Ibrahim Magu, Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In this country where strong men rule more than the law, it is relevant for me to remind the nation for the fourth time since 2015 that Ibrahim Magu, an officer of the law, has been acting as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) since November 9, 2015.

The President who nominated him was sworn in for a second term six months ago. The Acting President who nominated him twice while the President was on medical vacation in 2017 has since been sown in for a second term too. The Director General of the State Security Service (SSS) who wrote to the Senate to decline confirmation was removed from office on August 7, 2018. The President who presided over the Senate (of the 8th Assembly) that refused to confirm Magu lost his re-election bid: didn’t return to the Senate inaugurated five months ago. All the president’s men including the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (who didn’t deny scoops that their minds were bent against Magu) have returned to their offices. A user-friendly Senate leadership has since June this year assumed duty. But Commissioner of Police, Magu is still left in the lurch. What do they want to do with him? When will they fulfill the requirement of the law concerning his office? Where are the Professors of Law in the presidency who said they relied on Mr. Femi Falana’s legal thesis that a section of the constitution might have insulated Magu from Senate confirmation? Where are the Law Professors a Federal High Court told that their views on the powers of the Senate could not be taken as having any jurisprudential significance? What happened to the Court’s ruling since 2018 that the Senate has powers and should confirm any candidate to the office of the Chairman of the EFCC according to the EFCC Act? Why was Magu’s name not resent to the Senate, which confirmed the ICPC Chairman in December, 2018 even when the then senate leadership soft-pedalled on the Magu’s complicated legal issue? Do they really want confirmation of Magu as EFCC Chairman? How can chairman of such a powerful body set up by law since 2003 be acting for more than four years? Is there no limit to how long an officer of the law can act? Why have the relevant professional bodies, especially the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), etc kept quiet over this serious national complication caused by senior lawyers in the presidency? Are they waiting for resurrection of a Gani Fawehinmi to test their integrity on this issue in court?

I have been writing about this absurdity in the polity since 2017. This is actually the fourth time that I have written about the mangled nomination of Magu and disrespect of the authorities to the police officer who has served the Buhari presidency so well.

I began this with an article titled, “Redemption Songs for Buhari’s presidency” on March 26, 2017. On August 6, 2017, I wrote another one titled, Magu and a Chaotic Presidency”.  I repeated the March 26, 2017 article on August 12, 2018 as Redemption Songs for Buhari’s Presidency.

Below is an excerpt from the one on Magu and a chaotic presidency (2017):
....The presidency that nominated him to the Senate has worked harder than scoundrels who would not want him confirmed. It is getting curiouser and curiouser why the presidency that sent his name to the Senate could not scrutinise two damaging reports by the office of the Director-General, Department of State Services (DGDSS), which said the president’s nominee should not be confirmed. The two reports for the two times Magu has been nominated, specifically stated that the police officer had failed the DSS’s integrity test, adding that he was not a fit and proper person to hold that office. The Senate, which had been looking for a strong alibi to reject the president’s nominee, cashed in on the damning reports to reject him. The upper house had asked for a replacement and vowed that they would not accept the nomination of Magu again. What is worse, the same presidency is said to be seeking a Supreme Court’s interpretation of Section 171 of the 1999 Constitution that does not contain EFCC as a constitutional body. Two professors of law in the presidency, one the acting president, and the other, chairman of the Advisory Committee Against Corruption are rock-solid for Magu, who they insist might not require Senate confirmation. But what if the apex court rules that the EFCC is not an extra-ministerial body as the professors and some other lawyers and so the EFCC’s enabling law, which provides for confirmation of its Chairman, then that, will be the end of the road for Magu.
Now it is a pity that Magu, the man the presidency insists will not be replaced is between the devil and a deep blue sea. They claim the president prefers him but the president’s main men hate him. Only the two professors who are generally believed to be in office and not in power want Magu. From this recent strongly worded letter from the Attorney General who now agrees with one of the law professors that the EFCC is technically incompetent in prosecuting cases in the law courts, there is no respite for the taciturn Magu the DSS has technically knocked out. It is crystal clear that Magu may not be able to survive the ‘unkindest cuts’ from the hawks in the presidency. The doves do not have sufficient clout to save him from the latest internal ballistic missiles – the Justice Ministry has set off. One can now look into the seed of time and see that sooner than later, the embattled Borno-born police detective will be accused of “indiscipline and insubordination” to his supervising Minister, who is also the Attorney General of the Federation: the officer of the law, who has the power to prosecute and withdraw from prosecution.
I am massively confused about Magu. In real terms, who wants the man confirmed? Why does the president ask the man, Magu to see him on a rainy day and the same president’s men withdraw his umbrella? Why can’t they settle issues inside the Presidential Villa? Why do they want to wash the fine officer’s dirty linen in the public? May be Magu needs some introspection that will enable him to declare to himself: ‘After all, what am I waiting for in this kitchen full of toxic heat?

