Ibrahim Magu

Abayomi Akeremale argues that Ibrahim Magu is a tragic hero

A tragic hero, to me, is a principal character endowed with some good unique qualities and enviable values but who, due to some character flaws, was brought to a tragic end.

Within the framework of this definition, Ibrahim Magu, the suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) can be classified as a tragic hero. He is highly principled but undiplomatic and stubborn on the side of truth, hence the tragic fate that befell him.

He is also a tragic hero because he came to the scene at a time of a seeming conspiracy to emasculate his institution and also damage his reputation, character and tested principles of honesty and integrity.

One’s purpose here is to expose some obvious defects in the recently submitted report of the judicial panel headed by the Hon Justice Ayo Salami (rtd), who seemed to have been recalled from his quiet retirement to act a script believed by many, to have been prepared to nail the coffin of the Nigeria Police Force, a body already amputated, emasculated and decapitated, and being asked to jump.

It would seem that right from the onset, the mission of the Salami judicial panel was not to investigate the alleged acts of omission or commission of the suspended EFCC Chairman but to work out a crime against him, targeted at his institution.

The panel started its assignment by attacking the act that created the EFCC chairmanship. Many who could read between the lines wondered what the act had to do with Magu’s alleged malfeasance which the body was asked to establish and indict him if he was found wanting.

The report of the panel submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari seems to have confirmed such mindset.

In his symbolic logic class at the University of Ibadan in those days, Professor Peter Bodurin of blessed memory had taught his students of many fallacies. The first of such was the fallacy of generalization which the renowned academic said was common in Nigeria. The fallacy, according to him, goes thus:

One Peter stole chicken yesterday, therefore all persons known as Peter are thieves. Bodurin termed it an illogical argument and therefore a fallacy.

It is difficult to believe that such an esteemed panel as the one headed by Salami would canvas the argument that all policemen in the EFCC are bad, a position not deduced from any valid premise. The first lie and illogical argument the panel wanted to force down our throat was that Magu, as Chairman of the EFCC had embezzled all the interest on the funds recovered by the Commission.

This was publicized by the media for consumption by gullible members of the public until the Central Bank punctured the fabricated evidence, saying that all the recovered monies were paid into a particular non- interest yielding account in the CBN. If it were in other climes, such published inaccuracies were enough to have caused the removal of the Chairman of the panel, Justice Salami.

The panel also persisted in what some saw as a persecution mission without prosecution.

It is a cardinal part of the Evidence Act that he who alleges must prove. The person who alleges the existence of any fact or non-existence of such facts must prove that those facts exist or do not exist.

The Attorney-General of the Federation was said to have leveled allegations of malfeasance and misconduct against the suspended EFCC boss. Media reports subsequently had it that the Attorney-General declared that he would not appear before the Salami Panel and he did not appear.

He is the principal complainant in the matter and it is trite law that where a witness is not cross-examined, little or no weight at all shall be attached to his evidence. How did panel arrive at the ratio decidendi for its conclusion?

How did the panel arrive at the misguided conclusion that all the policemen serving in EFCC are bad, if not for a prejudicial mindset?

What is expected of the Salami judicial panel was to tell the world how much was found in Magu’s bank accounts, hidden somewhere, and how many houses he built in Saudi Arabia, Dubai or in his home town, and not for it to beam its searchlight on non-existent evidence.

One recalls vividly that in 1999, Sam Omokharo, a Commissioner of Police, retired and of blessed memory, noble in character, uncompromising, honest and reliable, was named the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

Some newspapers defended the action of the then President, saying the act creating the NYSC only mentioned, in relation to the headship of the agency, director or anyone in the civil service or even a member of the civil society. But a powerful group approached the then President with the infantile argument that it was the tradition to reserve the portfolio for a particular favoured institution. Following that, the late Commissioner of Police did not spend up to six months in office before he was removed.

The situation in which Magu has found himself is not new. The present EFCC headquarters in Abuja was designed during the tenure of Mrs. Fatima Waziri, a virtuous, highly educated, honest and straight forward lawyer. The contract for the construction of the edifice was subsequently contracted to a foreign firm.

Mrs. Waziri, then a serving Assistant Inspector-General of Police, was almost disgraced out of office but for her doggedness, honesty and integrity. It is the Police, the same institution that produced Waziri that the Salami Panel now says should be dislodged from the EFCC.

When the subterranean police antagonists were at work, one remembers her saying that when you fight corruption, corruption would fight back. This is what Magu is currently facing.

No wonder the Bible asked the children of Israel which of the prophets did their fathers not persecute?

The seeming conspiracy against the police continues but the society will also feel its ripple effect. When you cut your nose to spite your face you become uglier for it.

Magu’s travails were said to have arisen from a friction between him and his boss, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. The Attorney-General was reported to have requested for some EFCC case files for vetting but Magu was said to have refused. If that is true, that was undiplomatic and amounted to insubordination on his part. It is doubtful if Magu was aware of what the provision of Section 174 (1) a-c of the Constitution says as below:

174(1) The Attorney General of the Federation shall have power (a) To institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law in Nigeria, other than a court martial in respect of any offence created by or under any act of the National Assembly,

(b) To discontinue at any stage before judgment is delivered any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other authority or persons; and

(c) To discontinue at any stage before judgment is delivered any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted or undertaken by him or any other authority or persons.

A subordinate requires tact and diplomacy in dealing with a person vested with such enormous powers.

If one were in Magu’s position, one would have initiated a memorandum to the AGF, giving reasons for the findings and conclusion for his consideration, a copy of which would be kept for future reference.

The famous human rights crusader, Ayo Opadokun, in his book, “The Politics of Corruption and the Corruption of Politics,” said the fight against corruption is a class struggle for ascension to power. Here we are in a society where law making is to shield the criminal from detection and prosecution. The hunter has become the hunted.

In the introduction to his play “Arms and the Man”, Bernard Shaw says “where there is no law and order; society would become an arena of wild beasts tearing one another to pieces.”

There should be no place even in the Aso Rock Villa library for the document submitted by the Justice Salami, for the otherwise esteemed body did not confine itself to its terms of reference. The entire exercise, owing to the foregoing, is a waste of public funds and its outcome ought to be discountenanced.

Akeremale, a retired Commissioner of Police, practices Law in Abuja