Lately, Nigerian public sphere has been polluted with shocks, disappointments, betrayals, parting of ways, and bereavement, which, understandably, generated trauma unconsciously leading to uncontrolled temper. In the midst of that pollution, the dramatic fall (perhaps slip) of erstwhile longest serving acting chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ibrahim Magu, easily stands out, especially after the untimely death of ex-Governor of Oyo state, Senator Abiola Ajimobi.
Indeed, controversy should have been an added name for Magu, whose appointment and two unsuccessful attempts to get him confirmed by National Assembly generated much public argumentation. Thus he served merely in acting capacity throughout his tenure of five years, a tenure, which, by the way, is the longest in the history of the agency. And when doubts emerged about Magu’s continued stay in office in acting capacity, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo came to his rescue with legal opinion that the man required no confirmation by the Senate, a view which was another controversy.
There is then the latest controversy, which, perhaps, as the final one, shatters in many directions, each virtually standing on its own and must be so treated. From the favoured one for whom Aso Rock stuck out its neck in 2015, Magu was rendered derelict by the same Aso Rock trying him for various charges, as a prelude possibly to the sudden and humiliating end of his career. Magu’s present ordeal can be classified into three, only two of which are arguable, as anybody without vested interests should leave Magu to face trial and defend himself. The three segments are circumstances of his arrest (or capture, if not kidnap), the patently criminal charges and the administrative charges.
Suspended EFCC boss Ibrahim Magu’s expertise is to level criminal financial charges rightly or wrongly against suspects who are always on their own unless allowed visits by potential defence counsel. The criminal charges against Magu should not, therefore, surprise him and he too is on his own. The charges are weighty and shocking and only he and those interrogating him can establish the facts. Then the law should take its course
Meanwhile, we have to be careful how we enforce laws in this country. It is all the more worrisome when armed junior security personnel are unleashed on senior officers who could ordinarily have been summoned by the supervising service chief even for arrests. In the matter of deputy police commissioner Magu, it was not clear if Attorney-General Abubakar Malami summoned him to Aso Rock. Even if he rebuffed such summons, it would have been neater not to slight the Police Inspector-General, who, on a phone call, could have arrested and delivered his subordinate to the authorities. There should be a well-defined line of authority. If Magu snubbed an order summoning him to Aso Rock, he knows the consequences.
Last time, former Police Inspector-General Tafa Balogun was even wrestled down and humiliated by far, far junior officers on the premises of a law court in Abuja after he had been granted bail. In Magu’s case, he was still a serving officer, even if a suspect or an accused. Again, in Rivers State, in 2018, in an attempt to arrest a judge or search his home for proceeds of corruption, State Security personnel and the governor’s security, both sides well-armed, engaged in avoidable supremacy threatening misconduct. Luckily, there was no accidental discharge. Suppose the governor was fatally wounded?
In Magu’s arrest, SSS had order to bring him to Aso Rock. Equally, Magu’s armed security were on standard to ensure the safety of their principal, lest some thugs kidnap him. Even as EFCC boss, Magu is a deputy commissioner of police still answerable to Inspector-General of Police in the first place. It can only be hoped that, one day, there won’t be fatal accidental discharge and attendant disastrous consequences.
Let’s face it, Magu deserves whatever accusation levelled against him on his failure to produce Diezani Allison-Madueke, since he brought it on himself, especially by engaging in unnecessary propaganda on series of allegations he could not substantiate either here in Nigeria or in Britain. Hence, the charge of failing to adduce enough evidence against the former oil minister. About four years ago, vague and yet-to-be-proved allegations were being leaked by EFCC to the media, all against Diezani, with the misleading impression that the evidence was unassailable.
Diezani Allison-Maduike was apparently so pissed off that she indicated returning to Nigeria to challenge Magu’s allegations in a court of law. In effect, she volunteered facing trial in Nigeria. Magu rejected the offer on the ground that Diezani should first face her trial in London for alleged money laundering. If Magu had the evidence, why oppose her voluntary offer to return and face trial in Nigeria? A serious Magu would have allowed her to fall into his trap by luring her to come down.
Later, Magu turned round with another propaganda, extradition suit against Diezani. Did Magu succeed? No. How much did that suit cost Nigeria in expenses for British lawyers or trips to Britain by Msgu and his men? At the end of the day, Where is Diezani? Clearly, a smart lady. While Magu was engaging in propaganda with his extradition suit, Diezani was finalising processing of her application for citizenship of Dominica in eastern Carribean. With that citizenship, Diezani is safe from being extradited to Nigeria.
That had not even happened when Magu was severely criticised in this column to stop his hanky-panky on the Diezani issue. He should, therefore, blame himself for this particular charge on failure to produce Diezani. And that ridicules the propaganda of obtaining over 2,000 convictions. Who were those convicted? Many of them unknown. As much as EFCC has minimally contained financial crimes, the ageny was established mainly to tackle crooks parading as ministers, governors, bank chief executives flaunting their billions of dollars, etc. How many of them have been convicted on account of EFCC’s prosecution? All those who crashed our banks in the financial crisis of 2008 are roaming about Nigeria because of EFCC’s seeming deliberate misprosecution, underprosecution or deliberate acquiesence in bail to allow the accused abscond abroad to escape trial.
