The Mangling Of Magu

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The anti-corruption ship in Nigeria appears to have hit another iceberg. The cracks are appearing on the sides and the base of the ship, and this ship might just finally sink with everyone in it.

Caught in the strong currents of the whirlpool and left at the mercy of sharks, everyone will be clutching at straws, sticks and even their drowning neighbours to survive.

At that time, there’ll be no finger-pointing at who’s to blame or about the incompetence or lack of integrity of the captain. Or time to look for a replacement with a new, pliable and ‘saintly’ captain who knows how to navigate this red ocean. It’s the perfect chaos!

For the second time in three months, acting EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu was rejected by the Senate as substantive chairman of the fearsome anti-graft agency.

Before I continue and so that I’m not misunderstood from the outset, this is not a brief-holding argument for Magu neither is it for the senate. No, I’m holding brief for the third party in this brewing melee whom the other ‘feuding parties’ have failed to acknowledge and who’ll bear the brunt of the foreseen and unforeseen consequences — in the short, medium and long terms.

Yes, I’m holding brief for Nigeria and the common citizen of Nigeria.

We all have read all the details with different sentiments, views and reactions. The senate had pointed at “gross violation of human rights” and being in possession of “undeclared pieces of property” as reason for turning down the confirmation of Mr. Magu as EFCC chairman.

Specifically, he was accused of staying in a N40 million mansion paid for by a corrupt businessman, as well as leading a high-profiled lifestyle.

He was therefore declared to have “failed integrity test.” In other words, the anti-corruption chief was in fact, “corrupt” too, and therefore not qualified to fight it.

In reaching its conclusion the upper legislative chamber had relied on a 2016 report by the DSS on Magu, which stated inter-alia:

“Investigations show that the acting EFCC chairman regularly embarked on official and private trips through a private jet allegedly owned by Mohammed.

“In one of such trips, Magu flew to Maiduguri alongside Mohammed and Nnamdi Okonkwo, the MD of Fidelity Bank, who was being investigated by the EFCC over complicity in funds allegedly stolen by the Immediate past petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

“Furthermore, the EFCC has so far maintained a high-profiled lifestyle. This is exemplified by his preference for first-class air travels.”

In his defence, Magu said the referenced property was provided for him by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) because he stayed in the suburb of Abuja and worked late.

But was that really a convincing and persuasive response for the head of the nation’s most visible anti-crime agency? Frankly, I think it was rather lightweight and does not justify or excuse the issue. I’d like to believe Mr. Magu would have a more robust reply typical of the admirable zest and vigour the EFCC had been under him.

As a general standard, when you occupy a public office, you must be seen and proven to be above board, especially if you’re heading a sensitive one as the head of an anti-graft body.

For example, using the DSS report as a basis of argument, what’s the proof Magu will be unbiased, fair and objective if there was a financial corruption case against the said Mohammed?

And to further draw from that logic, how can we be certain he’d been consistently and indiscriminately dispassionate with all the cases handled by the agency or that he’d had to personally supervise – and at the same level.

Just this January, Michael Flynn who was appointed last December as US National Security Adviser resigned over allegations he discussed the country’s sanctions with Russia before President Donald Trump took office. He had to throw in the towel after facing a storm of attacks, as it is illegal for private citizens to conduct US diplomacy.

Also in 2009, former US President Obama was forced to drop Senator Tom Daschle as his nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, because of unpaid taxes.

But then again, and having pointed out these examples, in this our dear old country Nigeria, who’d ever have a score of 100 percent or even a 90 percent on integrity? That is, if walls had ears or flies could talk?

How many people, in our clime, can in a clear conscience throw stones at others? There are, I know, a rare species and an endangered minority of the incorruptible? But how many of them are in the senate? Are there even any?

And let’s remember that in January this year, while re-submitting the name of Mr. Magu to be confirmed as EFCC chairman, President Muhammadu Buhari had stated that he had thoroughly investigated the allegations contained in the DSS report against Magu.

The President had told the senators in a letter that “in view of my conviction, there is need to maintain momentum of anti-graft fight, while I urge the Senate to reconsider Ibrahim Magu as substantive EFCC Chairman.”

For me, the Senate-Magu drama throws up a whole lot of questions and issues: What are the senators afraid of? What are their other unstated reasons that we need to know? What other subterranean factors are at play here? And how many national legislators can boast or claim to be above board and can defend their lifestyles with their lives?

The fleet of exotic cars and frivolous junketing around the world that is constantly being “advertised” on the Internet by one particular senator who was very vocal in the anti-Magu campaign is especially eye-prickly and nauseating.

And why is the present senate so obsessed, conflicted and distracted by inanities and inconsequential matters, rather than enacting laws that move the country forward? If one or two of them is not showing off his questionable wealth like a teenage music star who just made his first one million naira, the others are debating about why men should marry two wives to balance gender distribution!

Or they’ve spend hours debating who’s wearing or not wearing uniforms, with little concern or time devoted to how the institution can better promote trade facilitation and collect revenue.

Not long ago, the Kenyan parliament joined several other western countries in enacting laws to partially or totally ban genetically modified organisms (GMO) products to protect the health of the country.

In Canada, 93 percent of eligible citizens are registered to vote because individuals are automatically registered as soon as they turn 18 or become citizens. So the issue of low turnouts and election day confusions are eliminated or minimised.

Israel has enacted strict campaign laws, which imposes a ceiling on money allowed to be spent in elections.

And in the UK, political adverts on TV are free, thereby giving an equal campaign and publicity platform to all candidate, regardless of background.

But what major groundbreaking, citizen-benefiting legislation has the Nigerian legislature enacted in the past few years, when they’re not getting distracted and quibbling over frivolities and trivialities?

It is a known fact that a good number of the senators are presently being investigated by the EFCC under the watch of Magu. Can we really expect him to successfully scale through in such circumstances, regardless of whatever “integrity report” was presented?

It lays credence to a perception in some quarters that Magu’s non-confirmation by the senate in effect proves he’s doing a good job at chasing down corruption and the corrupt political class.

Besides, the fact the President re-sent his name in spite of the first rejection in December also demonstrates his confidence in the acting EFCC chairman.

It is very key that the chairman of the EFCC must be absolutely incorruptible and a paragon of integrity. But, again, isn’t it time for the senate to look itself in the mirror and ask if they’re still representing what the public actually wants?

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