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Retaining Magu is critical to Winning Anti-Corruption War

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By Phrank Shaibu

Love him or hate him, one argument that cannot be contested is the fact that Ibrahim Magu, the Ag. Chairman of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has taken the anti-corruption fight in Nigeria to hitherto uncharted levels where many people thought could never be attained or that no one would have the courage to go in the war against corruption.

Deconstructing corruption fight in Nigeria is a binding moral duty for common good and it requires seeing beyond political affiliations, standpoint, preference or ideology.

In Nigeria, Ibrahim Mustapha Magu, is the scourge of corrupt Nigerians, no matter your status or engagement and this has become worthy of public analysis and historic documentation whether aligned to the ruling party or not.

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In fact, l had taken a long break from commenting on public discourse that will conflict with my political opposition status but if truth be told, the fight against corruption is for a better Nigeria and it is a collective pursuit that deserves objective periodic review on how those charged with such responsibilities are conducting the affairs of government agencies they manage. Thus, my decision to research on the EFCC and its affairs is a call to duty as a public analyst and it changes nothing about my political attachment and roles played as a political campaign spokesperson.

Specifically, about four years ago, on the 9th of November 2015, President Mohammadu Buhari sacked the then EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde and promptly replaced him with Ibrahim Mustapha Magu, the next day, November 10.

Under Magu, the mention of EFCC became the beginning of the endgame for corrupt public and private officers including individuals who had carried on for years as though they were above the law.

Ibrahim Mustapha Magu, the poster boy of the anti-corruption crusade which has become the signature policy engagement of the President Mohammadu Buhari administration and has attracted both continental and global commendations for tackling what has been described across international platforms, as the number one factor militating against the growth and development of African Nations and economies.

The man Ibrahim Magu, prior to his appointment,  then an assistant commissioner of police was one of the early recruits into the anti-graft agency in the dizzying days of its pioneer chairman Malam Nuhu Ribadu.

In 2015, Magu before becoming the EFCC boss was a member of the committee set up by the Buhari administration to probe the procurement of arms in the Armed Forces from 2007 to 2015 which eventually uncovered a cesspool of corruption that shocked the nation and still continues to reverberate with new and astonishing revelations.

Most likely, given Magu’s perceived incorruptible posture, he was made the head of the sensitive Economic Governance Unit (EGU), which handled investigations of senior public officials and as head of the EGU, spearheaded some of the investigations that included the alleged involvement of former Senate President Bukola Saraki in the collapse of Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria; and James Ibori, former Governor of Delta State, who at that time was serving jail term in the United Kingdom for money laundering.

Magu, also played a major role in the investigation and eventual jailing of former Managing Director of the Bank of the North, Shettima Mohammed Bulama, said to be his own brother in law.

It was widely believed that after Ribadu as was removed as EFCC boss in controversial circumstances by former President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, Magu was also targeted for redeployment by new EFCC boss, Farida Waziri, who took over in 2008 and was said to be uncomfortable with his presence over issues surrounding loyalty.

Magu’s troubles crystalized when he was accused of illegally keeping case files of top politicians being investigated by the commission in August 2008. His house in Abuja was searched and his property, including a laptop computer with sensitive files, was carted away by officials of the EFCC at the behest of Mrs Waziri.

He was then redeployed to the police after days of detention with nothing incriminating found against him and later suspended from the force, without salaries for several months. But like the cat with nine lives, Magu was brought back to EFCC, when his old colleague Ibrahim Lamorde was appointed as substantive EFCC boss in 2012.

For those that understood how the mind of the new President Buhari works, the prediction that Magu will emerge as new EFCC boss could not have been tough. No doubt, President Buhari needed a no-nonsense administrator to give a bite to its agenda on the fight against corruption, after his 2015 victory in the presidential polls. For Buhari, there was no better man to fit the bill than the incorruptible Magu, who quickly replaced Lamorde.

Magu, a thoroughbred EFCC man swung into action as the new anti-graft agency boss.  Already he had a 12-year career track record in the commission before the latest appointment and had worked as the Head of EFCC Administration and Finance in 2003, was the Supervising officer, Head of Administration at special Task Force organized by the Nigerian President in 2006, served as Deputy head of Police department in Ekiti State in 2009 and worked in the Special Investigation Bureau of Anambra State police. Thereafter, he returned to EFCC and kept working in different departments across the country, attending seminars, gaining new knowledge in financial investigation spheres and collaborating with international police departments, including the famous Scotland Yard amongst others.

There was never really any ambiguity that Ibrahim Magu was President Buhari’s preferred choice for the EFCC Chair and his appointment, which came six months after the President’s inauguration, would have come a bit sooner, if not for the fact that there was need to clear the small matter of CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar and the Ibrahim Lamorde connection which probably meant proverbially killing two birds with one stone, by clearing the way for Magu’s appointment in an acting capacity and commencing the Senator Bukola Saraki Code of Conduct trial.

This beginning was to however shape the next four years of Magu’s tenure and ensure that he remained in acting capacity till the end of the 8th Senate which consistently refused to confirm his appointment under the leadership of Saraki as Senate President.

Reacting to the refusal of the Senate to confirm him, Magu simply said that his confirmation was rejected by the Senate because he is doing a good job but added that his non-confirmation will not stop him for spearheading the fight against corruption.

“I don’t think it (non-confirmation) has given the public a cause for concern. I think it is a lot of encouragement. The fact that I am not confirmed shows I am working. Really. “In the anti-corruption environment, if they rush to confirm you, it means you are not doing your work properly. No problem. Maybe the others are happy. Because a number of the people we are investigating are also in the national assembly”.

