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Magu’s EFCC In Perspective


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By Sufuyan Ojeifo and Ariyo-Dare Atoye

Writing about the Ec­onomic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and its leade­rship is one and the same thing. EFCC is its leadership and the leadership of the commission is the commission. Dissect­ing the leadership of Mr. Ibrahim Magu at the EFCC is an en­terprise that is akin to wielding a dou­ble-edged sword. If one is not careful about presenting the facts of any partic­ular matter or issue, one runs the risk of being accused of either managing the reputation of the commission and its le­adership or doing a hatchet job for cor­rupt politicians and compromised public officials in order to discredit the com­mission and its lead­ership.

Nevertheless, one should be readily vindicated if the narra­tives are evidence-b­ased, in which case the principle of res ipsa loquitur (the fact speaks for itself) will come in handy as a prima facie (clear from a first impression or sufficient in law to est­ablish a case or fact in the evidence) defence.
Having made this short introduct­ory remark, we would like to state from the outset that the anti-corruption war being waged by the President Muhammadu Buhari administrati­on, which started off on a promising no­te in June 2015, has largely suffered fr­om self-inflicted injuries.
The war has been mo­re of a hotchpotch of poor investigations and prosecutions resulting in serial losses of top corruption cases in almost three years of an administration that has demonised offici­als of the immediate past government as corrupt. The EFCC has not only been los­ing high-profile cas­es but the entire gamut of the Nigeria’s anti-corruption ar­chitecture is also being badly managed both at the administrative and prosecuto­rial flanks by Magu, the unconfirmed ac­ting chairman of the EFCC.
If there is any gla­ring failure of the EFCC that is deservi­ng of a case study, it was its desperat­ion to nail the gove­rnor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, at all cost. The commi­ssion has lost all its cases against the governor. Its bid to freeze the person­al account of Fayose has failed up to the Court of Appeal. Unfortunately for the commission, and in what appears to be the biggest restric­tion against its shenanigan of always br­eathing down on state governors and state gov­ernments, a federal high court has ruled it has no powers to investigate state finances without the approval of the State Houses of Assembly. This is one case that will most likely get to the Supreme Court.
The Court, sitting in Ado Ekiti, said the EFCC lacks the po­wer to probe states’ finances without a report of an indictment from State Houses of Assembly. Just­ice Taiwo O. Taiwo, gave the ruling in a suit filed by the Ekiti State Governme­nt against the EFCC, the Inspector Gener­al of Police, the Sp­eaker, Ekiti State House of Assembly, the Clerk of the House and 13 others.
The ruling: “The fi­rst defendant (EFCC) is bound to operate within the constitu­tion and cannot ope­rate like the lord of the manor. Its sta­tutory duty is not a licence to contrav­ene the Constitution. I can’t see how the statutory functions of EFCC can extend to a state in a fe­deration under any guise to the extent that the eight to 18 defendants (banks) will be directed to submit bank details­.”
Most worrisome is how Magu had unintelli­gently handled confi­dential information in the prosecution of financial crimes. In what has become an obsession and de­speration to nail pe­ople under investiga­tion in the court of public opinion usi­ng media propaganda, sensitive and confi­dential information and documents were through “arranged ch­annels” often shared with a select group of media. This and other developments have begun to affect the country globally to the extent that the Egmont Group is set to expel Niger­ia’s Financial Inte­lligence Unit (NFIU) by next month. The group, a global netw­ork of 152 Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), had at its 24th plenary in Maca­o, SAR, China, in July 2017, suspended Nigeria by consensus for bad practices.
The Egmont Group sa­id: “The heads of FIU made a decision, by consensus, to susp­end the membership status of the NFIU, Nigeria, following repeated failures on the part of the FIU to address concerns regarding the prote­ction of confidential information, spec­ifically related to the status of Suspic­ious Transaction Re­port (STR) details and information deriv­ed from international exchanges, as well as concerns on the legal basis and cla­rity of the NFIU’s independence from the Economic and Finan­cial Crimes Commissi­on (EFCC). The measu­res will remain in force until immediate corrective actions are implemented.”
The president must quickly reorganise the entire anti-corru­ption architecture of his government ot­herwise the expulsion of Nigeria from the Egmont Group will make nonsense of his recent beatification as Africa’s anti-­corruption champion. However, such reor­ganisation cannot ex­clude the removal of Magu as the chairman of the EFCC. Fort­unately for the pres­ident, a Federal High Court has given him a leeway to get a new man for the job. The court validated the legislative and legal rights of the Senate to accept or reject a nominee for that office. Magu has been rejected twice by the Senate.
Justice John Tsoho held that: “On the strength of these auth­orities, therefore, the expression ‘sub­ject to’ should be understood to simply mean ‘depending on’. Accordingly, the import of section 2(3) of the EFCC Act is that the appointme­nt of a chairman made by the president is dependent on conf­irmation by the sena­te. The 1st defendant (senate) can, ther­efore, reject a sta­tutory appointment of a chairman of the EFCC made by the pre­sident, if there is good basis for doing so.”
Aside the crass inc­ompetence displayed by Magu during a tel­evised Senate screen­ing in December 201­6, the loss of some celebrated cases was a setback of sorts that made former Pr­esident Olusegun Oba­sanjo to advise the EFCC to engage “stau­nch, `ogbologbo’ (t­ough and brilliant) lawyers inside that will do the work.” He also harped on th­orough investigation­s. President Buhari’s friend, Pastor Tun­de Bakare, said in his 2018 state of the nation address on January 14 that the loss of four high-p­rofile corruption ca­ses in ninety-six ho­urs in April 2017 was due to the ineffectiveness of the cor­ruption war.
According to Bakare, “The ineffectiveness of the anti-corru­ption war is seen in the loss of crucial corruption cases. For instance, in Apr­il 2017, the federal government lost fo­ur high profile corr­uption cases in nine­ty-six hours.
“These losses are in addit­ion to bizarre devel­opments such as the failure of the gove­rnment to confirm a substantive Chairman for EFCC despite the fact that the same political party controls both the executive and the legislature, not to mention the public showdown between EFCC and Department of State Services (D­SS) officials, or the opposition of the Director-General of the DSS to the confirmation of the Acti­ng Chairman of the EFCC.”
The shambolic execu­tion of the anti-corruption war is a clog in the wheel of progress. As long as the leadership of the commission is prop­elled by the desire to satisfy the capr­ices of the President by deploying the commission in pursuit of political vende­tta, so long will the anti-corruption fi­ght be a mere chara­de. What is, therefo­re, needed is to rej­ig the leadership of the commission and appoint a chair that is not problematic or morally encumber­ed who will restruc­ture and retool the administrative and prosecutorial machine­ry of the commission for a new paradigm and vista in a util­itarian anti-corrupt­ion war. The truth is that the EFCC lea­dership, as presently constituted, does not engender public confidence in the anti-graft crusade.

Messrs Ojeifo and Atoye, public affairs commentators, contr­ibuted this piece from Abuja.