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EFCC chair: Magu goes the way of predecessors

The ambush on his convoy, the ease with which he was whisked away by security operatives and the speed at which he was ferried to Aso Rock and “arraigned” before a Presidential Investigation Panel, were all indications that the curtain was about to fall on a long drawn drama piece.

While Nigerians were still wondering whether it was an arrest, a summon or an invitation, Ibrahim Magu was already sweating it out on the hot seat as the panel grilled and drilled him. The interrogation dragged far into the night and by 10:30p.m., when the “special court” rose, it was obvious that the issues on the table were far weightier than anyone thought and he would not be returning to his palatial mansion that night. The once very powerful anti-corruption czar could not just walk away.

He was taken to the Police Force Headquarters and detained overnight. He had become an accused person and, under the law, his freedom would have to be restricted for a period of time to allow the interrogators get more answers to the puzzles before them. However, by the following day (Tuesday), the Presidency announced that Magu had been suspended from office and ceases to be the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, a position he had held for about five years. President Muhamnadu Buhari appointed Magu as Acting Chairman of the EFCC in November, 2015. He submitted himself for the routine screening and confirmation, but his nomination was rejected twice by the Eighth Senate.

The rejection was said to have been predicated on a report by the DSS, which had alleged, among others, that the senior police officer was not a fit and proper person to superintend over the anti-corruption agency because his lifestyle and track records smelt of corruption and compromise. It became a subject of controversy between the executive and the legislature to the extent that each party decided to call the bluff of the other. While the executive claimed that his rejection by the Senate was corruption fighting back, the legislature said they were only acting on an intelligence report made available to them by the secret police.

The Senate swore that it had no interests besides the need to ensure the preservation of the integrity of the Office of the Chairman of EFCC, as an institution and the anti-corruption war in the country. It was under this atmosphere that Magu settled down to the job. He talked tough, arrested whosoever he wanted and detained them; he confiscated whatever property he could lay his hands upon and dragged to court anyone that he deemed indicted for corruption. He understood the power of the media and deployed it maximally to his advantage.

Magu frequently also became very boastful about his achievements in terms of monies recovered, assets confiscated and number of convictions secured. In no time, the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, raised the red flag on assets recovered by the agency between May 2015 and January 2018.

In a memo dated February 9, 2018, Adeosun notified Magu of the records of cash asset recoveries in the custody of the anti-graft agency based on information available to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation. Adeosun said that EFCC was releasing recovery figures to the media without reconciling same with the official records kept at the Ministry of Finance.

Three years later, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) raised the same issue of discrepancies in the financial records of the anti-corruption agency. In a memo containing what has become known as the 22 sins of Magu, the AGF indicted him and asked the President to kick him out.

It was this second red flag that has seen the sun set on Magu’s era at the anti-graft agency. However, his inglorious exit might not be a big deal as it appears to have become the tradition for all those who have presided over the EFCC to leave in shame and a blaze of controversies.

Nuhu Ribadu

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the pioneer Chairman of the EFCC was once a very powerful personality. He was highly dreaded by the political class, especially those involved in shady financial deals and money laundering. President Olusegun Obasanjo, who appointed Ribadu, gave him a free hand to operate, but the EFCC soon became a strong political tool. In those days, the fear of EFCC was the beginning of political wisdom. Governors of the various states and members of the National Assembly were the prime targets of the anticorruption war. The antigraft agency was actively involved in the impeachment, trial and conviction of Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the then Governor of Bayelsa State. Alamieyeseigha, who was accused of corruption and money laundering, never recovered from the blow the EFCC dealt on him till his death. Soon after the exit of Obasanjo, Ribadu fell out with the new government over his perceived high handedness in the handling of the cases of politically exposed persons. Some of these politicians who were close to the government of President Umar Yar’Adua were so uncomfortable with Ribadu who they also accused of being corrupt. There were allegations that Ribadu, while fighting money laundering, purchased some properties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. A plot was hatched to do away with him and he was sent to undergo training at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, near Jos, Plateau State. Ribadu’s resistance to leave the seat voluntarily only worsened matters as he was promptly suspended and demoted in rank. By the time he finished the one year programme at Kuru, it was obvious he had lost the battle. He resigned from the Nigeria Police Force out of sheer frustration.

Farida Waziri

President Yar’Adua appointed Mrs. Farida Waziri as replacement for Nuhu Ribadu. Her appointment was dogged by allegations that she was a stooge nominated by some corrupt but highly influential politi-cians to shield them from prosecution. Waziri’s tenure witnessed a slowdown in the operations of the EFCC when compared to the situation under Ribadu and this was seen as deliberate in some circles. She failed to pursue the high profile cases involving former governors which were already instituted by her predecessor. By the time President Yar’Adua passed on and President Goodluck Jonathan took over the reins of power, Waziri came under pressure to perform or leave the stage. She was booted out in November 2011. It was largely a lackluster tenure that also ended in ignominy and controversy. In her own testimony, Waziri narrated how she learnt of her sack on radio just like other Nigerians.

Ibrahim Lamorde

Following the exit of Waziri, President Jonathan appointed Ibrahim Lamorde as the Acting Chairman of the EFCC. Before his appointment, Lamorde was the Head of Operations of the anti-graft agency. In no time, he was accused of diverting about $5 billion worth of assets and cash recovered by the EFCC. Lamorde was also implicated in the infamous Pension Fund scam and accused of conniving with others to embezzle huge sums of money under the guise of pension verification. At the expiration of his four-year tenure, his appointment was not renewed on November 9, 2015. Lamorde went underground and has kept a low profile since that experience on the hot seat.

Last line

It is not yet certain who will step into Magu’s shoes. Many names are already being touted from various quarters and it is almost certain that Magu’s successor will emerge from the Nigeria Police Force. However, the EFCC may still fall into the same old ditch as confusion is currently trailing the appointment of a new helmsman. The silence of the Presidency over the purported suspension of Magu in the last three days and the parade of various characters on the social media of possible successors might be an indication of some back room struggles, negotiations and power play. In the end, EFCC might end up having a head nominated by a clique of powerful Nigerians to do their bidding in the coming days.

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