Below too is an excerpt from my comment on “redemption songs for Buhari’s presidency”, after the Senate’s second rejection of the nomination of Magu:

“...It is so easy for some angry commentators and critics of the Senate to be castigating the Upper House for the plight and frustration of the president over failure to get Ibrahim Magu cleared as Chairman of the anticorruption body, the EFCC.

It is also convenient to use the data of those being tried for corruption in the Senate as basis for casting aspersion on the Senate over Magu.

But how do we contextualise the presidency that is apparently divided against itself on the messy Magu affair?

How do we blame the Senate for the president’s failure to disarm the ‘gunmen’ in the palace who have always succeeded in shooting down his preferred candidate for the EFCC top job? How did he allow that affliction to occur a second time?

The question we (the) bloody outsiders cannot answer till eternity is this: Is it possible for the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS) to submit two damaging reports on Magu to the Senate without the consent and knowledge of the National Security Adviser, not to talk of the President? Besides, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo it was who submitted the name of the EFCC Acting boss to the Senate two times.

And so, it is relevant to ask if the DSS also bypassed him before submitting a damning report to the Senate in the first instance. It is also so easy to condemn a cabal or the president’s men for the tragic failure to get Magu cleared. But is there any way the cabal can work without the consent of the principal it exists for?

More questions: As the earth remains, most people will continue to ask questions about what has become PMB’s parochial appointment. Is there a sense in which we can blame only the president’s men or cabal for the nominations and approval of all the presidential appointments so far? Has the president who has the mandate of the people too been an innocent bystander in the politics of appointments…?

It was in this same context on complex politics of presidential appointments on Buhari’s watch I had then asked in a companion piece: “Is PMB’s integrity overrated?”

So, the purpose of this note today is to remind the president who has just unexpectedly turned our crisis with South Africa into opportunities for Nigeria to remember that the Chairman of the EFCC has been in an acting capacity since November 9, 2015. The Senate of the 8th session of the National Assembly rejected Magu’s nomination twice. They claimed they based their action on two letters written by the then Director General, DSS, Mr. Lawal Daura. But curiously, despite a Federal Court’s ruling that the Senate had powers to reject Magu’s nomination since February 1, 2018, the President has kept him in that office. There may be a question of legality of that office tomorrow if he leaves office without confirmation as stipulated by the EFCC Act.

I recall a case by a Major General and former Director of DMI, also a lawyer, who claimed in a court case in 2008 that the Army Council that curiously asked him to resign prematurely was not properly constituted because the Chief of Army Staff then who chaired the Council meeting, in which the decision was taken, had not been confirmed by the Senate – according to the Armed Forces Act 2004. The Court of Appeal ruled in the favour of the Major General, Ovo Adhekegba in 2013. The significance of that case in court actually led to the need for confirmation of Service Chiefs by the Senate since 2008. I hope there will be no inspiration from this case to attack the actions of Magu so far.  It is also hoped that we will not ask tomorrow, which law rules Magu’s appointment without Senate confirmation? What of the ruling of February 1, 2018 by a Federal High Court? Does even a stay of execution prevent confirmation by the Senate, after all? Let the Law Professors who complicated this Magu’s matter (2015-2019) for the presidency, advise the President to respect the rule of law concerning the office of Chairman of the EFCC. If they want Magu to continue to work without fear, they should send his name to the Senate for confirmation today.

Note: Inside Stuff with MARTINS OLOJA is published every Sunday in The Guardian and used by permission.

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