Power Play and Magu’s Troubled Tenure at EFCC

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Ibrahim Magu

Nseobong Okon-Ekong, Segun James and Kingsley Nwezeh write that the recent arrest and subsequent removal of Ibrahim Magu as the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has political undertone that may be shrouded in corruption allegations

The arrest, detention and suspension of Mr Ibrahim Magu as Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commision (EFCC) marked the end of a 10-year controversial working career at the anti-graft agency.

Prior to his appointment as the head of the agency, Magu’ s deployment to the agency under its first Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu ended in controversy.
Magu had served as Deputy Director and Head of Economic Governance under Ribadu. He also served as Deputy Director Internal Affairs department under the headship of Ibrahim Lamorde.

On assumption of duty, Ribadu’s successor, Mrs Farida Waziri, ordered a search of Magu’s residence.

Magu was subsequently suspended for 20 months.

In response to a query from the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami over missing EFCC files Magu said: “It is true that my residence was searched on the orders of Mrs. Farida Waziri, shortly after she succeeded Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as Chairman of the EFCC and some documents relating to cases under investigation were found in my house.

“At the time of the raid, I was yet to formally hand over to my successor, Umar Sanda, as Head of the Economic Governance Unit. My schedule at the time warranted that I work round the clock and it was impossible to conclude all assignments without working at home. He argued that “the documents found in my house were actually found in my office bag where I kept documents relating to investigations. I was in the process of handing over and it would be wrong to suggest that I willfully kept the Commission’s files at home.

“Nevertheless, the incident was thoroughly investigated by the Police as I was placed on suspension without pay for 20 months. But in the end, I was reprimanded, recalled and promoted to Assistant Commissioner of Police”.

Confirmation Saga

On assumption of office, the crisis continued. In 2015, when President Muhammadu Buhari sent his name for confirmation as substantive chairman of EFCC, the then Lawal Daura-led Department of State Security (DSS) dug in with a security report aimed at halting his confirmation.

The 8th Senate relied on the report of the DSS to deny Magu confirmation.

Magu will go down in history as the only head of the commission that operated in acting capacity for five years.
Curiously, the 9th Senate which seems to be enjoying a closer rapport with the executive arm and easily disposed to his confirmation never received any nomination to that effect by the President until his arrest.

Fire-fight of Power Blocs and Entitlement Mentality

There have been charges that Magu’s travails were the offshoot of a gritty power tussle within government.

A school of thought believes that the brawl by the power blocs from the president’s zone-North-west and North-east was still ongoing.

They easily refer to the clashes in 2019 between the Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai and the late Chief of Staff to the President, late Mallam Abba Kyari.
It also argued that the DSS report by Daura (North-west) against Magu (North-east) and the the memo by the AGF, Malami that led to Magu’s present travail tows the same line.

A similar clandestine fight played out in the military at a point when the Army Chief, Lt General Tukur Buratai, from Borno and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar allegedly jostled for the office of the Chief of Defence Staff when it was thought that the president would let the service chiefs go.
“In Nigeria, there’s is this entitlement mentality that when a president is in power, our ethnic group is in charge.

“In this government, some people can’t understand why key positions went to the North-east.

“Some of them from the North-west queried why key positions like Chief of Staff to the president, Head of EFCC, NSA, Army Chief and Head of NNPC should go to one zone while they are in power,” a source familiar with the development said.

The adage that one man’s hero is another man’s scoundrel cannot be more true than in the case of the former acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Madam Ibrahim Magu, who not too long ago was the anticorruption czar of the Federal Government.

If there was a chance that last week would be a turning point in the ever deepening mistrust and distrust among people in government, the arrest of Magu provided another spectacle. The action was unexpected and spontaneous. The chairman of the EFCC was not only arrested but under investigation for corruption. It was an unfathomable prospect. Will Magu escape with his reputation untainted? Only time will tell.

For once, the official line had a ring of truth in it. After denials of arrest by the Department of State Security and the Police, the presidency admitted that Magu was under interrogation for corruption. It was a sad end for him. The anti-graft crusade under him is doomed as it has also signaled a sad end to much touted anticorruption profile of the Federal Government.

The chairman of the anticorruption agency under corruption investigation? What specific charges and who was involved in the act? That was the situation until reports have it that Magu had implicated Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in a N4 billion bribery scandal.

But following the report, a member of the investigating committee said Magu has described the report as false, pointing out that Magu does not have access to such huge amount of cash. He reportedly said he did not order the transfer of N4billion to the Vice President or to anybody and demanded the matter to be clarified.

Also, following N4billion allegation, the vice president wrote to the IGP Adamu to clear his name. Osinbajo in the letter through his lawyers, Taiwo Osipitan, petitioned the IGP to investigate the allegations, adding that the claims were not true and defamatory. Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, was also copied in the letter.

