Four years ago, Ibrahim Magu, as the acting EFCC chairman, called for a “high-powered” probe into a Thisday report linking him with arms fraud.
In a statement, the agency affirmed: “The EFCC as a body upholds zero tolerance for corruption and will not condone any act that amounts to corruption.”
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It bristled at what it called an attempt to create doubts in the minds of Nigerians and members of the international community regarding the integrity of its acting Chairman.”
The government did not take Magu up on his offer. As time went by, it did not even seem to care that the EFCC no longer submitted the annual report demanded by law.
Last week, Magu was suspended from office and hurled before an investigating panel following allegations made by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami that include the sale of seized assets to cronies, associates and friends.
Sadly, this arises years after Nigeria’s anti-corruption offensive decayed a laughable farce.
Indeed, the work of the EFCC often appeared to be the only reminder there was supposed to be a crusade in place. And that is why Magu’s so-called troubles are little more than theatre, and why—I predict—this will come to nothing.
If Magu is guilty, the book ought to be thrown at him.
But what book exactly, Buhari’s? Does he have one or did he read one? Remember: the current climate of double-talk and opaqueness was spurned at the very top and from the beginning by someone widely advertised as a “man of integrity”:
• Buhari forgot his 100-day promise the day he took his oath of office, including publicly declaring his assets.
• Buhari, remember, never implemented a single item of the Ahmed Joda Transition Committee 800-page report.
• Buhari, remember, never implemented any part of the APC Manifesto.
• Buhari never honoured court orders that he publish a comprehensive record of recovered loot since 1999.
• Buhari in April 2019 ordered the Federal Ministry of Finance to sell within six months,all assets recovered since 2015, with no pretense at transparency.
What book: Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s?
• Is he not an accomplice in the anti-corruption chicanery?
• Is he not the one who in December 2017 declared the nation’s kleptocrats free to continue to enjoy their lifestyle because the government had“strategic advice” not to prosecute them?
What book: AGF Malami’s?
• Isn’t he the one who lied repeatedly about how the government would obey the 2016 and 2016 court orders to publish that comprehensive record of recovered loot?
• Is he not the one who allegedly initiated the payment of nearly $17 million to two lawyers in the recovery of a tranche of Abacha loot that the House of Representatives investigated in 2018?
• Wasn’t he alleged by US-based lawyer Godson Nnaka of demanding a kickback of about 70 percent of his fee in the pursuit of some Abacha loot?
• Is he not the inventor of the term, “Abacha assets”?
• If Malami ever read any of the annual reports of his counterpart, the Auditor-General of the Federation since 2015, which of its thousands of flagged cases has he pursued?
Let me put it this way: this is not about Magu, and even if he were to be indicted in the current probe, I expect him to walk free because what we have is a charade. And because Magu knows far too much.
Writing previously, I suggested a plan to the Buhari administration to guide a serious anti-corruption campaign. I reiterate my 10 points:
One: sponsor an amendment of the constitution to eliminate the immunity provisions…Let us aim at a higher standard where the president and the governors are guided by the imperative of doing right, not the knowledge that they have eight years to cover their evil. This current system serves the dubious, not the people, and it is inherently unjust and dangerous.
Two: Restructure and enlarge the EFCC. The scale of the challenge before this anti-graft agency, particularly in the light of unfolding dimensions of the malfeasance, cannot be handled by mortal men with a normal 24-hour day.
To make for fairness and effectiveness, the agency should be restructured into three broad units, perhaps as follows: federal and international; state and local government; and Advance Fee Fraud, each under the authority of deputy chairmen. That will strengthen the EFCC as an institution, and promote its ability to cover every blade of grass more effectively.
Three: [Make the funding of the agency a first-line charge in the budget so it can be more independent], establish a full-fledged training institution,as well as operate a competitive salary structure.
Four: implement the Uwais Report.
In December 2008, the Justice Mohammed Uwais-led Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) submitted to then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, a widely-celebrated report capable of changing Nigeria’s story of flawed and rigged elections.
Its recommendations included the unbundling of INEC, whereby some of its functions would be reallocated to other bodies; the introduction of independent candidates; and the trial and sentencing of electoral fraudsters even during elections.
Asserting the need to rectify the lack of appropriate independence by INEC and the State Independent Electoral Commissions as a “key deficiency” of Nigeria’s electoral process, the committee made powerful recommendations to address their composition, administrative autonomy and funding; and of the National Assembly, the executive, the judiciary, the political parties, security agencies, civil society organisations, the media and the public.
Five: Campaign Finance Reform
Nigeria’s elections continue to be at the mercy of politicians who have the means and the opportunity to purchase them.
To change that, this government should decide on the appropriate public financing of electoral races for the legislatures, governorships and the presidency, with strict caps on spending, and with dismissals from a race or from office as the price for violations. That will empower more qualified candidates, and discourage the compromised.
Six: Implement NNPC reports.
Everyone also knows what is wrong with the NNPC: various reports in the past 16 years have pinpointed the issues, but they have not been implemented.
It is obvious: you cannot reform Nigeria, or curb corruption if the NNPC continues to be run as a rogue organization.
Seven: Reform the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Sadly, the CBN continues to be led by one of the most corrupt and inept leaderships in Nigeria’s history. It is unclear how this is supposed to inspire faith in the prospects of the Nigerian economy.
Eight: In response to last Wednesday’s discovery of N13 billion in Lagos, a court swiftly ordered its forfeiture to the federal government. It is unsurprising the government was thrilled by the court’s decision. But in February last year, the court also ordered the government to publish an account of Nigeria’s recovered loot, which it has shamefully failed to do, a fact which has damaged its image.
Nine: No government is successful if its leader considers personal example to be a contradiction in terms. President Buhari must find the courage to lead by example, not by talk.
Ten: I fully support the need to punish the guilty. But Nigerians are not all, or always, bad. [Restore the annual National Honours for the deserving].
[This column welcomes rebuttals from interested government officials].