The ongoing probe of the suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) holds the potential to muzzle or strengthen the President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade.
While the president’s anti-corruption drive has earned him occasional applause, it has also become a source of derision . He and his supporters regale Nigerians with the many gains of the anti-corruption campaign.
But many other Nigerians who are not impressed snigger and allege that the battle is only targeted at perceived or real enemies of the Buhari government.
They insist that the anti-corruption fight remains a fluke as long as the EFCC cannot prosecute high-profile members of the Buhari government who are said to be corrupt.
Clearly, there have been reported cases of top members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), whether as governors or ministers, who have been involved in corruption. But the EFCC has not prosecuted them.
The transparency of the anti-corruption battle is further diminished with a raft of allegations that recovered looted funds are relooted .
Nigerians complain that they cannot see how the proceeds from the anti-corruption fight that have reportedly hit almost N1 trillion are used. And that instead of corruption retreating, it is gaining ascendancy in and outside government.
But what has now obviously triggered a culmination of the lack of confidence in the anti-corruption drive is the allegation that the anti-corruption czar is himself corrupt .
He has thus been suspended and he is being subjected to an investigation . The reported corruption of Magu was exposed in a recent letter of the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami to Buhari.
Malami alleges that Magu’s helmanship of the anti-corruption agency has been dogged by the misappropriation of recovered loot whether in cash or property.
But this is not the first time that an official of the Buhari government would allege that Magu is not fit to occupy the hallowed office of the nation’s chief anti-corruption fighter.
Indeed, Magu has not been confirmed for the past five years because of such allegations. In Buhari’s first term, the president’s bid to ensure the confirmation of Magu by submitting his name to the Senate was truncated by the then Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, who wrote to the legislative chamber and gave reasons why it should not accept the president’s request.
The latest allegations of corruption against Magu have also exposed the seemingly congenital absence of cohesion in the Buhari’s presidency, especially as regards the anti-corruption fight.
While a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) Prof. Femi Odekunle publicly accused Malami of a lack of commitment to the anti-corruption fight, the chairman of the agency Prof. Itse Sagay has come out to denounce his colleague, insisting that Odekunle only expressed a personal opinion.
Magu’s ordeal, however, offers the Buhari’s presidency the opportunity to give the anti-corruption fight a steady footing. It is now time to rejig the campaign and make it credible.
The first step Buhari should take in this direction is to ensure that there is transparency in the investigation of Magu. The fact that journalists are already barred from the investigation does not signpost credibility in the exercise.
After all, it was Buhari who approved his suspension, detention and investigation. He should therefore go the whole hog by underscoring his altruism in the investigation of Magu with making it public.
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Buhari should not lend himself to any camp in his government to fight a turf war between top leaders of his party thereby making Magu only a pawn. If there are real issues worth investigating about Magu, they should be thrown open.
Magu’s suspension should only lead to his removal after a transparent investigation has taken place. If Magu is removed, Buhari should be guided by the experience of the past five years to choose a worthy successor.
Such a successor should not be made to play an anti-corruption script that is defined by selectiveness. And when the president has made his choice, he should ensure his confirmation.
He should not allow himself to be dictated to by his aides about the eligibility of Magu’s successor. The new helmsman needs all the confidence that he is the right person for the job to enable him to prosecute the onerous responsibility of ridding the nation of corruption.