“I cannot be distracted by those things. Nobody can purchase me, I cannot compromise what I am doing,” he had declared at that time

True to his words, Magu’s Acting tenure has perhaps turned out to be the most robust and achievement filled stint since the creation of the Anti-corruption agency. It is little wonder therefore that despite his non-confirmation, President Buhari, who is the ultimate authority in deciding his fate, has not only kept faith with Magu but encouraged and supported him and the EFCC beyond the kind of relationship that had existed in the past between the agency and the government.

The symbiosis between President Buhari and Ibrahim Magu is almost kinetic. This relationship has helped in fostering an anti-corruption agenda, which has been hailed across the continent and international fora as a bold and necessary strategy for African countries to imbibe. Therefore, in defining the next phase of the anti-corruption agency in President Buhari’s second term, the wise conjecture would be that the President, who has displayed a solid conservatism in retaining those he believes in, to work with him, is also the appointing authority with the power under the law to determine who spearheads his anti-corruption crusade, going forward.

Magu, who has already set a kind of record as the longest-serving head of the EFCC since it’s creation in 2003, had also in this time, positioned the agency as one of the most vibrant government institutions in Nigeria, by laying down very stringent and oftentimes unpalatable prevention strategies as a cardinal agenda in the fight against corruption.

The fact that Magu is winning the war in his capacity as EFCC boss is clearly manifest in the groundswell of public perception and participation achieved through the various preventive initiatives designed towards public re-orientation and enlightenment.

These programmes include The Nigerian Women Against Corruption Project, NWAC, which was developed to increase women participation in the fight against corruption.  Also, the Clean Hands Campaign for Children, designed primarily to promote the values of integrity and probity among the younger generation is gaining acceptance.

Other initiatives under the Magu administration that are working for increased public participation in the fight against corruption include the Creative Youth Initiative Against Corruption, CYIAC,  conceived to give children a platform to express themselves using arts and various other platforms of talents to speak against corruption;  the Integrity Club in secondary schools and tertiary institutions across the country, established to further deepen the participation of young people in the anti-graft war, and of course the quarterly awareness road walks in collaboration with various stakeholders across the country, the numerous anti-corruption     programmes aired regularly on leading radio and television networks across Nigeria, and the robust engagement and utilization of the various social media platforms as channels for mobilization and information dissemination.

EFCC under Magu has also embraced pro-active re-orientation strategies including musical concerts staged to draw more attention to the Commission’s anti-corruption messages as well as partnerships with civil society organizations, organized labour unions and stakeholders in the public and private spheres, Townhall interactive meetings with community religious leaders and various groups within communities in the grassroots.

These are in addition to the creation of more offices across the country to complement those in the six geo-political zones of the country in the last four years.

In addition, the EFCC as part of its reforms to address emerging challenges in criminality has strengthened its enforcement mandate, created additional departments and sections including the Asset Forfeiture Department, the Forensic Department and the Public Affairs Department.

The commission may not have achieved all that is needed to kill corruption in Nigeria but within the last four years, it has conducted massive recruitment exercises across all cadres with the newly recruited officers in the Detective Superintendent, Detective Inspector and Detective Assistant cadres, for the purpose of closing the gap of shortage of officers and the successful candidates were trained with the best of facilities at the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna.

The icing on the cake of Magu’s successful completion of the EFCC new head office building whose construction was abandoned over the years. Furthermore, initiatives such as the whistle-blowing policy of the federal government initiated in December, 2016, primarily to support the fight against financial crimes and corruption, through increasing exposure of financial crimes and monetary reward for whistle-blowers has also encouraged citizens to volunteer information which has lead to the recovery of stolen funds, especially with the added boost of creating the EFCC corruption reporting platforms through which individuals have volunteered information that led to the recovery of billions of dollars hidden away by looters.

Major achievements through this scheme include; the discovery of $9.8M hidden in the slums of Sabon Tasha, in Kaduna State and said to belong to Dr Andrew Yakubu, a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; the interception by EFCC operatives of the sum of¦ 250 million, stashed away in coloured sacks at the Kaduna International Airport, which was to be smuggled through the airport; the interception of 250million in various currencies at a popular textile market in Lagos; as well as another sum of 500million uncovered in a shopping mall located in the high- brow area of Victoria Island, also in Lagos.

The discovery and recovery of a stash of cash in local and foreign currencies in an apartment on the seventh floor of Osborne Towers in Ikoyi, Lagos, through information provided by a whistle-blowers was a major breakthrough which opened the way for the implementation of the Technical Objective Number Four of the National Anti- Corruption Strategy, which emphasized the enforcement and sanctions for corrupt offenders.

Many milestones have also been achieved in tackling sectoral corruption in areas like the judiciary, the oil and gas industry, the military, the secular society and even the civil service and the commission, has carried out major arrests using aggressive and diligent prosecution of corruption cases in courts throughout Nigeria, secured some highbrow and distinctive convictions in line with the National Anti- Corruption Strategy objective which places emphasis on enforcement and sanctions.

Under Ibrahim Magu’s acting tenure, the EFCC has not only recrafted the anti-corruption narrative and set a standard for law enforcement agencies and criminal prosecution within and outside of the country, it has also shored up global confidence as several donor organizations and foreign law enforcement agencies have willingly partnered with the EFCC in opening fresh areas of collaboration.

There is no doubt that Ibrahim Magu has displayed courage and dedicated leadership in the fight against corruption and his committed zeal has ensured the stellar achievements the EFCC has accomplished in the last four years. Even though l am not a member of the ruling party, the obvious expectation and conclusion now of any good citizen, is that if all these can be achieved by Magu in an acting capacity, imagine the comprehensive and expansive landmarks that will be accomplished if President Buhari forwards his name again to the 9th Senate and Ibrahim Magu is finally confirmed as the substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

*SHAIBU, writes from Abuja


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