•Says anti-corruption war becomes endangered when persons entrusted with the responsibility of that magnitude become suspects themselves
Festus Akanbi in Lagos and Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Feelers from the Presidency last night revealed that the search for a new Chairman for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may have started, following the recommendation of the Justice Ayo Salami panel for the removal of the anti-graft agency’s suspended acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu.
Presidency source also confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari is looking outside the police force in the search for the new EFCC boss, in conformity with the recommendation of the panel that probed sleaze allegations against Magu.
The source confirmed that a small search team would be constituted in the next few days to narrow down on the candidate capable of delivering the President’s dream of a corrupt-free anti-graft agency.
The source further confirmed that “the sleaze and abuse of office allegations against Magu, a commissioner of police, were overwhelming,” and that he may be put on trial.
The panel advised the president to appoint the new EFCC chairman in an interim position for two years.
In a way that suggested that the report might have nailed Magu, Salami, according to a statement by Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, advised Buhari to consider appointing the next Chairman of EFCC from other law enforcement or security agencies, as well as core staff of the EFCC, as provided in the EFCC Establishment Act of 2004.
Salami said: “Your Excellency, permit me to say that four successive chairmen of the EFCC from inception have been drawn from the police. Therefore, in appointing a new chairman of EFCC, consideration should be given to candidates from other law enforcement or security agencies and qualified core staff of EFCC as provided in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment Act 2004).
“It is also important to point out that at the moment, 970 policemen (114 drivers, 641 mobile policemen and 215 operations), are on secondment in the EFCC.
“Therefore, an exit plan for the disengagement of the police and other personnel within two years from now should be considered. This will address the issue of non-promotion of core staff for over nine years.
“Your Excellency, our thinking here is that whoever you are appointing other than a core EFCC staff, should be in transitional capacity of two years during which period, arrangement would be made for appointment of any of the core staff who has been commended by National Crime Agency, UK and other international law enforcement for their professionalism.”
Salami thanked the president for giving members of the commission an opportunity to serve.
Buhari: Anti-Corruption War Endangered
Apparently referring to Magu, while receiving the Salami report, the president lamented that anti-corruption war becomes endangered “when persons entrusted with the responsibility of that magnitude become suspects themselves.”
Buhari, who said corruption is entrenched in every aspect of Nigeria’s national life, did not mince words to say that the situation becomes disturbing when leaders of institutions mandated to fight the menace are themselves alleged to be corrupt.
According to him, there can be no greater abomination than that because it does not only strike “at the root,” but also undermines the anti-corruption crusade itself.
He said it was against this background that he set up the Ayo Salami-led commission of inquiry to unravel the mystery behind the mystique of Magu’s alleged involvement in corruption that he was fighting.
Buhari, who further said the federal government was ready to go the whole hog to fight corruption, threatened that no one was too big to become the victim of anti-graft’s sledge hammer.
He said: “However, the stark reality of widespread corruption becomes poignant when allegations of corruption touches on the leadership of an institution set up by law to coordinate and enforce all economic and financial crimes.
“It is an abomination that strikes at the root, and undermines the government’s anti-corruption programme.
”It was in response to the serious allegations against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that I set up a Panel headed by the Honourable Justice Isa Ayo Salami, retired President of the Court of Appeal, via an Instrument dated 3rd July 2020 pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry Act (Cap T21, LFN, 2004).
”We recognise that there are more grounds to cover in the war against corruption, and we are prepared to go out to possess those lands by cutting off any stream that nourishes the seed of corruption and supports its growth.
”Let it be known that in the fight against corruption, no one is too big to tackle, as no individual is bigger than the Nigerian State!”
He said his desire was to make Nigeria zero tolerant to corruption, describing the country as a place “where the menace is vigorously battled.”
He added that whereas corruption exists in all countries of the world, and being handled differently, he wants Nigeria to be among those that do not condone it.
”Corruption is present in all countries. Some governments treat it with levity. Some fight it all the time. I want Nigeria to be counted among those countries that do not tolerate but fight corruption,” he said.
The president tasked all Nigerians to be enlisted in the battle against corruption, in the overall effort to protect the country’s political and economic systems, and simultaneously sustain its existence.
Buhari also stated that the fight against corruption must be fought without fear or favour.
He thanked members of the Salami-led panel for what he described as their dedication and commitment to the battle against corruption.
Furthermore, Buhari claimed that it was the endemic nature of corruption in Nigeria which propelled the federal government’s focus on anti-corruption war.
Listing various measures embraced by the federal government to put the menace of corruption under control, Buhari said the government remained focused on the war against corruption until victory.
”The sad reality confronting us as a people is that there is corruption almost everywhere; at many levels of government, and nearly every stratum of our society. Mindful of the threat that corruption poses to us as a nation, this administration has specifically focused on the fight against corruption.
”As a government, and in furtherance of our anti-corruption programme, we have since inception engaged in many reforms in removing corruption, including but not limited to the enforcement of Treasury Single Account (TSA), strict implementation of the Bank Verification Number Policy and signing unto the Open Government Partnership. A lot of efforts have gone into building and development of our anti-corruption institutions.
”We have so far kept faith with our promise and shall remain committed until Nigeria triumphs over the evil of corruption, attain a prosperous economic status and surmounts her security challenges,” he said.
According to the statement, Salami in his own remarks, told Buhari that Magu and 113 other witnesses appeared and testified before the commission.
He also told the president that 46 petitions and memoranda were presented by different individuals and organisations with complaints against the embattled and suspended acting chairman of EFCC.
Salami told the meeting that the panel embarked on a nationwide physical verification of recovered forfeited assets, including real estates, automobiles, vessels and non-cash assets.
He said the juror commended the president for the initiative to dispose all forfeited assets ”because of the poor condition of the assets we saw during our physical verification nationwide.”