By Brian Ukwuoma
I have been trying for days to write about the issue of the Senate rejection of Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), but investigative reports and new developments continue to redirect my writing.
But one unfortunate realization about the whole matter, is that the government has not gotten it’s act together, nineteen months into a forty eight months term.
On Thursday, December 15, 2016 a statement in which the Senate rejected the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the EFCC based on ‘security report’ by the Department of State Services was read to journalists by Senator Sabi Abdullahi, the Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs.
As the news broke, politicians, political pundits and lawyers gave opinions on the veracity of the rejection.
Opposition politicians gave support to the rejection because of perceived ‘one sidedness’ of the Buhari administration’s fight against corruption.
Some political pundits and lawyers said it was a self preservation move by the Senate, especially the leadership of the Senate. And that the closeness between Ibrahim Magu and the presidency wasn’t something the Saraki led Senate was comfortable with.
While others condemned the rejection because the acting chairman of the EFCC wasn’t given the opportunity by the Senate to defend himself from the discrediting allegations raised by the DSS.
Supporters of the EFCC’s Acting Chairman in condemning the rejection suggested that the President can let him continue on acting capacity.
By Friday, December 16, details of the security report by the Department of State Services that led to the rejection appeared in the dailies and on social media.
The DSS report said the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu failed integrity test, and warned that he will hinder President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti corruption war.
Part of the allegations leveled against him was that he had once been arrested and suspended from the EFCC during the chairmanship of Farida Waziri.
Another was his twenty million naira per annum rent apartment. Forty million naira was alleged to have been paid for two years rent by someone under investigation for shady business practices.
He was also accused of breaking a presidential directive to all public office holders to fly economy.
The report also accused the acting EFCC boss of using only his cronies in the Nigerian Police for EFCC operations. Cronies who had since acquired landed properties.
But by Saturday, December 17, there were reports that most of the allegations levelled against Mr. Magu was unfounded.
By the evening, reports of a second ‘security report’ by the DSS, signed as the one that caused the rejection by the same official, Folashade Bello, on behalf of the Director General of the DSS, Lawal Daura was making the rounds.
Though the second security report made mention of infractions by Ibrahim Magu, it’s recommendation was favourable to his nomination.
While the twist and turns in reports following the Senate’s rejection persisted, no official statement was credited to the presidency.
It seems the presidency and it’s ministers have adopted silence as a virtue.
There seem to be a kind of lukewarm attitude the President and his ministers now have to certain issues Nigerians expect official statements about. And until the government is hounded with condemnations or embarrassed as in the case of the Super Falcons, Nigerians don’t get an official statement.
The condemnation directed at the presidency’s silence on the EFCC matter may have been responsible for the two paragraphs statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu on Sunday 18, December, four days after the Senate rejected the President’s nominee.
In the statement the President directed the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to probe all top government officials accused of corruption.
One would expect an end to the drama after the breaking of silence by the Presidency, but that was not to be.
On Monday, December 19, the Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume told journalists at the State House that Mr. Ibrahim Magu was not rejected.
He said the Senate only stepped down Magu’s confirmation hearing until issues raised by the DSS are resolved.
This position of Senator Ndume caused commotion among senators who felt Senator Ndume was only trying to save the job of his fellow Bornu state indigene.
But on Tuesday he (Senator Ndume) was countered by the Senate, when Senator Sabi Abdullahi the chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs reaffirmed the Senate’s rejection of Ibrahim Magu.
The drama that has trailed the confirmation of the chairman of a strategic agency like the EFCC leaves a nasty taste in the mouth when one considers that the Buhari administration has an uphill task of getting Nigeria out of recession.
Would international observers and agencies be comfortable sharing information on corruption with the Nigerian government after all that have happened in the past few days?
Can Nigerians be confident that a Buhari administration that is unable to manage official lines of communication with agencies under it’s direct control almost two years into a four years term would not leave Nigeria in a lurch at the end?
Or is the lapse in communication a confirmation of Buhari losing control of his government?