Magu and a chaotic presidency
Too many big trees are falling on big trees daily in Nigeria and even Abuja may be finding it increasingly intricate deciding which one to remove first, especially with the way things are falling apart anywhere we go now. What would one choose to comment upon now in a maze of choices in the polity? Restructuring noise level has become so unbearable to the principalities and powers in the National Assembly that they are regretting their inconclusive voting on constitution amendment, a volatile issue that seem to have assumed a national security dimension. Presiding officers of both chambers of the federal legislature are already hinting at the possibility of some cognitive restructuring and a recast of votes on the controversial devolution of powers and other vital issues in federalism paradise lost in 1966. Curiously, while the dust was settling on the devolution of power palaver, the Arewa youths, quit notice givers to our Oriental brothers too began speaking in tongues again on the eve of the countdown to the 90th day of the medical vacation of the president. Some governors are also saying that they have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to continue to rest, sorry recuperate in the United Kingdom.
One report said early last week that the elders had intervened and the quit notice had been withdrawn. But at the weekend, another statement indicated that the October 1 date is sacrosanct, and the quit notice should be respected. The discordant tunes from Kaduna came just as military authorities and their reputation managers were desperately pushing a narrative that Boko Haram had actually been defeated, amid reports of resurgence of the insurgents, and their return to the evil forest called Sambisa. While the acting president was assuring the nation that negotiators for possible release of hostages from the University of Maiduguri, oil workers and remaining 100 + Chibok girls were already working round the clock, military authorities were only interested in reconstructing their first narrative that Boko Haram had been “technically defeated” and that only the remnants have been daring to come to Maiduguri and retaking locations even in Adamawa State.
While some military strategists were labouring in some studios to recast their incredible stories, I was being led into some temptation to discuss why most South West governors are at the moment interested in more universities rather than better ones. Ondo state has licensed three universities in Akungba, Okitipupa and Ondo towns. Ogun State has two already in Ago Iwoye and Ijebu Ode, and the government just announced its intention to convert the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic in Abeokuta, to a university of science and technology. Oyo and Osun states jointly own Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTEC), Ogbomoso. But the once-upon-a –time very good university has been in a crisis for months. Osun State’s underfunded university is there. Then the other day, there was a report about the establishment of an Oyo State Technical University. I wanted to ask questions about the source of South West governors’ anointing for establishing more instead of better universities when news broke from Abuja that the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, (SAN) are (again) at loggerheads over control of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
This is considered a weightier matter of urgent national importance that has been discussed in this column more than two times. I have noted here that there is no question that the Attorney General of the Federation has a critical role to play in managing prosecution, especially at the EFCC, which has been losing so many high-profile corruption cases, no thanks to poor prosecution. The 1999 constitution gives the prosecutorial powers in criminal justice system to the Attorney General of the Federation and the states. Yes, there is a sense in which it can be argued that an AGF can abuse such powers as was done about 10 years ago when the then AGF, Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, suddenly rose from his slumber and withdrew some EFCC’s high profile cases from the courts when Malam Nuhu Ribadu was chairman of the EFCC. This should not be a reference point whenever serious public service comes to be discussed. What is more, the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, has been criticising the curious standoffishness of the Attorney General of the Federation on anti-corruption cases since 2015. Specifically, the AGF has been blamed for the loss of many serious cases because of poor prosecution.
In the first week of April this year, at least three judges delivered rulings that went against the corruption cases instituted by the Federal Government. First, Justice Abdulazeez Anka of a Federal High Court in Lagos vacated a freeze order on the account of Mike Ozekhome, SAN, after initially ordering a temporary forfeiture of N75m found in Ozekhome’s Guarantee Trust Bank account.
The EFCC had sought for a freeze order on the account alleging it to be proceeds of crime.
That same week, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory discharged a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja of all 18 count charges of fraud brought against him, his wife and a senior lawyer. The judge, Adeniyi Ademola, and his wife, Olabowale, as well as Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Joe Agi, were accused of fraudulent diversion of huge sums, consisting of local and foreign currencies, possession of firearms and involvement in illegal collection of gratification.
Besides, that week too, a Federal High Court in Lagos Federal High Court in Lagos issued an order unfreezing the Skye bank account of a former First Lady, Patience Jonathan. The EFCC had in November 2016 filed an application before the court seeking an order freezing the account. The commission had contended that the funds were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime. The account is said to harbour the sum of $5.8 million. This string of losses and victory of the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, triggered the critical comments of Professor Sagay and his men, who would like the AGF to do his work as the chief law officer and prosecutor, who should be blamed for losing all the high profile cases.
It was no surprise when last week the AGF took practical steps to do his work. But Magu’s men who have been suspecting the AGF of being part of the revolt against his (Magu’s) confirmation by the Senate, said a letter written for the AGF to oversee the handling of high-profile cases is an attempt to take over his (Magu’s) job.
In a curious twist on Friday, the presidency reportedly warned the EFCC to respond to a letter written to it on Tuesday by the Ministry of Justice, about high-profile investigations, or face sanctions.
The letter, which sparked off speculations of a rift between the ministry and the EFCC, directed the commission to submit details of its investigations into ‘serious cases’ to the Justice Ministry. Such cases include matters with international dimensions, cases involving alleged misappropriation of N50m and above; cases of fraud involving numerous suspects, among others.
According to the letter dated August 1, the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, accused the EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, of violating section 10 of the commission’s performance regulation guidelines, 2010.
The Attorney-General in the said letter observed that the commission had been in breach of the above cited provision of the regulation for some time, hence this reminder to the commission to ensure compliance going forward.
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 the police officer had failed the DSS’s integrity test, adding that he is 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?’
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