Pressure is piling on President Muhammadu Buhari to see the ongoing investigation of alleged sleaze against the suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, to a logical conclusion and restore the integrity of his anti-corruption campaign.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Association of Middle Belt Ethnic Nationality (ASOBEM), in separate statements, said the revelation from the probe of Magu was an indication of the failure of the anti-corruption fight and incompetence.
However, regardless of the perceived dent his action might have put on Federal Government’s anti-graft campaign, President Buhari has said Magu is not immune to probe as there will be no sacred cows in his government.
The PDP, in a statement by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the allegations to which Magu should answer also include reported violation of rules, victimisation of Nigerians and stealing of recovered funds.
The party described Magu as not only unfit to lead an agency like the EFCC but has also reduced the anti-corruption agency to a house of corruption.
It berated Magu for turning the commission’s headquarters and the war against corruption into a “partisan witch-hunt organisation that thrives in violation of rules, abuse of investigation processes, manipulation of court procedures as well as a vehicle to harass and extort money from innocent Nigerians.”
The PDP insisted that Magu should be made to provide an answer to allegations in the public space that he was more interested in securing politically induced convictions rather than justice.
“What Nigerians expect at this time is for the Federal Government to ensure Magu’s prosecution in court as well as take necessary and decisive steps to restore the integrity of the EFCC by ensuring that Magu’s replacement as EFCC chairman is thoroughly screened to avoid the ills and violations experienced under the suspended acting chairman,” PDP stated.
The opposition party said while breaching the rules of engagement Magu allegedly turned the EFCC into a terror house where innocent Nigerians are harassed with trumped-up charges and convicted on media trial even before being allowed to defend themselves in court.
The statement reads in part: “There are also allegations of violation of rights, including allegedly making his victims make statements in custody without the services of their lawyers.
“This is in addition to insinuations in the public that the indicted EFCC boss was also harassing certain judges to get a conviction on cases.
“Nigerians can recall that under Magu, the former national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, was bold to state that once a corrupt person joins the APC, all his sins are forgiven.
“Moreover, the memo by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, detailing charges of diversion of recovered funds, secret sale of seized property and insubordination among others now validates the position of most Nigerians that Ibrahim Magu lacks the required discipline, exposure and experience to head an agency like the EFCC.
Also reacting, the Secretary-General of the Middle Belt Forum, Reverend James Pam, faulted the noncompliance with the federal character principle in the appointment of heads of the antigraft agency.
He called for a review of the act that established the EFCC to reflect the peculiarities of the country and also give room for people of proven integrity to take over the commission.
“The Federal Government, since the beginning of this dispensation, has been appointing the headship from a particular part of the country without recourse to the federal character.
“ASOMBEN is also of the view that the act which established the EFCC should be reviewed. The chairman of the Commission does not have to be a police officer.
“All those that had occupied the seat to Magu have always ended up in trouble, why can’t it be another people of high integrity in the society like retired judge or clergyman,” he said.
But the president, through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, dismissed insinuation that Magu’s investigation has derailed the administration’s anti-corruption war.
He said “Those who see Magu’s investigation as a signal that the fight against corruption is failing have unfortunately missed the boat.
“There is no better indication that the fight is real and active than the will to investigate allegations in an open and transparent manner against those who have been charged to be custodians of this very system.
“Under this president and government, this is our mantra and guiding principle.
There are no sacred cows, and for those who think they have a halo over their heads, their days are also numbered.
“Mr Magu was not immune – and regardless of the obvious embarrassment that potential acts of wrongdoing by him, given the office he held, may appear for the government.
“No other administration in the history of Nigeria would have moved to bring into the light and public domain such an allegation,” Shehu said.
The presidency affirmed that there are other individuals in the commission who can be trusted to carry on the anti-corruption fight.
Shehu explained that the allegations levelled against Magu necessitated the probe in line with extant laws.
He also said the probe would afford Magu the opportunity to defend himself.
The presidential spokesperson, in a statement, said the suspension of Magu allows the commission to continue with its work without the cloud of an investigation hanging over it.
“As is the proper procedure, when allegations are made against the chief executive of an institution, and in this case an institution that ought to be seen as beyond reproach, the chief executive has to step down from his post and allow for a transparent and unhindered investigation.
“The EFCC does not revolve around the personality of an individual, and as such cannot be seen through the prism of any individual.
“Therefore, the suspension of Magu allows the institution to continue carrying out its mandate without the cloud of an investigation hanging over its head.
“The EFCC has many good, hardworking men and women who are committed to its ideal and ensuring that the wealth of our country isn’t plundered and wherein there is an act of misappropriation such person(s) are brought to justice.
“Meanwhile, Mr Magu is being availed the opportunity to defend himself and answer the allegations against him. This is how it should be, as is the fact that under the Laws of Nigeria every citizen is presumed and remains innocent until proven guilty.
“We must realise that the fight against corruption is not a static event, but a dynamic and ever-evolving process in which the EFCC is just one actor, and as we continue to work towards improving our democratic process so shall every institution of ours also embark on that journey of evolution.
“What is however important is that there must be accountability and transparency and our people must realise that they would be held to account. This is the building block in the fight against corruption, the establishment of the concept of accountability and the recognition of the rule of law.”