The confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as the substantive Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) suffered another debilitating blow with the eventual rejection of his nomination by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Magu was appointed the acting chair of EFCC after the removal of Ibrahim Lamorde on November 9, 2015. His name was forwarded to the Senate for confirmation on July 14, through a letter signed by the Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo in his capacity as Acting President while the president was away on medical trip. The way and manner his name was sent to the Senate especially at a time President Buhari was away in the estimation of many smelt of a big rat.
The palpable sign of his rejection had been hovering for quite some time with the Senate bidding its time to concoct one flimsy excuse on failure of integrity test as reason to drop him. After five months of foot- dragging and two postponements of invitations to appear before the Senate for drilling, the hope of the anti-corruption czar was completely dashed. This time around, the Senate suddenly relied on a report by the Department of State Services (DSS) indicting Magu of some malfeasance as the basis for rejecting his confirmation. Briefing the newsmen, the Senate spokesman Abdullahi Sabi said: “The Senate hereby rejects the said nomination and has returned the said nomination to Mr. President for further action. There is no confusion here. We have said it is based on security reports.” The Senate did not decide Magu’s case in the committee of the whole but deceived itself and Nigerians by announcing the decision to reject him after a closed-door session when the gallery was cleared. Why were the votes not taken in the public?
The Senate traditionally relies on security reports emanating from the DSS as a precursor to confirmation of any individuals billed to take up public offices. However, such reports are not automatically binding on the Senate to accept hook-line-and-sinker. The issue of two separate reports emanating from the same DSS on the same person deserves public scrutiny and questioning. Therefore, choosing the damning report above the favourable one as the basis for disqualifying the nominee is unfair and unsustainable. Some senators and unseen political hands against Magu are on the trial list of EFCC; therefore, the anti-corruption czar who is seen as a major obstacle to wriggling out of their cases is a good riddance to bad rubbish. Is this not a case of corruption as usual fighting back? It will take only President Buhari’s intervention and re-submission of his name to keep this hope alive.
EFCC has had to contend with issues of high-handedness and other sundry allegations ranging from accusation of corrupt enrichment of officers of the commission. It is on record that Nuhu Ribadu was eased out of office for the above reasons. EFCC under Farida Waziri lost its teeth and relevance completely as the commission was said to have condoned the excesses of some elements said to be corrupt. The turbulent times for EFCC continued even under Ibrahim Lamorde. At the twilight of his chairmanship, he was immersed in corrupt controversy leading to his appearance before the House of Representatives Committee on Anti-Corruption.
The delay in Magu’s confirmation has raised suspicions on our genuine desire as a nation to fight corruption. Truth be told, the commission to many Nigerians has become an attack dog of the government in power. Many damning petitions against some APC stalwarts in possession of EFCC are deliberately left unattended to while it bared its fangs against some notable appointees of the past administrations who are tried in the media and also hauled into detention. Allegations against every head of the agency have led to removal. Ribadu was accused of over-zealousness while diligently carrying out his duties. Nobody is perfect and we do not expect an angel to head the anti-corruption agency. The fight against corruption in Nigeria has suffered tremendous setbacks.With the political will power inherently lacking amongst political leaders and elite to support this anti-corruption war, the commission, is stranded and has little or no magic to perform.
Eze, a media and communications specialist, writes from Kaduna