, Magu got both knocks and kudos from Nigerians, in the overall, the EFCC as much as the President Buhari leadership did not show Nigerians the kind of anti-corruption moves expected of the presidency that came into power on the promise to fight corruption to a standstill. That aside, members of the opposition had also castigated the Magu-led EFCC as selective in its anti-corruption fight.

Nigeria cannot boast that it is corruption free today. Government officials have only perfected more clever ways of siphoning public funds for personal use and this simply explains why the suspended EFCC doesn’t seem to be getting support from Nigerians. The people really didn’t feel the impact of his much-touted disdain for corruption.

The agency easily became a political tool under Magu and it was effective in tormenting perceived political opponents. The immediate past Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who was considered as the arrowhead of a group of dissidents in the APC, would live to remind the traumatising media trial he underwent with the EFCC and reliable sources are hinting that the former Kwara State governor is having his last laugh presently, because he believes members of the public now see what the eighth Senate saw.

Generally, public opinion is not in Magu’s favour and that is quite significant. If he fought the anti-graft war fearlessly, effectively and without favour, Nigerians would have queued behind him by now, but a glance on the social media would show that a majority of Nigerians is of the opinion that even his initial indictments were not far from the truth.

A financial expert and public opinion analyst, Mr. Adeyinka Adeniji wrote that, “His (Magu’s) eventual arrest, in interrogation and detention came as huge vindication for the Senator Bukola Saraki-led 8th Assembly. Buhari and the APC played on the stigmatisation of the 8th assembly to keep Magu at the helms of the EFCC affair illegally.

“Despite hues and cries by the out-of-favour Saraki, and the refusal of the parliament under him to swear Ibrahim Magu in as substantive EFCC chairman, and the attendant uninformed castigation of the Senate by a section of the public, Buahri’s retention of Magu was like assigning a cat to keep watch over the meat.
“Going by experiences of past EFCC bosses, who were equally relieved of their post after investigation revealed massive misgivings on their part, Magu’s case may also be swept under the presidential carpet by a government overwhelmed by different corruption.”

He was particularly miffed that among Magu’s alleged offences is the re-looting of recovered loots from corrupt politician, who are mainly members of the opposition parties.
Former Senator representing Kogi West senatorial district and a strong critic of the government, Senator Dino Melaye, in his characteristic comic reactions, took to his twitter to say he told President Buhari about Magu but he disagreed, adding that “So many Magu’s are in his government.”

Journalist, Chuks Akunna wrote: “In 2008, the EFCC chair, Farida Waziri detained Ibrahim Magu in the FCID underground cell. When I visited, Magu and other inmates were chorusing ‘I have decided to follow Jesus.’ He returned to the same cell last night.”

Then there was a slight twist to the developing story, when the name of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was dragged into the matter after he was alleged to have received N4bn from the ousted EFCC boss, but Osinbajo was quick to deny receiving nay such money from Magu, out of the recovered looted funds.
Already, the presidency is shopping for a replacement for Magu, but in the meantime, Mr. Mohammed Umar. What an end to an era!