It’s no longer news that the former Acting Head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, has been detained, questioned and suspended.
To those who have been following matters closely, it comes as no surprise.
The anti-corruption war has since been exposed as a sham.
Never properly structured to truly tackle the issue of corruption with pre-emptive measures, the commission was all about investigating petitions, recovering funds through plea bargaining, and settling scores against political opponents and dissenters.
As a result, high level corruption continues unabated. Many Nigerans agree with Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana’s view that Magu’s arrest and suspension is a “moral disaster” for the anti-corruption war.
It is trite that it’s not right to kick a man when he is down, but the issues surrounding Magu’s appointment are pertinent.
On two separate occasions, the senate refused to confirm him based upon clear and damning allegations against his person.
At the time, he was described as a man suffering from intellectual and moral deficiency.
His intellectual deficiency was made public in a trending Channels TV interview.
Yet for reasons best known to the powers that be, he was allowed to continue in office as acting EFCC Chairman for over five years!
Every EFCC Chairman has left under controversial circumstances, but Magu’s case is different because he is being investigated by the regime which appointed him.
His predicament is compounded by the EFCC’s reputation for alleged settlement and bribery leading to cases which are elongated, forgotten, inconclusive or lost.
In a completely absurd organisational arrangement, the EFCC Chairman is both the Chief Investigator and the Chief Accounting Officer who isn’t legally bound to remit all revenue to the Federation Account.
This means that he or she effectively controls unappropriated funds forfeited to the commission.
It’s been alleged that Magu’s travails are a consequence of his refusal to incorporate the Office of the AGF in the disposal of forfeited assets.
In such sales running into billons of naira agency fees of 3% or more are paid, and coupled with the auction price, there is definitely a lot of meat left on the bone once the federal government has received its share of the loot.
Sidelining the AGF’s office purportedly led to a memo to the president levelling numerous allegations relating to EFCC’s inability to “satisfactorily account” for the proceeds from the anti-corruption war.
Specific allegations relate to alleged discrepancies in the reconciliation of records between the EFCC and the Ministry of Justice; insubordination to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF); favouritism towards some staff; reporting judges without reference to the AGF; sale of seized assets to cronies, associates, and friends; missing files; expensive air-travels; and reluctance to prosecute military top brass.
Magu’s response to the allegations is immaterial at this point in time.
The conclusion of the matter will reveal whether he has a legal defence or not.
One thing is quite clear; he has stepped on higher toes that want him out.
On the surface, his travails appear to be somewhat similar to those of the late Professor Tam David West who, during the military era, was found guilty of corruption on the absurd allegations that he drank a cup of tea and received a wrist watch from a foreigner.
Be that as it may, sympathy for Magu is limited because he is now going through the injustices that the EFCC mete out to others with regularity.
No matter what happens from now on, he will always be viewed as a corrupt person simply because he and his predecessors helped entrench the view that once accused of corruption, a person should be deprived of their rights and assumed guilty.
If indeed he is not guilty of the allegations against him as he claims, then Magu must be enraged at the fact that people will now believe that he used blackmail of suspects, investigation of oil deals, cutting percentages off recoveries, various fronts, and re-looting of recovered funds to amass properties worldwide and become rich.
Even if at the end of the day he is declared not guilty, it will only be assumed that he has “settled”.
It’s somewhat of a tragicomedy that Magu’s legal team seek to enforce rights and privileges which the EFCC routinely deny those whom they accuse.
They plead that their client should not be given a shameless media trial, public conviction and lynching which the EFCC has a history of doing to others.
Magu himself laments that he is being subjected to all manner of insults and embarrassment and paraded like a common criminal.
If indeed he is a criminal, it’s evident that he isn’t a “common” one.
Frankly nobody, common or otherwise, should be paraded simply because they are a suspect in a crime, but the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) from whom the EFCC recruit their leadership habitually parades suspects.
Magu is merely reaping what he has sown.
He knows he is entitled to bail, yet EFCC routinely opposes bail for accused persons claiming that they are a “flight risk”.
If he is truly guilty, then there can be no greater flight risk than he himself. After all he may just decide to flee and join Allison-Madueke in exile.
Many Nigerians including former Senator Shehu Sanni have little sympathy for the former EFCC Chairman’s predicament.
Sanni is quoted as saying that “every time you remind the men intoxicated with power that power is transient and comes with consequence, they think that it will never happen to them”.
Former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, himself not exactly a paragon of virtue, alleges that Magu sold assets recovered under his watch to his associates.
Despite all the allegations against him, the law which the former EFCC Chairman rode roughshod over presumes him innocent until he has been proven guilty.
The fact that the EFCC has routinely derogated and defamed others who haven’t been convicted doesn’t mean it is right and should be done to Magu.
Two wrongs don’t make a right.
The lesson from Magu’s travails is that if he had helped entrench a system in which all recovered funds were remitted to the Federation Account, and all corrupt people sent to jail rather than being allowed to plea bargain, then it wouldn’t be possible for such allegations to be made against an EFCC Chairman, and perhaps even more importantly, Nigerians will be able to separate the innocent from the guilty.