By Muhammed Abdullahi
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged” – Matthew 7:1
The above admonition by Jesus Christ is very germane as we interrogate the latest issue of the rejection of the acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is even more important for those of us outside government to be wary of judging Magu, especially since the issue of his rejection has generated divergent opinion, with some believing that Magu was rejected because some highly placed individuals are jittery of the calamity that would likely befall them should he be confirmed as substantive chairman.
However, since Jesus was talking about rash and needless judgement when he said “do not judge so that you will not be judged”, it may not be out of place to put Magu to trial based on some actions he took in his capacity as acting EFCC Chairman which suggest that our top anti-corruption crusader is not entirely free of magomago.
Yes, no one is infallible, but any man who will sit in judgement of his fellow men must assume the status of an unblemished god that would command the regard of those who bear the brunt of his judgement. And this is why Jesus again commands in Matthew 7: 5 thus, “you hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye”.
No man, not Magu, not anyone, has the right to question anybody unless he, the questioner, can guarantee that he is not a suspect of the same crime he seeks to interrogate. This is why it would be a wicked irony for a Magu whose anti-corruption image is now questionable to sit in judgement of those suspected of corruption in our country.
Since the rejection of Magu’s nomination by the Senate, a few people have come out to refute basically all the allegations levelled against the acting EFCC boss as contained in the DSS report relied upon by the Senators to arrive at their decision. Leading the pack of Magu defenders is a leading online newspaper, Premium Times, which has now somehow assumed the role of speaking for the acting EFCC boss. Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi, the Editor-in-Chief/Managing Director of Premium Times Services Limited was once a Director in EFCC until 2008, therefore the defences put up by PT on behalf of Mr. Magu may be understood as Olorunyomi’s way of protecting one of the trios that started the EFCC; with the other two (Nuhu Ribadu and Ibrahim Lamorde) now out of the Commission.
Like someone said, the accusation that Magu lives in a N40 million apartment paid for by a person of questionable character may just be a scratch on the surface when juxtaposed with other more serious infractions that Ibrahim Magu allegedly committed.
For instance, a part of the DSS report upon which the Senate based its decision to reject Magu’s nomination reads, “Investigation on the chairmanship of Magu revealed that in August 2008 during the tenure of Farida Waziri as the commission’s chairman, some sensitive documents which were not supposed to be at the disposal of Magu were discovered in his house. He was subsequently redeployed to the police after days of detention and later suspended from the police force.
“In December 2010, the Police Service Commission (PSC) found Magu guilty of action prejudicial to state security – withholding of EFCC files, sabotage, unauthorized removal of EFCC files and acts unbecoming of a police officer, and awarded him severe reprimand as punishment.
“Magu is currently occupying a residence rented for N40m at N20m per annum. This accommodation was not paid from the commission’s finances, but by one Umar Mohammed, air commodore retired, a questionable businessman who has subsequently been arrested by the secret service.
“For the furnishing of the residence, Magu enlisted the Federal Capital Development Authority to award a contract to Africa Energy, a company owned by the same Mohammed, to furnish the residence at the cost of N43m.”
It is informative to note that Ibrahim Magu is yet to clarify his relationship with Air Commodore Umar Muhammed (rtd) who has already confessed to approaching “clients for possible exploitation, favours and associated returns”. And considering that Muhammed has also been accused of running a blackmailing cartel allegedly on behalf of Magu who himself was once accused of being in possession of sensitive EFCC documents without authorization; it is curious that our acting EFCC chairman has decided to keep mute and allow Premium Times speak for him.
Yorubas have a fantastic analogy. They said a warrior comes to you with a claim that he killed dozens on the battlefield, and while you are still making up your mind whether or not to believe him, the warrior matched 12 chickens to death before your very eyes. What more proof of gallantry do you need? After all, if you did not see the feat performed by the warrior on the field of battle, at least you just witnessed one. In other words, if the offences for which Magu was suspended in 2008 was a story handed to us, what of the recent actions of the acting EFCC chairman which clearly confirmed some of his magomago.
My friend and brother, Abubakar Sidiqu Usman, publisher and owner of the popular abusidiqu.com blog, was sometimes in August this year arrested on the order of Mr. Ibrahim Magu for publishing a report that was critical of the acting chairman of the anti-corruption agency.
