Mr President, please, save Magu

THE Senate again, last Wednesday, declined to confirm Mr Ibrahim Magu as substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, hinging its position on the Department of State Security (DSS) report.

About three months ago, the Senate had screened Magu but was denied confirmation based on a report by the DSS, which said that the acting EFCC chairman failed the integrity test and was therefore not fit for the position. The Senate had communicated this to President Muhammadu Buhari, asking him to forward another nominee for consideration. But in the President’s reply, he said after thoroughly investigating the allegations contained in the DSS report against Magu, he was convinced that Magu executed his anti-corruption crusade in line with the vision of the administration and asked the Senate to reconsider him as substantive EFCC Chairman.

With the position of the President, the Senate had to schedule another screening exercise for Magu.

But while the President thinks highly of Magu, the DSS does not. In the Service’s response to the Senate’s request for a new security report on Magu, the DSS, in a letter dated March 14, 2017, maintained its earlier position that the acting EFCC boss was deficient in integrity and was not a fit person to head the EFCC, having been indicted on corruption and living a double life.

Subsequently, not only was Magu rejected, the Senate also called on the President to nominate another candidate and remove Magu as acting chairman.

Although the presidency, on Thursday, claimed that the Senate had yet to communicate with the President on its rejection of Magu, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay, is of the view that the rejection should be spurned by the President.

Sagay insists that Magu can continue in acting capacity while the President is at liberty to represent him for confirmation. Basing his submission on precedence, Professor Sagay said, “The president can still represent Magu and that is constitutional. You can keep on presenting somebody who is being consistently rejected. We had that precedence when former President Olusegun Obasanjo kept representing Professor Babalola Aborisade as minister until he was finally accepted by the Senate.”

We must concede to the President the freedom to pick who he wants to work with. A leader chooses those he believes are sufficiently equipped to help him accomplish his set goals. So, if the President feels the task of making corruption history in Nigeria can be very well accomplished by Magu, he is right to pick him and free to represent him to the Senate.

But in the exercise of this right, the President must consider the larger interest of the country because whoever is championing the fight against corruption cannot be enmeshed in corruption himself. The easiest way to make a mess of the anti-corruption crusade is to have somebody with sullied integrity lead the crusade. The DSS report on Magu is damning, to say the least.

If indeed Magu was found guilty of action prejudicial to state security, withholding of EFCC files, sabotage, unauthorised removal of EFCC files and acts unbecoming of a police officer by the Police Service Commission, and was subsequently severely reprimanded, he has no business heading the EFCC.

If it is true that Magu occupies a N20million per annum residence which is not paid for by the EFCC but a friend, then keeping him as EFCC chairman is entrusting roasted beef to the care of a cat.

If Magu really travelled first class for lesser hajj in 2016 in disregard of a presidential directive that all government appointees should travel economy given the state of the nation’s economy, then President Buhari should free Magu to do other things.

Considering the cost of corruption to the country, we cannot afford to play games with fighting it. Is Magu really as straight as the President would want us believe? Is Magu really absolvable of all the allegations of the DSS? These are questions the President should ponder over before contemplating the representation of the man that has suffered two rejections in the hands of the Senate because a rejection of Magu is also a rejection of the President. Buhari can save Magu by looking beyond him for the headship of the agency.

But if the allegations are baseless, then Magu should be re-nominated.

The dilemma of the President over Magu has brought to the fore the need for the institutionalization of anti-corruption crusade. The fight has always been that of whoever leads the organizations, not that of the organization. When Nuhu Ribadu led EFCC, it was clear that the agency was out to stamp out corruption in the country. But the moment he left, a lull descended on EFCC. In fairness to Magu, there has been a semblance of seriousness in the fight against corruption since he took over. But corruption should not be fought in fits and starts; it must be fought in a systematic manner and that only happens when the fight is institutionalized. There would not have been any difficulty getting a worthy replacement for Magu in EFCC if anti-corruption crusade had been institutional and not personal. President Buhari should work towards the institutionalization of corruption fight so that the ground gained in the fight is not lost as soon as his administration ends.


Going on leave

Dear co-travellers, with effect from tomorrow, I will proceed on my annual leave. That means the column will go on recess till May 7. Not to worry, I shall return with more profound insight and refreshing perspective on national issues.