“The EFCC has fallen off in the last two years. We want to see them start work again as before”. These were the exact words of Hilary Rodman Clinton, former United States of America’s Secretary of State, in her first official visit to Nigeria on August 12, 2009. She was conveying the damning position of the American government on the fight against corruption in Nigeria. Of course, nobody was surprised by Clinton’s statement at the time because the fight against corruption had somehow given way to political expediency and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) had concomitantly become almost moribund.
This was the period when a certain Ibrahim Magu, a key operational staff under Ribadu, the pioneer chairman of the anti-corruption body, was being persecuted by the new leadership of EFCC. He was accused of all manner of things, including insubordination, and subsequently queried. Can you guess what his offence was? Magu’s only offence was the fact that he did a good job of leading the investigation of most of the country’s former governors. And a new leadership of the EFCC helped into office by corrupt politicians (whom Ibrahim Magu was building up a case against) did not want him around again. They simply had to please their principals, even if that meant running Magu not only out of EFCC but also entirely out of town. So, when the DSS writes a report detailing how Magu was queried, suspended and indicted by a police panel, this is the background story!
Yes, the last PDP government allowed the EFCC to fall off by making the fight against corruption the least of its policy priorities, but the Nigerian public was watching and keeping records. And once the 2015 general elections arrived Nigerians exercised their civic rights and voted out what they perceived to be a very corrupt regime. And it was therefore no surprise that President Buhari’s promise to fight corruption ruthlessly resonated with voters across the country. Indeed, in the President’s own words, “If we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.” It is therefore understandable why the fight against corruption formed the corner-stone on which the Buhari presidency was elected.
Happily, Ibrahim Mustafa Magu, the president’s choice, fits that ascetic and fearless anti-corruption czar needed to take the battle to these vicious few who have stolen the majority of us blind, who are swimming in opulence while the rest of us live in abject poverty. Forget all the propaganda that these corrupt but powerful politicians together with some of their allies in the legal profession and the media are unleashing on Magu to stop his inevitable confirmation. The truth is that no previous EFCC Chairman, not even Ribadu, can boast of the superlative achievements of Magu in the brief period he has acted as head of the Commission.
Under him, the EFCC has recovered more stolen money than in any other era. For those fascinated by figures, Magu’s EFCC has recovered N102.91 billion, 8.30 million dollars, GBP 29,155, 12,475 pounds, 117,004 Canadian dollars as proceeds of crime between January and December, 2016. Other monies recovered during the period were 806.50 Dirham, 5,000 Francs and 2,000 Rupees. This is apart from the humongous $9.8 million just recovered from the house allegedly belonging to the former Group Managing Director (GMD) of NNPC, Andrew Yakubu, in Kaduna, which a court has ordered its forfeiture. Add to these, the N1.25 billion recovered from a public servant recently.
Just last week, Justice Muslim Sulaiman Hassan of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, ordered the final forfeiture of the various sums of money – N23, 446, 300,000, N9, 080,000,000 and $5m (totaling over N34bn) – linked to a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, to the Federal Government of Nigeria, following an application by the EFCC.
Furthermore, the Commission secured 135 convictions, out of which 46 were from Lagos zone, 30 from Abuja zone, 22 from Port Harcourt zone, 19 from Kano zone, 15 from Enugu zone and three from Gombe zone during the period. Yet beyond these, the greatest achievement of Magu is in the area of breaking the notion of stealing with impunity all too common with the immediate past. And the way it is getting results lately, the EFCC under Magu may well become the greatest source of revenue for the country – after oil!
Politicians and public officers are now conscious that the big eye is watching them and that there are now consequences for any financial malfeasance. In short, Magu and his EFCC have struck fear in the hearts of politicians, public servants and devious businessmen and women. They are now aware that Nigerian money is meant to service the needs of our people, not to end up in personal accounts and other conduit pipes.
In the days ahead, the most important politics is nothing but how to stop the thunderbolt, Magu, and torpedo his confirmation again in the Senate. Corrupt former governors, across parties, corrupt lawyers, corrupt civil society groups and even some corrupt media owners are now united with the leadership of the Senate to stop the confirmation of the man they have come to see as the obstacle to their continued ruination and fleecing of our common patrimony.
Some of these corrupt politicians are afraid that if Magu is confirmed, the war against corruption will go up to a more dizzying height and some of them will land where they rightly belong in jail. Others are afraid of losing the stolen wealth they have amassed; and yet others planning to become President of Nigeria with their stolen wealth, just to steal more, are looking at a dead end in their political careers with Magu at the helm of affairs at the EFCC.
In any event, the Senate must prepare to face the people’s anger if they try any more monkeying around with the confirmation of the EFCC Chairman. Magu has earned the trust of the Nigerian people – and rightly so. Anyone fighting Magu at this time is fighting Nigerians. And I sincerely hope Bukola Saraki and his gang get the message!
*Nwokoroigwe, a public policy analyst, wrote from Abuja.