By Henry Uche, Lagos
Anti-corruption groups have indicated that Nigeria’s poor ranking (149/180) in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report as the second most corrupt country in Africa after Guinea Bissau is self-inflicted.
The groups, HEDA Resource Centre, Global Witness, Re:Common and The Corner House, said that all indicators which aided TI to arrive at the conclusion on Nigeria’s position in the corruption index are conspicuous to all and Sundry, one of which according to them was presidency’s failure to release the report of the judicial panel on former Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) Mr Ibrahim Magu.
In a statement delivered by the Chairman, Human And Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), Olanrewaju Suraju, the group had in a letter addressed to President Muhammad Buhari urged him to release the report on Magu, noting that the political interference in the operation of EFCC and inability of the Nigerian authorities to release the report was an indication that whole exercise was witch-hunting and partly responsible for the recent drop in Nigeria’s anti-corruption rating by Transparency International.
The group said over seven months since the judicial panel chaired by Mr Justice Ayo Isa Salami was established to investigate the allegations made by the Attorney General Abubakar Malami that Magu had abused his office, more than four months after the panel ended its sitting, the outcome has been kept secret amidst suspicion that Malami tinkered with the report.
The coalition said suspicion has been deepened that the whole exercise was aimed at halting the good work of Magu who has been acclaimed worldwide as placing Nigeria on a glorious footing.
The group regretted that no charges have yet been brought against Magu, whose tenure at the EFCC continues to be viewed within the international anti-corruption movement as an exemplary period that restored confidence in Nigeria’s commitment to fighting graft, nor have the findings of the Salami report been made public noting that efforts by anti-corruption Groups supporting Nigeria in its efforts to fight corruption but have been left in despair.
‘As the legal maxim goes, “Justice delayed, is justice denied”. If Magu has a case to answer, then let him be charged before a court and given the opportunity to defend himself in public. If there is no case to answer, then justice demands that he be reinstated. Indeed, every day that passes without a decision being made on his fate chips another block off Nigeria’s reputation for upholding the rule of law.
‘This not only raises questions about Nigeria’s anti-corruption fight, but has strongly suggested to the international community that Nigeria’s fight is not, in the end, serious – that instead, progress can only be made against small targets, and that once the “important” begins to be held to account, the lackeys of the corrupt will be permitted to sabotage due process, absent even the semblance of any subtlety.’
The group reminded Buhari that the world anticipates that the administration of President Joe Biden will take a renewed interest in the international fight against corruption now that the Trump administration has ended, adding that given the US’s own recent experience of a serving law enforcement officer removed from office because he was unwilling to drop an investigation (in this instance into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections), ‘we fully expect that lawmakers on Capitol Hill will be eager to ensure that similar abuses of power do not hamper anticorruption efforts elsewhere.’
The coalition said it has no doubt that, unless swiftly resolved, the vendetta that the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, has waged against Magu will likely be a focus of interest. Nigeria has a reputation to protect now more than ever before.
‘For the sake of Nigeria and the reputation of your Presidency, we again unequivocally urge you to weigh in and see that justice is not only done but, seen to be done in this matter,’ the group stated.