A single conviction against a big fish like Diezani would have earned EFCC some distinction as a serious financial crime-fighting agency because the billions of dollars involved is worth more than 200 convictions of petty criminals. Insurbordination against Attorney-General Abubakar Malami? That is not a crime. It is administrative misconduct on the part of suspended EFCC boss Magu, and that cannot end in criminal conviction. For that, he could only be redeployed to police authorities for fresh posting.
One allegation that should never have been contemplated and cannot stand is that Magu was favouring some boy at EFCC. So what? Who is that boss in Nigeria or anywhere in the world without favourites? Forget his humiliation today. Even Aso Rock favoured Ibrahim Magu. Otherwise, he would not have been retained as acting EFCC chairman for five years despite being rejected for confirmation by the Senate.
Alleged issuance of investigative activities to some media houses capable of being prejudicial to some cases? This charge could only be presumptuous and is neither here nor there. Undoubtedly, there were regular leakages but resourceful a reporter could still have distinguished himself purely on merit. Yet, in either case, no worthy reporter would or should disclose source of information. And such reports must not be mixed with EFCC’s official releases for regular propaganda purposes on Diezani mentioned above.
This Magu man must be very controversial, a trait he continues to exude even as he is going down and out(?). When the first blows of his enemies landed on him, early protests in his favour caused open split in one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s volunteer supporters, the Presidential Advisory Council Against Corruption. A member of that group, Femi Odekunle, offered stout defence for Magu against Malami. The partisanship was blatantly unapologetic such that a spokesman had to hurriedly clarify that Odekunle spoke for himself rather than for the group. It’s been cemetery silence since then.
Magu may have gone as chairman of EFCC but the man is leaving behind a landmine kind of controversy, with which his erstwhile benefactors have to reckon in appointing a successor. Since its establishment in 2004, only northerners and, specifically, from North-East had headed the place one after another. Nuhu Ribadu (Adamawa), Farida Waziri (Bauchi), Ibrahim Lamurde (Adamawa) and Magu (Borno/Yobe axis). It will be a hard sell for another northerner or north-easterner to be appointed Magu’s successor.
N/Assembly task on FIRS
Is Nigerian Federal Inland Revenue Service part of modern world? It is doubtful. Even by the notorious standard of every public agency in the country being a law unto itself, ever coming out with its own regulations in total disregard of government policy or Nigerian constitution, the decision of FIRS to introduce stamp duty on tenancy agreement and certificate of occupancy is grotesque. Otherwise, why must poor and helpless Nigerians be the guinea pig of every callous desire to increase government revenue? For example, local or international air travel in Nigeria is one of the most expensive owing to ever-increasing taxes on various items or leisure at the airports, if at all such facilities are functioning.
All over the world today, the operative word is palliative to cushion the hardship created by coronavirus. Among such palliatives in Britain is the suspension of stamp duty for new home buyers.IsNigerian Inland Revenue Service aware of that? If not, why not? Yet, FIRS chose that very moment to introduce what was abolished, even if temporarily, in a considerate society. The FIRS decision is only meant to impress Aso Rock, while, on the contrary, the same Aso Rock, through no fault of its own, will in the process be alienated from struggling Nigerians.
The new FIRS tax is coming at a time value added tax was increased by 50 per cent. Nigerian government chose the lockdown on coronavirus to sneak on Nigerians total withdrawal of fuel subsidy, thereby paving the way for fuel pump price hike and reverberating increase in cost of everyday living, especially for poor Nigerians on food prices, transport fares, house rents, children’s school fees, clothings, etc. The same coronavirus has been exploited to increase air fares. The FIRS is introducing stamp duty at a time National Assembly halted Discos from increasing electricity tariff.
Who will not be affected by FIRS proposed stamp duty on tenancy agreement and certificate of occupancy? Over 80 per cent of Nigerians are tenants to whom landlords will transfer any tax on tenancy agreement or certificate of occupancy. In any case, the poorest segment of Nigerians are struggling tenants still on N18,000, despite the new so-called national minimum wage of N30,000, which many state governments (still) refuse to pay.
If the FIRS is desirous of performing any genuine duty, there are hundreds of thousands of self-proclaimed naira and dollar billionaires in Nigeria, flaunting their ill-gotten wealth. How much have they ever been taxed or did they ever pay in tax by and to Inland Revenue? How do Nigerian criminals reputed to be dollar and naira billionaires intermitently extradited to United States luxuriate in this country without being caught in FIRS net to pay due taxes? If FIRS had been up to its duty, such boys would have been prosecuted for false tax declaration or tax evasion and, at least, Nigeria would not have been a safe sanctuary for the criminals.
National Assembly must, therefore, halt FIRS.