The vice president’s spokesperson, Laolu Akande, dismissed the report describing it as fake news. Akande said the report was “calculated to confuse and concocted to smear” the vice president’s image, adding that Osinbajo will “never be involved in any such shady activities”.

The implication of Osinbajo immediately brought to the fore that the investigation of Magu may have political undertone as the race for the 2023 presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) hots up. Magu may have become a pawn and scapegoat in the political trajectory playing out in the country.

Since President Buhari will be ending his second term and will not be eligible for another term, the battle now is concerning who will succeed him. This is where Magu’s fate was sealed.

According to the rotational system of the party, the next candidate for the party must come from the south. Due to the fact that the party has never been able to make any appreciable inroad in both the southeastern and south-south states, it is assumed that the presidential ticket of the party will automatically pass to the southwest. This is where the intrigues begin.

The man who controls the political trajectory of the southwest region is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the man who was reputed to have engineered the formation of the APC and under whose political machinery the party was able to wrest control of the leadership of the nation from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). His alleged ambition to be the next president after Buhari is now the bane of the crisis in the APC.

Politics of the past, present and the future in Nigeria swirls around the presidency. Now the focus is 2023 and how the APC is going to weather the storm towards the proverbial year is the issue the party’s politics.

The belief before now is that the north would allow for a southwest ticket given the support the region gave the north in the last two elections, but recent action in the polity suggests that this may not be.

The party is now faced with a power struggle between those who believe in the sacrosanct of this gentleman’s arrangement and those tho believe that the north should still hold on to power for another 16 years. How easy this is going to be will be depended on the capacity of who is presented by the south and who will lead the executive committee that is put in place by the party leadership in January 2021.

Succession is a nasty business. During the five years of Buhari’s presidency, the south has been complaining of ethnic and religious favoritism towards the north. He has received scanty and contrasting reviews of his performance both at home and abroad. Much as he had received some praises for some policies, he has also received knocks for others. However, the fact remains that on either occasions, it is the inconsistency that has rattled the system.

However, if there is one thing that Tinubu has plenty of, it is political enemies.

Tinubu, who is also called the national leader of the APC, wields enormous influence in the party. He has a firm grip of the political spectrum of the southwest, and in any election, he may have the ticket. This is what his enemies are trying to to avoid.

Osinbajo was a disciple of Tinubu. It was Tinubu who nominated him for the vice presidency. Also, Magu is said to be particularly close to Tinubu. Source have it that petitions against Tinubu were buried under a pile of files in the EFCC headquarters by the former acting chairman. This may have been Magu’s sin. Protecting Tinubu to the chagrin of his enemies.

Following the successful removal of the national chairman of the APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, another loyalist of Tinubu, in a palace coup engineered by an assistant secretary, Mr. Victor Giadom, the need to cut Tinubu’s political wings took a frenzy pace. Hence the announcement that Osibajo was involved in the multi billion Naira scam came from inside the State House.

In Nigeria, we have an unfortunate tendency to treat people as either heroes or valiant with no gradation in between. Magu has been called brilliant and the most daring chairman of the anti graft agency so far; and also exceptionally vicious by people for supposedly undermining the political enemies of the ruling APC. He was loyal and very ready to use the commission to bring down the enemies of the party.

Nigeria is a country that finds it strangely hard to get along with its constituent parts; robing them the wrong way with assertive territorial political claim and other highhandedness. Yet political tension obscures the regions intense links, particularly the fact that APC is still unable to fuse together five years after becoming the ruling party in the country.

Geographic balance is, relatively speaking, the strength of the Nigerian political world; whereas this has been maintained by successive governments, it is the inability of President Buhari to imbibe this time tested system called quota system, that is now undoing his government. That’s why many Nigerians find it hard to believe his anticorruption stance and claim

QUOTE 1

the arrest of Magu provided another spectacle. The action was unexpected and spontaneous. The chairman of the EFCC was not only arrested but under investigation for corruption. It was an unfathomable prospect. Will Magu escape with his reputation untainted? Only time will tell. For once, the official line had a ring of truth in it. After denials of arrest by the Department of State Security and the Police, the presidency admitted that Magu was under interrogation for corruption. It was a sad end for him. The anti-graft crusade under him is doomed as it has also signaled a sad end to much touted anticorruption profile of the Federal Government.

QUOTE 2

There have been charges that Magu’s travails were the offshoot of a gritty power tussle within government.

A school of thought believes that the brawl by the power blocs from the president’s zone-North-west and North-east was still ongoing. They easily refer to the clashes in 2019 between the Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai and the late Chief of Staff to the President, late Mallam Abba Kyari.

It also argued that the DSS report by Daura (North-west) against Magu (North-east) and the the memo by the AGF, Malami that led to Magu’s present travail tows the same line