On the brouhaha trailing the suspension of the former Ag chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, you may even confused on how to release a comment or don’t know what to say? The is far beyond the case of the hunter being hunted and a supposed man of integrity possibly finding his own white cloth completely stained with all manner of dirt. What if all the allegation made against such man turned out to be through following the conclusion of the presidential investigation panel?
Is it the sheer brazenness of his reported misdemeanour, that while he was busy tracking and throwing suspects accused of financial crimes into detention, he was himself quietly raking through proxies gold in form of monies and properties running into billions of dollars to his side? What kind of boldness could he have had to go about all these, being fully aware of his own criminal activities?
These are pertinent questions to ask, but they seem grossly unfair and irrelevant in the face of what has so far been released through sources close to the panel investigating Magu’s time in office. The immediate allegations that led to all these are that there are discrepancies in the figures of funds declared by the EFCC to have been recovered from persons and groups guilty of financial crimes and what the Commission actually lodged in banks.
Abubakar Malami and Ibrahim Magu
There are also allegations of insubordination of the EFCC chairman to Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, whose office exercises supervisory role over the EFCC. There have been reports of no love lost between Magu and Malami. It was under the fraught atmosphere of this professional relationship that Ibrahim Magu was accosted Gestapo-style on a busy highway in Abuja and hurled before the panel that is now investigating him.
As I write this, it has been a week since Magu was brought before the panel and he has not been allowed home, only given limited time with his lawyers. All of this would seem a clear violation of his rights. But it was for conduct like this that Ibrahim Magu had himself been criticised in the past.
The EFCC under Magu was notorious for its violation of the rights of persons under its investigations. The Commission in the name of investigating financial crimes ignored court orders while turning its detention centres into a jailhouse run and managed by persons answerable only to the EFCC boss.
Its standard response to criticisms of such violations was that corruption was fighting back. The callousness of this type of behaviour never appeared to have bothered Magu and his so-called boys at the EFCC. They were a law unto themselves.
Many days now since he was detained Magu has been kept incommunicado. Nobody has heard directly from him. Only bits of information from his lawyer, Oluwatosin Ojaomo, about attempts being made to secure his bail have been available.
It is remarkable that most of the allegations against him have been second-hand reports of what transpired at the panel investigating him. There have been innuendoes and voyeuristic bits of what Magu is supposed to have amassed but nothing definitive has been said or established against him.
Until his suspension was affirmed by President Muhammadu Buhari and a replacement announced for him in an acting capacity, it was still possible to assume that Magu might yet return to his position in the EFCC. But now that appears a closed chapter in his life.
More fundamentally, the fact that nothing substantial was established against him a week after he was arrested leaves one wondering what actually was the basis for his arrest. Is the Justice Ayo Salami panel only just now extracting information it needs to prosecute Magu from him?
He has been accused of insubordination, specifically withholding some case files from Abubakar Malami, who could hardly be described as impartial in the situation Magu has found himself.
Could this charge of insubordination be the reason Magu’s home was searched in his absence? How sure are we that information critical to his defence would not be denied him in these circumstances? How fair and above board are the tactics being employed in the criminal investigation of Magu?
There is no doubt that Magu is guilty of employing the same underhand tactics that are now being deployed against him, but if he was guilty of this as an individual should the state also be guilty of the same thing? This was a man that did not appear capable of doing anything wrong in the eye of the president only days ago? What is responsible for this change of attitude?
The Presidency may wish to claim, as it has, that it was all about integrity and fighting corruption and nobody is above the law. But that is a claim it will now be increasingly under pressure to prove with the arrest and dethronement of Magu.
What is playing out, particularly with the lack of definite charge as to Magu’s crime, looks like a turf war or at best an attempt to dump an operative that has outlived his usefulness for certain individuals and groups. This, it seems, is a case of a dog eating another dog. There is absolutely nothing new in the accusations against Magu. He was accused of worst by the National Assembly under Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara that refused to confirm his appointment.
After five years in the saddle, Magu has served longest as EFCC chair even though he was the only one not confirmed by the Senate as required by the Act that established the EFCC.
In what looked like a breach of protocol and slap on the president, the Department of State Services, DSS, under Lawal Daura, wrote a damning report of corrupt enrichment/conduct against Ibrahim Magu which stalled his confirmation during his appearance before the Senate. President Buhari stood behind him solidly and his traducers and others in the National Assembly that denied him confirmation were made to look like corrupt people that could not tolerate the scrutiny of a highly professional and intelligent investigator.
Even when Magu did not come across as a particularly brilliant or articulate individual it was all put down to his lack of verbal competence. Except for those who may have had personal interaction with him, nobody can prove that is no longer the case. But neither the president, the presidency nor Malami can with a wave of the hand disown Magu while appearing to push him into a corner and denying him the means to defend himself adequately.
He was for five years their go-to man. He did their bidding and campaigned for Buhari. Having flaunted his credentials before the world, they must convince Nigerians of what has changed about their position. They have a tough row to plough as far as this goes. The arrest of Magu stands their claim of fighting corruption on its head.