Sunday, 19 March 2017

Magu’s rejection

THAT Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is still in the middle of a furore of nominations is a metaphor of how democracy can play out as rigmarole. For the second time, the senate shunned the pick of the president, Muhammadu Buhari, for the man to lead the fight against corruption in the country. But it is clear that the senate did not reject Magu because of a lofty concern for a good society. All evidence shows that the man has not violated any law, nor breached any border of decency either of decorum or morality, to inspire such odium from the top law chamber in the land. The Department of State Services (DSS) and conniving senators alone understand why an otherwise upright man should be denied the task of entrenching an upright society. First, we know that when Magu was appointed the acting boss of EFCC, no complaint was registered. That means he passed the security test. It is still a puzzle why the same questions now raised by the so-called DSS report were absent at the time of his acting appointment. Granted that the DSS found nothing at the point, it suggests an inefficient DSS. But the same organisation now showed a greater inefficiency when it propounded report that raised at least three issues that led to his first senate rejection. It inspired a query from the attorney general and Magu answered all questions and he was officially cleared of any wrongdoing. After that, it would seem that the coast was clear for the senate to endorse the attorney-general’s verdict by confirming Magu as chairman. But the DSS re-presented its old report with a flimsy note, and served as the excuse of the lawmakers to scuttle the president’s choice. There is a basic institutional discord in the behaviour of the DSS. It is in the executive branch and works under the presidency. Many Nigerians have wondered why the DSS would send a report to the senate, another branch of the presidential system, without the nod of the head of the executive; that is, the president. If the DSS acted within the ambit of presidential authority and secured the permission to send the report, it presents a suicidal paradox of a president killing his own nominee. But we like to believe that it is farfetched, and the president would not nominate to fail. If that is the case, how can the president tolerate the defiance of one of his subordinate officers? Is the president treating the DSS as an independent agency, which will mean an illegality? We believe again that it is beyond the pale. It appears the president is unwilling, or unable, to assert his constitutional powers in the interest not only of institutional integrity, but also of the war against corruption. If the DSS does not subject itself to the constitutional superiority of the presidency, it means the president is condoning impunity under his very nose. It is a wrong signal not only for governance, but also for this democracy, especially against the backdrop of abiding charges of impunity against his government. Reports have it that the brass of the senate agrees with the DSS leadership that Magu is not good for the war on corruption. No good reason can be advanced for this view. He has raked in billions of Naira, and has exposed many of seedy deals by Nigeria’s business and political leaderships. He has even pulled off a feat once thought a fantasy. He secured the conviction of a former governor. The law does not forbid the president to nominate Magu again and, therefore, allow him serve as long as he wants. That, perhaps, is an option that will make him soldier on against a corrupt elite.

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