Magu’s EFCC: Between Suspects and Victims, By Yushau Shuaib
Sometimes in July, 2016 while attempting to pay the remunerations of over 20 staff and volunteers, it was discovered that the Company’s Salary Account, the Operational Account, the Domiciliary Account and even Personal Account of the Director had all been frozen.
Responding to the query from the company, the bank claimed that it blocked the accounts on an instruction from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); and this was done without even notifying the management of the company. The action forced the firm to downsize its workforce of mostly young graduates by 70% and scale down its operations.
The above scenario was the first-hand experience of this writer who has not only served the EFCC but also other critical institutions in the country for over three years. Many individuals, groups and institutions who diligently transact their legitimate businesses have suffered similar fates and are now finding it extremely difficult to run their businesses or take care of their families.
In fairness, the anti-corruption agency capitalized on the controversial report of Presidential Arms Probe Panel which went outside its brief to pick hole on other services not related to arms and ammunition. Meanwhile, the probe panel merely succeeded in creating inter-agency rivalry by exposing some security sectors to public ridicule while soft-pedalling on others. The panel led by a retired airforce officer, AVM Jon Ode barefacedly turned its terms of reference into something else (See Link1 below). It was therefore not entirely surprising when it wilfully portrayed the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) as the most corrupt security sector by ensuring the arraignment of its three past service chiefs in courts while not much is known in other branches of military and security agencies, including the police.
One of the painfully emotional cases is that of a most respected senior airforce officer who was scandalised and taking to court, few months to the wedding of his daughter, over an allegation of receiving gifts from contractors. The officer, AVM Alkali Mamu, was one of the most intelligent, kind-hearted, honest and highly experienced Nigeria’s fighter-pilot who had also flown many heads of states. That indictment abruptly ended his over 30 years of meritorious service in the military when he was serving as Chief of Administration of NAF.
While most of EFCC’s investigations are conducted based on petitions it receives from organisations, groups and individuals, the agency has taken some actions that are seemingly unethical and politically motivated, especially against officers in the previous administration and top members of the opposition parties.
The recent Senate’s rejection of the nomination of acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu was based on security report from Department of State Service (DSS). Though allegations against him were on corrupt practices but there are feelers that inter-agency rivalry could also not be ruled out. The report did not accuse Magu of maintaining large bank accounts or acquisitions of gargantuan properties even as he has served the police and EFCC passionately for more than two decades.
Despite the underhand tactics of leaking confidential materials and orchestration of media trials of suspects by EFCC, Magu nevertheless has an intimidating profile as a fearless and courageous anti-corruption fighter who had investigated and prosecuted many high-profile cases since the inception of EFCC.
While there are some obvious success stories on his efforts, careless indiscretions rather than financial corruption might have put Magu in the current mess. His fate is similar to those being investigated by the EFCC who are either suspects or victims and exposed to public ridicules.
In a whole year of acting as EFCC boss, Magu should have realised that he is at the mercy of the Presidency which nominates and the National Assembly that confirms appointments into certain offices. He has dignified and protected members of the Federal Executive Council but denigrated and descended heavily, without mercy, on members of the National Assembly. His penchant for engaging the legislators on unnecessary outbursts over flimsy and insubstantial issues are uncalled for, considering that they are also elected representatives of the people. For instance, in April 2016 when an EFCC Liaison officer at the National Assembly presented a plaque to Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekeremedu, the EFCC under Magu descended on the legislative arms with uncouth castigation (link2). Similarly, rather than being calm, he took an offence over a media report and boasted that he had never and would never lobby legislators for his confirmation (Link3). That rejoinder was a misplaced anger because lobbying is a legitimate communication process that is acceptable in diplomacy, law and public relations.
While this is not an attempt to exonerate or hold brief for Magu over corrupt practices as alleged by the DSS, security agencies should be careful so as not to play politics with investigative reports. They should avoid playing to the gallery like the report of the AVM Jon-Ode arm probe panel whose member was caught red-handed with over $1mn cash, exotic cars and illegal firearm in his residence (Link4). As a matter of fact, President Buhari needs to even probe all members of that controversial arms probe panel to ensure that their reports were not influenced by pecuniary purposes or vindictiveness. It should be noted that AVM Jon Ode had also served as a Defence Aide in the previous administration of Goodluck Jonathan.
President Buhari should ensure that the brewing inter-agency conflict among critical institutions should be urgently addressed. For instance, if the EFCC should attempt to retaliate against the report of DSS, the result will not only be dirty but likely to compromise the national security. Our security agencies should never allow their operations to be teleguided or politicized. It is therefore necessary that while each agency maintains its independence and neutrality, the Office of National Security Adviser, Defence Headquarters and Ministry of Interior should rein in their supervisory functions in ensuring better synergies among the security organs.
Yushau A. Shuaib