The removal of Mr. Ibrahim Magu in his former capacity as Acting Chairman of the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission by Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, is one which is commendable as his position had become untenable and repulsive in the face of grave, though unproven, allegations of corruption and mismanagement of recovered public funds. The Office of Chairman, Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC hereonafter) is one which must be high above reproach and any semblance of moral turpitude, therefore making the suspension of Mr. Magu a necessary action to protect the agency’s troubled image and shore up waning public confidence in its statutory mandate.
The alleged underlying factors which led to Mr. Magu’s removal revolved around allegations of personal enrichment, subversion of the course of justice in particular cases prosecuted by the EFCC and insubordination to the oversight authority of the Ministry of Justice. This is strong albeit unproven allegations and lend weight to the argument that a system with weak institutions is a breeding ground for corruption.
In the light of the swift events of the last 72 hours, from the indefinite suspension of Mr. Ibrahim Magu to the directive that Mr. Umar, Head of Operations at the EFCC, assumes office till a substantive Chairman is appointed for the Commission, the United Global Resolve for Peace (UGRFP) would like to emphasize and advance the following advisory & recommendations to the Commission and government to safeguard against occurrences of like nature in the future:
- Too often, Nigeria lets go of the gains in a reformative momentum by being side-tracked by political manipulations and permutations. It would be unsatisfactory if the Ibrahim Magu investigations being spearheaded by a Presidential Panel is abandoned or manipulated into outcomes that seek to provide soft landings for the accused where he is indeed found guilty.This necessitates the urgency for an independent forensic audit of Mr. Ibrahim Magu’s EFCC accounts and a probe into the corruption allegations against him by the Nigeria Police, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission.
The National Assembly may likewise cause an inquiry into the currency of Mr. Ibrahim Magu’s tenure as EFCC Chairman through its Financial Propriety Committee in exercise of its oversight power of review of executive actions.This is to safeguard against an abuse of the entire process, and further ensure that a trial or arraignment, where the investigations so recommend, will be backed by substantial body of evidence. This would indeed send a significant message to intending abusers of their public offices that it is no longer business as usual, and that there are indeed no hiding places in the extant laws and procedural systems of Nigeria.
2. Before Mr. Mohamed Umar, the interim chairman of the Commission, is a difficult task. It is imperative that the circumstances of his appointment nonetheless, that his sense of duty and loyalty to the statutes of the position he now occupies dictates his every decision and actions going forward. As a matter of urgency, Mr. Umar must cause a non-prejudicial investigation into the allegations against his former boss and sustain the momentum against institutional corruption that has broken the pace of progress of Nigeria
3. It is commendable that the Ministry of Justice, through the Attorney General of the Federation & Justice Minister, Mr. Abubakar Malami, Esq, SAN, was an arrowhead in bringing to light the serious corruption infractions of the suspended former chairman of the EFCC. It is only a necessary outcome given the Ministry of Justice has the power of oversight over the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission, but one which takes grit and sense of propriety for consequential actions to be taken when obligatory.
It is, however, regrettable that Ibrahim Magu’s alleged infractions against constituted authority and insubordination against the legal superintendence of the Ministry of Justice was allowed to fester for as long as it did. Going forward, the Ministry of Justice must put in place a mechanism that immediately checks such an occurrence regardless of how connected the guilty party is. The Ministry’s supervisory and advisory role to the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission carries with it the weight of the law and due process, and it is hoped that such a review would check against the abuse of the powers and privileges of office that has become the curse of all former heads of the EFCC.
It has been variedly said that without strong watchdog institutions, impunity becomes the very foundation upon which systems of corruption are built. And if impunity is not demolished, all efforts to bring an end to corruption are in vain. The EFCC, given its breath of fresh air, must take its role in Nigeria’s fight against corruption seriously, devoid of an animation for abuse and illegal contrivances. We do, however, concede that such powers that go largely unchecked have the temerity to be abused by its wielder. This is why it is imperative that a watchdog system is put in place to forestall the continual abuse of power that has been recorded in the office of the EFCC Chairman from Mrs. Farida Waziri, Ibrahim Lamorde to the now suspended Ibrahim Magu.