Ibrahim Magu, the thief-catcher, has had his day. Every man always has his own day; a day of high tide and a day of low tide. For Magu, his was a day of low tide, of melancholy, of trauma and frustration. That day was Wednesday, March 15, 2017. The Ides of March is not known to be fair to mortal man. Magu was no exception. The man who bestrides the anti-corruption agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), with inviolable hubris was reduced to a despicable scum by the Nigerian Senate.
Magu had appeared before Senate for screening to be confirmed as the substantive Chairman of the EFCC, the second time of asking, having been earlier turned down for consideration. He arrived on time. He looked sober. That should be expected of a man who wears an austere look, forces a wry smile here and there but nothing more. Magu is not known to be flippant; neither is he noted for oratorical sagacity. Taciturn with a mildly mean mien, Magu held his nerves as he waltzed up to the podium to address the senators and take questions from them.
Anybody who followed the screening dispassionately would tell that Magu failed to impress on the day. It was difficult to place the reason(s) for his below par performance. He could not answer certain questions that would have helped his case. Even when he answered some, he did not sound convincing. Whatever happened to him on this Ides of March. He was largely incoherent, illogical and could not clear the air with convincing perspicacity on certain weighty allegations against his person and character. Magu, for instance, did not know how much loot has been recovered by the agency he heads.
On this particular question of loot recovery, he scored low. He ought to know and he ought to have anticipated such question. This is even more so because the issue of recovered loot has been in the public domain. Many Nigerians including the ordinary man out there have expressed worry at the level of secrecy with which the government has treated the issue of recovered loot. A clear and concise breakdown of the monies and property ought to be included in Magu’s prefatory statement before the Senate. Somebody just failed to do his homework very well; or as it now appears took the Senate for granted.
But worst of it all was the damning and damaging report from the Directorate of State Services (DSS). The report to put it mildly portrayed Magu as an abhorrent deviant, a serial crook and Janus-faced sleazy operative who dines with the devil at night only to come out at day to berate the same devil.
If that report is true both in spirit and letter, then Magu would need to face further drill to clear his name. But on the floor of the Senate, Magu raised a fundamental question and a cogent point to the effect that DSS did not give him right of fair hearing before writing a report against him and his character. He also raised the issue of the DSS issuing two varying reports about him on the same day. Something is fishy here that would require further inquisition. As Magu stands today, he is an indicted fellow, a delinquent, a man who cannot stand the scrutiny of integrity. He must head to court to clear his name. He would require a lot of deodorant to make himself smell like rose again. The DSS report also puts a dampener on the veracity of judgment of President Buhari who nominated Magu in the first instance and who re-nominated him after clearing him of any misconduct vide a letter to the Senate from the Presidency. A few excerpts from the DSS report would just suffice.
“Investigations show that the Acting EFCC Chairman regularly embarks on official and private trips through a private carrier, Easyjet, owned by Umar Mohammed. In one of such trips, Magu flew to Maiduguri, alongside Mohammed and the MD of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo, who was being investigated by the commission over complicity in funds allegedly stolen by the immediate past Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
“Furthermore, the EFCC boss has so far maintained a high profile lifestyle. This is exemplified by his preference for First Class air travels. On 24th June, 2016, he flew Emirates Airlines’ First Class to Saudi Arabia to perform the Lesser Hajj at the cost of N2,990,196. This is in spite of Mr. President’s directive to all public servants to fly Economy Class.
“In the light of the foregoing, Magu has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.”
The above are heavy allegations that cannot be swept away too easily. And from the foregoing, it is clear that Magu’s enemy is not the Senate but the DSS report. Whatever happens in the coming weeks and months, I will advise Magu to head to court to clear his name. The DSS must prove the allegations. The Senate may be a mug of maggots with respect to corruption but from the DSS report Magu may be an even bigger maggot among the maggoty mob. Magu has as an after-thought put up a defence against the allegations. This is not enough. The court would serve him better.
Fighting corruption is not about making arrests and throwing people into dungeons. It goes beyond doing the bidding of a particular political group or person(s) and therefore giving yourself out as biased and compromised. The anti-corruption crusader must be clearly above board; without blemish. That was the point stressed by the Senate; that Magu’s style mirrors a typical Nigerian pattern of applying either deodorant or insecticide on a corruption case depending on who is involved.
Any Nigerian public defender and anti-graft czar must copy from the style book of Ms. Thuli Madonsela, the South African public defender who has investigated top South Africans including Julius Malema and sitting President Jacob Zuma, and even indicted the President. Ever since that high profile case against Zuma, the world has not stopped talking about Ms. Madonsela. She’s a woman above board and an impartial arbiter and defender of the public. She operated within the confines of the law. Such attributes the Senate said they cannot find in Magu.
Granted, the Senate is not having the best of cordial relationship with the Presidency and the nation’s anti-crime agencies, not least is the EFCC. The leadership of the Senate was dragged to court in a case of alleged forgery; the President of the Senate is under the hammer at the Code of Conduct Tribunal over asset declaration; some senators are facing trial for their alleged misdemeanour in their previous stations as Governors or what have you. So, the dagger is always drawn, understandably. One thing seems at play here: vengeance cloaked in the garb of separation of power.
But no matter, Magu played into their hands by the manner he fielded questions, he was unconvincing and above all, he was undone by the DSS report. No sane Senate would read through that report and ignore it.
Magu’s next battle would be to confront the DSS with every legal instrument at his disposal. He is still young, meaning there is still life after EFCC but he has been tarred in the most contemptible and loathsome coating by an anti-crime institution Is it a case of corruption fighting back? Was there a conspiracy to undo him by those he has ‘disgraced’ in the last couple of months? Is Magu a victim of inter-agency ego and fissure? Both the EFCC and DSS have not had the best of relationship in the past and it got worse under Magu’s leadership.
These are the theories but they do not remove the slur on Magu going by the testimony of the DSS. This is why Mr. Magu must clear his head, hold a meeting with his lawyers and approach the court to clear his name by repudiating the DSS report. The Presidential clearance is not enough. But beyond Magu and the shenanigan from the senate, the nation’s anti-corruption agencies need people with the virtue of Madonsela.