By Carl Umegboro
THE acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu was last month recommended for removal from office by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) over alleged diversion of recovered loots, insubordination and others. Malami in the memo to President Muhammadu Buhari listed three names for possible replacement of Ibrahim Magu alongside his alleged atrocities.
A critical look at the litany of alleged offences will rather made one conclude that a high-wired politics is in motion to achieve a coded objective beyond the ‘watery’ indictment for removal of Magu from office. The pertinent question demanding answers is; does the country need the brouhaha is it is not to move the nation forward but merely for political motives. This is a period when schools have been under lockdown over the Covid-19 pandemic; many have lost their jobs; economy has been under coma and private businesses are struggling to survive.
Prominent and most ridiculous among the allegations is that the AGF, Malami accused the EFCC boss of disclosing a total naira recovery of N504 billion but lodged N543 billion in the Recovery Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). In the first place, did we complain that we got a deposit higher than what was declared? I believe the treasury too needs such a positive ‘discrepancy’ instead of the other way round which is common since independence.
By the discrepancy, it means the amount lodged in CBN Recovery Account which Magu cannot access after deposit exceeded the alleged disclosed figures by N39 billion. Without a doubt, it amounts to discrepancy but a positive one as the amount deposited in the treasury exceeded the amount possibly presented in a press briefing or in any other forum. The question is; is this a negative record to accuse Magu of re-looting the looted funds for having excess funds in the treasury than declared at a time?
Sensibly, it would only demand investigation if the deposited amount in the CBN Recovery Account is less than the declared amount and not as it presently stands. Except there is evidence that the total recovered amount exceeded the N543billion deposited in the treasury. It is also important to note that even the President cannot access the money in the CBN without the record reflecting it. Thus, the allegations vis-à-vis the recovered loot lack merit.
Other grounds in the memo to the president in which Malami anchored his recommendation are insubordination and misconduct which could be handled by the presidency without public knowledge. Hence, needless to interfere into affairs in the presidency. The Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari as an experienced diplomat convincingly knows how to resolve such conflicts among President’s appointees.
Also in the grounds are; alleged discrepancies in the reconciliation records of the EFCC and the Federal Ministry of Finance on recovered funds; not providing enough evidence for the extradition of ex-Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke; alleged late action on the investigation of Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) leading to legal dispute, and not respecting court order to unfreeze a N7billion judgment in favour of a former Executive Director of First Bank.
Others are alleged delay in acting on two vessels seized by Nigerian Navy leading to the loss of crude; favouring of some investigators called Magu’s Boys; reporting some judges to their presiding officers without deferring to the AGF; alleged sale of seized assets to cronies, associates and friends, and alleged issuance of investigative activities to some media prejudicial to some cases.
Of course, as stated earlier, other allegations are issues for the Presidency to look into but not as weighty as the alleged diversion of recovered loots merely on account of the discrepancy between the amounts deposited and declared. The good point in the story is that the recovered loots are intact and not tampered with except there is a record to establish it.
Ridiculously, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) despite going through Malami’s accounts hurriedly asked the acting chairman of EFCC, Magu to step aside for investigations. The pertinent question is; what are they investigating? That amount deposited with the CBN exceeded the amount EFCC earlier declared? So, should Magu be asked to take over the excess deposit?
Clearly, PDP fell to the trap by calling for Magu’s sack when the allegations are self-explanatory, and didn’t indict him in anyway. Although other allegations are also important but the only charge that can lead to removal of Magu from office as EFCC boss is meddling or diversion of recovered loots which AGF in the ‘picture’ didn’t show forth. Malami, ironically, painted Magu as a ‘good samaritan’.
In conclusion, if the plot is a prelude to initiate another move for Magu’s confirmation by the Senate, if he has not been found wanting particularly in re-looting our recovered loots, he should be confirmed as the EFCC chairman rather than with this expensive drama. The country has numerous challenges facing it and therefore the polity cannot be subjected to such distractions. If Magu has benefitted in any way from the recovered loots or abused his office in anyway, let him face the music. Otherwise, let’s not unconsciously blackmail the nation in the eye of the international community.
Finally, the media on Monday accurately reported that Magu was arrested but authorities denied it including the anti-graft agency. Later, it was confirmed that Magu was detained overnight. Could someone be detained without arrest, a question begging for an answer? The action portrayed nation’s media industry as undependable. Meanwhile, the report was accurate. Government cannot be involved in destroying the media for whatever reasons.
As it stands, Magu may if not found culpable be reinstated. Buhari’s administration will equally score a goal for entrenching a prominent democratic principle vis-à-vis rule of law that ‘nobody is above the law’. Ultimately, the media industry lost in the game for the ‘inconsistency’ in the reports of ‘Magu arrested’ and later, ‘a disclaimer that he wasn’t arrested. But eventually, he was arrested whether by ploy or seriousness.
Umegboro, a public affairs analyst and Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators is reachable via: email@example.com