After about two hours of intense questioning, the Senate yesterday rejected the second nomination of Ibrahim Magu as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
His first nomination for confirmation was rejected in December 15, 2016 over a damning status report sent to the Senate by the Department of State Services (DSS).
This second rejection may slow down the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari while he is searching for a replacement for Magu. Besides, it may lead to a frosty relationship between the executive and legislative arms of government that could hinder good governance.
An attempt by former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, to oppose the procedures adopted to screen and disqualify Magu was swiftly overruled by Senate President Bukola Saraki.
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who threw the first question was very categorical about the need for the acting EFCC boss to provide detailed explanations on the DSS report which had noted his alleged corrupt practices, including paying a rent of N20 million per annum
But Magu tried to evade answering the question as he told the lawmakers that he would not want to rubbish a sister security agency. Not even the insistence of Saraki that Magu should answer the question swayed the EFCC boss. Unknown to Magu, the question on the DSS report was coming back in a more damning form.
But before the matter was re-introduced, Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna central) had reminded the nominee that it was the ‘Ides of March” and even prayed for him.
Sani said: “Today is the Ides of March, a very memorable day in the history of Roman Empire when Julius Caesar was executed when he came to the Senate. So, may the Lord be with you.”
Re-introducing the DSS report, Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) suddenly rose and drew the attention of Magu to a second report which he said was received by the Senate on Tuesday evening.
Melaye said: “I have before me two reports from the DSS, one addressed to the Senate in October and the second one written to this chamber and was received by the office of the Clerk of the Senate at 5:02p.m. just yesterday.
“Magu, nominee for the position of the chairmanship of the EFCC, having gone through these reports, the first report indicted you but because of the letter from Mr. President you are here again.
“Just yesterday this report was received from the DSS, paragraph 14 of the report reads thus: ‘In the light of the foregoing, Magu has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.’ “
Melaye continued: “The DSS is to us what the FBI and CIA are to the U.S. and we cannot ridicule, we cannot undermine and we cannot put in abeyance the report of the DSS. Anyone who wants to be chairman of EFCC must have the character and characteristics of the wife of Caeser, you must be unblemished, you must be pure, you must be stainless.”
Melaye disclosed that there was a case where EFCC operatives raided a particular house and some Certificates of Occupancy (Cs of Os) taken and those Cs of O were later found in the market. He said the police had investigated and two of the documents had been returned to the owner.
“Do you still think, after this report and as a result of what has happened to the Cs of O of an innocent Nigerian, you are still qualified to be the chairman of EFCC or we take you to Golgotha?”
Magu replied that he was hearing the allegation for the first time. “It is not everything that is done in the EFCC I have knowledge of, the EFCC is too big. If not now, I didn’t know there was a case pending against EFCC staff in a police station. I will now go back and investigate it and give you a feedback.”
In a remark after the screening, Saraki said: “Let me first of all thank all of you on your contributions to this matter and the way the matter was carried in an open and transparent manner. What we are seeing here is democracy at work. I believe that what we have done on our own part, was to follow the constitution and due process. And we hope that the Executive will quickly act and bring in a new name as soon as possible so that the activities of the agency are not deterred.”
Meanwhile, if an amendment of the Act that established the EFCC eventually sails through at the National Assembly, the influence of President Buhari on the affairs of the anti-graft agency will be whittled drastically.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives took a significant step towards achieving this goal as four consolidated bills proposing a series of amendments to the EFCC Act passed the second reading at the plenary presided over by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara.
The amendment which is also to make the commission more independent and effective is being jointly sponsored by Bede Uchenna Eke, Bassey Ewa, Oladipupo Adebutu and Kolade Oladele.
The new law will prescribe a stiffer penalty of 20 years for any person who commits financial or economic crime, create more stringent ways of removing members and chairman of the EFCC board and establish an asset confiscation and recovery unit as well as a financial investigation and intelligence unit.
Source: The Guardian