If, truly, wishes were horses, beggars won’t hesitate to take a ride. But, we all know wishes are truly not horses. The latter are what they are. You must work hard to earn them. You must have the purchasing power to own a horse before you can ride one.
Following from the above, there is no atom of doubt that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, SAN, wants the suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, out of the way at all cost. That’s his ultimate wish. But will his wish become a horse so he can take a ride? The jury is out.
There’s more to the wish, though. The AGF is energizing his wish to make it a reality. Will he succeed? He will only succeed if, actually, Magu did soil his hands in the course of his relentless battle against the hydra-headed monster called corruption, which President Muhammadu Buhari found him worthy to lead and champion back in 2015.
It is on record that Malami has been doing everything to undermine Magu, get him investigated and prosecuted, if he has his way. To an extent, he is having his way with the way the Justice Ayo Salami-led judicial commission of inquiry to probe allegations of fraud and insurbordination all slammed by Malami against Magu is going on with its opaque, one-sided investigation.
Yet, as the underhand tactics and subterranean powerplays to demobilize and incapacitate Magu continue at home by agents of darkness, he is being vindicated abroad by those who dispense justice in the temple of truth, transparency and accountability without fear nor favour. Talk of a prophet who has no honour at home but is laced with garlands of honour in a far-flung place where there is premium value placed on honour.
There is nothing more validating of the anti-graft credentials and bonafides of Magu than the recent implied commendation in the judgment of Justice Ross Cranston in the British Commercial Courts of England and Wales between Nigeria and the P&ID over the controversial award of $10 billion to the Irish firm.
It is instructive to note that the judge had, in paragraphs 251, 253, 254 and page 260 of his judgment, held that he was satisfied with the way and manner the EFCC under Magu carried out its investigation of the contract scam, which UK court substantially relied on before granting Nigeria the extension of time and relief from sanctions.
Commending the EFCC under the watch of Magu, Justice Ross Cranston held in paragraphs 253 and 254 that : “What occurred might have been the EFCC proceeding at its normal pace in the light of the resources allocated to it, the other inquiries it was conducting and conditions in Nigeria.
“By comparison, the position after August 2019, might be exceptional and prompted by the serious position Nigeria faced in the light of Butchers J’s decision on the enforcement application. At this point, it is impossible to say. However, I cannot accept Mr. Mill’s (P&ID’s counsel) submission that there was no proper deligent investigation. The basic point is that there was no specific information such that Nigeria ought to have become aware of the building blocks of fraud now alleged.”
The Judge further held in paragraph 251 that, “In my view, Mr. Mill underplayed the work, which was undertaken over the June 2018 to August 2019 period. In particular, there was the successful prosecution of P& ID and P& ID Nigeria on 19 September, 2019, based on the ground work undertaken during this 15-month period.”
Still underscoring the remarkable work by the EFCC under Magu, the judge concluded at page 260 that: “ …the fraud is complex in character and continuing. Even on my preliminary examination, it comprises a number of quite different strands. What occurred in this case was deliberately concealed. Especially with international advisers it engaged, P& ID wore the clock of legitimacy. In the circumstances which Nigeria has prima facie established it acted reasonably in its investigations.”
Meanwhile, Malami, determined to axe Magu down, had in a letter he sent to President Muhammadu Buhari accused Magu of failing to act swiftly on the P &ID investigation. He said Magu’s nonchalant attitude would have cost Nigeria to lose an estimated N47 billion. Among other things, Malami said: “these losses would be directly linked to the lack of response by the Acting Chairman (Magu) or lack of coordination and the Acting Chairman’s recalcitrant attitude to work.”
However, as revealed by the judgment of Justice Cranston, nothing can be more mendacious than the malicious allegation of Malami that Magu displayed a nonchalant attitude to the investigation. Contrary to his allegations, records from the court show that Magu and his team swung into action immediately he got hold of the brief.
The whole of the above brings to the fore, once again, that no, matter how long truth is buried by the forces of falsehood, it will always prevail. It needs be asked: if, according to Malami, Magu did not swing into action immediately to investigate the scandal, how come the British judge commended the efforts and diligence of the anti-graft agency in getting to the root of the matter? Malami and his backers may need to provide us an answer in this regard.
If in a faraway land the false allegation of lack of diligence on the part of Magu by Malami has been shredded to what it is – a tissue of lies – how do we trust the other allegations he made against the same man, which the Salami panel is currently working on to unravel, especially when one takes cognizance of the hostility of the panel towards Magu and his counsel, Wahab Shittu? Well, Nigerians are waiting with bated breath to see how the panel is going to pan out eventually. For now, it is Magu 1-0 Malami, at half time.
•Olatunde is a Lagos- based policy analyst