By Dapo Akinrefon
THE decision by the Senate to reject Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has elicited mixed reactions from eminent Nigerians especially lawyers.
Magu’s rejection was as a result of a report by Department of State Service, DSS.
While some senior lawyers argue that President Muhammadu Buhari should jettison Magu, others opine that there is a grand conspiracy against the anti-graft boss.
In this interview, chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay posits that there is an internal conspiracy against Magu.
Sagay, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, however, insists that despite the Senate’s refusal Magu could still be re-nominated. Excerpts:
What do you see as the implication of Senate’s rejection of Magu for the second time?
He remains the acting chairman.
But some senior lawyers argue that he cannot be re-nominated for the third time?
Why not? Let them go and bring the law that says he cannot be re-nominated, he can be re-nominated 10 times. There is no such provision that says he cannot be re-nominated.
The Senate does not have the power to say who is to be nominated or appointed, all they do is just to confirm and if they do not confirm, then he remains in an acting capacity. That is all.
But do you suspect that some persons in the presidency do not want Magu as substantive chairman of the EFCC?
I will not be surprised if there is internal conspiracy going on. I will not be surprised because it is obvious.
Some people perceive the issue of the Secretary to Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr. Babachir David Lawal, as having a moral burden on the Buhari presidency. Does the president have the right or authority to clear any of acts of corruptions?
Well, if a person is corrupt and he actually committed the act of corruption, nobody can clear him. It is just like saying that a human being can forgive you your sins. You can forgive the person who wrongs you but only God can forgive sins in that technical sense.
So, if a person has committed a corrupt act, he cannot be cleared. The only power anyone has including the president is to waive the consequences of the offence or overlook it or warn the person. Certainly, the offence remains an offence.
What is your position on having whistleblowers, who unveil corrupt people? How safe do you think they are?
We have to be very careful because useful and truthful information must be provided and not libel or slandering people and not trying to destroy innocent people. If truthful, honest and correct information is provided, the state is obliged, first to reward that person; second, to protect that person either from physical harm or from losing his job. There is an obligation.
How do you see alleged corrupt politicians moving to the APC in an attempt to evade prosecution?
Such an act constitutes an act of self-delusion. That you commit a serious act of fraud somewhere and then, you leave your party and jump into the APC thinking that your act of fraud would be forgotten, that is not possible. That is why some of us are determined and very firm that Magu should remain in that position because Magu is not going to forgive you for that. He is not going to look at your party, he will look only at the crime and the perpetrators. So, it makes no difference, it is self-delusion.
Do you see newly sworn-in Chief Justice of the Federation bringing sanity to the already tainted judiciary?
The CJN has the capacity, his position gives him the capacity. All he needs is the will to do it. He has the capacity, there is no question about that. Not only that but because of his position as the chairman of the National Judicial Council where appointments are made and discipline is meted out to judges.
Also, the type of judgment which will be an indication to the country whether it is a technical law they are applying or they are applying justice. If they give judgment based on justice and equity and what is right and what is fair, then, it will give confidence to the whole country. But the judiciary especially at the Supreme Court level, what they say is law. There are some who change the law. There is no question about that. So, if what you and I say is law and it is different from what they say, so what they say prevails.
So, they can change the law. The point I am trying to make is that, at the Supreme Court level, there is no excuse for passing or giving judgment that does not coincide with justice. Any judgment that has no justice in it or that is not aligned with justice, destroys society because it says in effect that you can conduct yourself in a negative, lawless, fraudulent, illegal manner and as soon as you can hide behind the technical walls of the law, your act would be upheld.
As chairman of the presidential committee on anti-corruption, how far do you think the anti-graft war can go?
It is going very well. The problem is that the level of corruption in this country is so high and it permeates all the sectors. The corruption culture is very deep, so it is a difficult battle but progress is being made.
A lot of work has been done, progress is being made and we are going to see as time goes on two major things unfolding. One is fast track of more cases and conviction of corrupt people.
Secondly, an approach we intend to use to convince Nigerians is that it is not to their benefit to be corrupt and that at the end of the day, it is better to be straightforward and to have integrity.
It is more beneficial. In other words, we are going to make Nigerians align with the anti-corruption culture and anti-corruption struggle because it is best for them and for the country. We are also going to make them see the consequences of corruption. For example, when you have a road that is not fixed, which results in accidents and deaths, which may involve your relations, you must be angry that corruption is involved.
Somebody attending a hospital dies because of lack of equipment, anyone related to such a person should be able to see that corruption led to the death of such person and should be angry and want to fight against it. Those are the areas we are moving towards.