The report published by AbuSidiqu, which was titled ‘EFCC boss, Magu, commences total war with core EFCC staff’, accused Magu of corruption and detailed how regular members of staff of EFCC were complaining that they were being bullied by the Commission’s acting chairman who believed they were the ones licking information about his activities. Less than a week after the publication of the article, AbuSidiqu was picked up from his home and charged with a nebulous offence known as cyber stalking. It took the immediate intervention of well-meaning Nigerians, particularly the advocacy and staunch support of Mr. Abubakar’s political associates for him to be granted bail to rejoin his family. Such is the level of intolerance of Mr. Magu that the story of maltreating staff of EFCC became a lot more believable.
One Miss Adenike Lucas who has reported extensively on Mr. Magu’s activities as acting chairman of EFCC was also quoted to have said that “ if Nigerians understood what has been happening, they would stone Mr Magu.” She narrated how Mr. Magu failed the test of integrity he was subjected to by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki. According to Lucas, Dr. Saraki offered to make a deal with Magu in order to ensure he secure Senate confirmation.
One of the ‘test’ deal, as reported by Lucas, was for Mr. Magu to bargain with all ongoing investigations against senators. To the astonishment of the Senate President, it was reported that acting chairman Magu readily and happily agreed to the proposal. Miss Lucas added that this was not the first time Magu would make deals with cases before him. She alluded to a case involving the brother of former Akwa Ibom governor, Ibanga Akpabio, in which Magu made a deal to protect him against prosecution.
Indeed, not everything said or written about Magu would be correct, the same way everything said about him cannot be plain lies. The challenge now is how to demarcate between what is true and what is not in all of the information available to the public. And this is one situation in which the general legal maxim, ‘he who alleges must prove’ may not hold. In this case, Magu would do us and himself a big favour by coming out to clarify and defend himself against the many allegations levelled against him.
However, no matter the anger or animosity we may have towards Magu as a person, it is important that the man is not crucified until all the evidences against him are scrutinized and validated. The Senate erred in relying solely on the content of the DSS report without given Magu the chance to defend himself. That action contravened the principle of fair hearing as a fundamental human right. Our constitution in section 36 subsection 1 emphasized on the need for the accused to be given the opportunity to defend himself. The Senate was said not to have accorded Magu this opportunity. But with the directive of the President for the Attorney General of the Federation to constitute a panel of enquiry into the allegations levelled against top government officials including Magu, that mistake has been rectified and the anti-corruption boss now has a golden chance to clear his name and convince the Senate of his innocence.
Last Sunday, I watched the O&M Sunday show on the African Independent Television (AIT). One of the guests, a whistle blower, called for the disbandment of the EFCC. He claimed to be in possession of several documents that proved the corruption going on inside the anti-corruption commission. Bearing in mind that Magu’s immediate predecessor, Ibrahim Lamorde, was also tainted by corruption allegations and Mrs. Farida Waziri equally accused Mallam Nuhu Ribadu of failure to declare some assets forfeited to the EFCC during his tenure; the fight against corruption may be said to be gradually becoming a huge fat joke. And this is why the proposal for the amendment of the EFCC act to allow for any Nigerian of credible integrity, not just those in the police, to be appointed as EFCC chairman falls within the boundary of sound logic.
Coming back to the issue of Magu, it is obvious that what Magu lost is beyond a mere rejection by the Senate. Even if he is reconsidered, as the Senate already hinted, Magu has already lost a critical weapon in the fight against corruption, which is the trust and support of the public. The several allegations that trail his acting chairmanship has already placed a big question mark on his credibility and integrity as an anti-corruption fighter. His moral right to continue his assignment in EFCC is now very questionable. Magu’s reputation has no doubt been dented.
Many now believes that the man we saddle with the task of cleansing the country of corruption also has a dirty side dirtier than the face of Lucifer. And since impression is everything, it would be interesting to see how Magu, if reconsidered by the Senate and confirmed, would rewrite the narrative of his person and come back to be a hugely successful anti-corruption hero.
Muhammed Abdullahi is the mid-week “The Advocate” columnist of The DISCOURSE, he can be reached on email : email@example.com, twitter: @guymuhammed