By Agatha Ezendiaru
THE return of President Muhammadu Buhari to the country after his medical vacation in the United Kingdom appears to be renewing hope in the land. The ecstatic crowd of well-wishers that turned out to welcome their president in Abuja clearly signifies that the people have indeed missed the president they elected just over two years ago. Yes, while the President was away, his dutiful Vice President who acted for him really played the part.
Yet, in spite of Professor Yemi Osinbajo’s best performance, divisive wind blowing across country had put the nation on the edge. It was just a matter of time for something to give. And it is not only divisive tendencies that threatened the survival of the country while the President was away, the army and network of the corrupt seemed to have been emboldened by the absence of President Buhari.
It is, indeed, not surprising that the just released report on corruption by the National Bureau of Statistics ,NBS and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, was damning on key national institutions.
The NBS Report on corruption in collaboration with the UNODC detailing how corruption was festering in the past one year is quite depressing enough. It is sadly so because one area even the adversaries to the Buhari government easily concede to its seriousness is the fight against corruption. And the President sent out signals early enough that he was going to throw everything in the fight by appointing an incorruptible and uncompromising person to spearhead the war at the EFCC.
Therefore, the choice of Ibrahim Magu as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,EFCC, has clearly turned out to be one of the best appointments of Mr. President thus far. At least one can safely state that now with the benefit of hindsight. Despite the troubles and the many distractions from those, together with their collaborators in the government, who have fleeced this country and stolen its wealth, Magu has remained steadfast and appears to be among the few appointees of President Buhari who understand and share his passion and commitment to fighting corruption.
The results that have come with Magu’s bravery and fastidious work, especially in the area of the recovery of stolen public funds are indeed salutary. While the President was around, EFCC recovered N102.91 billion; $8.30 million; GBP 29,155 and 117,004 Canadian dollars as proceeds of crime between January and December 2016. Other monies recovered during the period were 806.50 Dirham; 5,000 Francs and 2,000 Rupees.
This is apart from the $9.8 million recovered from the house allegedly belonging to the former Group Managing Director,GMD, of NNPC, Andrew Yakubu, in Kaduna, which a court has ordered its forfeiture. Add to these, the N1.25 billion recovered from a public servant recently. Furthermore, Justice Muslim Sulaiman Hassan of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos ordered the final forfeiture of the various sums of money – N23, 446, 300,000; N9, 080,000,000 and $5m (totaling over N34bn) – linked to a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, to the Federal Government of Nigeria, following an application by the EFCC.
And just about the time President Buhari was preparing to leave for his medical vacation, a huge sum of $43.4 million; £27,800 and N23.2 million – totaling about N13 billion was bravely recovered at an Ikoyi flat in Lagos. That money, more than enough to overthrow an elected government, has since been forfeited to the Federal Government.
Even while the President was away, Magu and his team ably supported by the Acting President and the Presidential Committee on Anti-corruption, PACAC, sustained the fight admirably in the manner the President would have been proud of. Another property in Banana Island, allegedly belonging to the former Petroleum Minister, worth about $37.5 million has been finally forfeited to the Federal Government. If one considers that the EFCC are still on the trail of other funds traced to the former minister and her partners, some of whom are at large, and the fact that the $1.1 million Malabu Oil scam is still on Magu’s plate, then there’s no reason to doubt the anti-corruption czar. Although, it is easier to remember a few setbacks in the courts, EFCChas in the past six months, secured over 140 convictions.
Yet, what is baffling is how Magu has achieved all these within a short period of time in the face of what is clearly an orchestrated design to derail the efforts of President Buhari in the fight against corruption. Twice Magu had his name sent to the Senate for confirmation and twice senators rejected him. Intriguingly, the Directorate of State Services, DSS, an agency that reports to the President provided the ammunition with which the Senate opened fire on Magu.
The same DSS led what, with hindsight, has now become a mid-night misadventure in the houses of Supreme Court judges which may be telling on court judgements on EFCC matters. The same Senate that rejected Magu twice is dominated by the President’s party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. This seems to suggest that the party has not bought into the President’s anti-corruption fight, especially as it has not intervened in the Magu matter with the Senate with its members in the majority. As the President settles in again to his office, Nigerians expect him to ignore all the sinister suggestions by the enemies of his government to ditch the single individual whose work and institution are projecting a positive image for him at home and abroad. This is the time to strengthen the EFCC for higher performance by giving Magu all the presidential support he rightly needs.
It is important that the President sees through their pretense for what they are. Magu has become the nemesis of those who have sworn that Buhari’s war against corruption must fail and they want him out at any cost. It might interest the President to know that despite the negative report of the NBS and UNODC on corruption in Nigeria in the past one year, the bodies were emphatic that the EFCC under Magu remains the most effective state institution in the country.