(EDITORIAL) Fire Babachir, Magu now, Mr President
Two very close political associates of President Muhammadu Buhari were recently caught in the eye of the storm over impropriety associated with their office in the present dispensation.
The outcry against their continued stay in office has reached a crescendo that the President can no longer afford to ignore these calls.
Recently the Nigerian Senate practically rejected the nomination of the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
Initially, Magu’s confirmation hearing had gone on without much hitches.
But that did not last. During a heated pre-screening session, which took place at the office of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, it was obvious that all was not well with the nomination of Mr President.
His conformation was eventually suspended due to a security report issued by the Department of State Security, (DSS) which the lawmakers claimed showed he was ill-suited for the exalted office.
Part of the report read thus: investigation on the chairmanship of Magu revealed that in August 2008, during the tenure of Farida Waziri as the commission’s chairman, some sensitive documents which were not supposed to be at the disposal of Magu were discovered in his house.
“He was subsequently redeployed to the police after days of detention and later suspended from the police force.
“In December 2010, the Police Service Commission (DSC) found Magu guilty of action prejudicial to state security–withholding of EFCC files, sabotage, unauthorised removal of EFCC files and acts unbecoming of a police officer, and awarded him severe reprimand as punishment”.
The report also indicated more dirt.
It noted that Magu has been living large in a N40m apartment which was not in tandem with his emolument as a government employee.
The report said the house had been paid for by another public officer who is already being investigated for corrupt acts.
“Magu is currently occupying a residence rented for N40M at N20M per annum. This accommodation was not paid for from the commission’s finances, but by one Umar Mohammed, air commodore retired, a questionable businessman who has subsequently been arrested by the secret service.
“For the furnishing of the residence, Magu enlisted the Federal Capital Development Authority to award a contract to Africa Energy, a company owned by the same Mohammed, to furnish the residence at the cost of N43M.
“Investigations show that the acting EFCC chairman regularly embarked on official and private trips through a private jet owned by Mohammed.
“In one of such trips, Magu flew to Maiduguri alongside Mohammed with a bank MD who was being investigated by the EFCC over complicity in funds allegedly stolen by the immediate past petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
“Furthermore, the EFCC boss has so far maintained a high-profile lifestyle. This is exemplified by his preference for first class air travels. On 24 June, 2016, he flew Emirate airlines first class to Saudi Arabia to perform lesser hajj at the cost of N2.9M. This is despite Mr. President’s directive to all public servants to fly economy class.
“Magu has fostered a beneficial relationship with Mohammed who by his confession approaches clients for possible exploitation, favours and associated returns,” the report noted also.
It is pertinent to note however that AljazirahNigeria investigations and that of various media outlets have so far picked holes in the allegations made in the reports.
The nation to be treated to yet another drama while it was still chewing in the Magu saga.
A Senate ad-hoc committee on the north-east humanitarian crisis uncovered cases of corruption, including phantom projects and inflated contracts at the PINE during a recent hearing.
PINE could not properly account for about N2.5 billion, part of funds released for its capital intervention.
But there were more unsettling findings.
The committee, according to media reports, found out that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, had breached relevant Nigerian laws on handling contracts and trust by being one of the directors of Global Vision Ltd, one of the companies indicted by the committee for allegedly benefiting from inflated and phantom contracts – or ones not executed at all – awarded by the PINE.
The firm, an IT one, was said to have been awarded over N200 million contract to clear ‘invasive plant species’ (grass) in Yobe State.
Global Vision which was incorporated in 1990 to carry out ICT services received a contract to clear grass in 2016 even while one of the owners is a senior government official close to President Buhari.
While AljaziahNigeria believes that there is always room for fair hearing in any case of accusations leveled against public officers, it however believes that such public officers hold it as a point of sacred duty to step down first while investigations are presumed to go on.
The two indicted men have not been found guilty yet but the allegations against them are weighty enough for them to step aside first before any form of defense on their part.
Nigeria’s confidence is already tested enough in the face of President Buhari’s perceived slant in his avowed anti-corruption war, which is one-sided as far as many are concerned.
Allowing the two government officers to stay in office one more day is perhaps a tacit approval of corruption by the President especially if the corruption taint concerns his close aides.
While AljazirahNigeria does not want to believe the widely accepted view the easiest way to escape the punitive arm of justice as far as the graft war is concerned is to be close to the President, our dear President is yet to prove otherwise.
We still believe in the current anti-graft war and the ability of the President to marshal state apparatus to enforce justice, but we would want the President to prove his mettle by first relieving his indicted ministers of their portfolios first (if they fail to do the honorable thing) while investigations go on.
Anything short of this is not acceptable to AljazirahNigeria.
As an aside, we are also concerned that the President does not seem to be in full control of his anti-graft agencies. Why would the DSS have such incriminating evidence on the part of the EFCC boss and the President does not have the slightest inkling of what is going on?
If at the end it is found out that these men have been accused falsely or documents have been found to have being forged to attack their integrity, then the full weight of the law must be brought to bear on anyone found wanting no matter how highly placed.
But first of all, let them step down from office!
For President Muhammadu Buhari, this is perhaps another noble time to prove to Nigerians that he was worth their votes during the keenly contested 2015 polls that nearly divided the nation down the middle.
This current test is one the President cannot afford to fail!