For the suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, the birds finally came home to roost last week. He has been in detention since he was stopped on the way to the Police headquarters from his office and has been answering questions from a presidential panel headed by Justice Ayo Salami since then. Also, since then, some of his lieutenants and men in the Commission have been questioned over allegations of embezzlement of recovered properties and lack of proper accounts for the recoveries.
The Presidency has gone ahead to confirm his suspension and his replacement with the Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar, in acting capacity. We know that Magu may not return to the seat again, going by the trend of events in the investigations. For Magu, it is a case of the hunter becoming the game.
Since his appointment by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration five years ago, there is no doubt that he has obstacles laid on his way. He has been in acting capacity for the five years, ostensibly because the Senate, whose duty it was to confirm his appointment, declined to do so twice. Rather than see reasons for his failure, spin doctors saw the non-confirmation as the extension of the political battle between the executive and the leadership of the eighth Senate, led by Senator Bukola Saraki.
Twice, Buhari made efforts to have Magu confirmed by the Senate, twice the former EFCC boss failed to scale the screening hurdle, thus, leaving him in the acting capacity for the five years. While it is not in doubt that Magu had discharged his duties on the seat with aplomb and gusto, it is also instructive that the same government that has kept him for five years is the same now that has put him on the ropes. We cannot pretend to have the facts at the disposal of government for which it is engaging in the fight with Magu.
But we are convinced that the Magu episode is one that on the surface showed that nobody is really above the law. But deeper down, there is no doubt that the forces at work against Magu right from the Saraki days, when he failed the confirmation sitting, are still at work.
We recall that it was the DSS report that the Senate relied on to nail the now embattled EFCC boss. There is the memo written by the Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, against Magu, which contained a cocktail of allegations, ranging from mismanagement to insubordination and other sundry issues. Since the Magu trial began, there have been a slew of allegations made on the conventional and social media against him. Many might be correct, many might be false, but one thing that is as clear as daylight is that Magu’s chasers have finally cut up with him.
The Presidency, on Saturday, released a statement, which said that Magu remains innocent until proven guilty. We agree with that, since it is the standard norm in any democratic setting. We also believe that Magu should be treated fairly during his interrogations to enable him prove his innocence.
Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu, explained that it was in line with fairness and transparency that Magu was suspended from office. “Therefore, the suspension of Mr. Ibrahim Magu, allows the institution to continue carrying out its mandate without the cloud of investigation hanging over its head.
“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,” the Presidency stated. We believe that the allegations levelled against Magu currently are mere allegations, which would be proven with due process up to the law courts. The exercise should not stop at removing Magu from office.
It is an activity we expect to go the whole length of the judicial system, if the panel finds Magu guilty. But it is also pertinent to note that the trial of Magu remains a lesson to people who are entrusted with public offices or public trust to be careful.
Evidently, Magu never bargained for what he is going through now, for he has, in the past five years, strutted the turf as a king, as a thief catcher, who is adept in his calling. Now, it is his turn to answer tough questions he has put to many Nigerians of high standing since his assumption of office. What we can deduce from his case is that there is a judgement day for everybody, irrespective of standing, as far as you are holding a public trust. Even if Magu was not put on the ropes today, another government could have done that.
We, however, give kudos to the Presidency for the bold move. It may not be pleasant, but certainly it sends the message that nobody is above the law. We expect Magu to defend himself with his whole might, just like other Nigerians have defended themselves before his panel.