When in 2003 during the Olusegun Obasanjo's 'babacracy' the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was formed genuine hope was raised in many quarters that Nigeria could still be saved from herself; saved from her national endemic corruption index. Three years prior to the establishment of the EFCC the then President Obasanjo had equally inaugurated the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), a less effective sister anti-graft agency.
With the ICPC and the EFCC Obasanjo (though himself enmeshed in high-wire corruption) had sought to wage war against graft in the system bringing corrupt elements to account. Yet allegations of ulterior motivation lingered. The military tyranny led by General Ibrahim Babangida had 'democratized' corruption using the 'settlement syndrome' as a weapon of choice, a carrot. The stick came only after refusal to dance to the 'Maradonic' tune!
The greatest achievement Obasanjo recorded as two-term President remains the establishment of the EFCC. Though the motive was arguably altruistic and patriotic OBJ exploited the services of the agency to foster his political (third-term) ambition while imposing his will vindictively on the rest of us.
Today, worse than decades ago when no anti-graft agency ever existed corruption continues to explode exposing the weakness in the system fighting same. Digital and non-digital fraud has risen to an alarming proportion that the agencies charged with the responsibility of nipping it in the bud are themselves overwhelmed. While new sophisticated systemic methods and tactics are being deployed by political crooks to better organize their looting of the commonwealth the Buhari regime appears beaten in the 'game'.
From the pioneer Chairman of the EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, to his successor Madam Farida Waziri to her successor Ibrahim Lamorde and now the arrested and detained Ibrahim Magu the anti-graft agency has had to face accusations of partiality, partisanship and selectiveness in its operations. The opposition constantly accused it of persecution and bias.
Indeed every government in power (starting with Obasanjo to the present Buhari regime) had used and abused the EFCC to persecute political foes and protect those working with or favoured by the power-that-be. If the likes of Godswill Akpabio and Timipre Sylva could be appointed Ministers despite their gubernatorial history of corruption in their respective states then the Buhari regime is fighting corruption for purposes of showmanship!
While we recognise that it would have been much worse, corruption, without the EFCC it is a fact that with the EFCC in place corruption still thrives permeating every facet of our national life. Again while it is true that convictions had been secured many cases involving big thieves had stalled over the years due to prosecutorial or judicial technicalities and/or bottlenecks.
Recently the EFCC and Magu were in the news internationally and nationally for bad reasons. Opprobrious news went viral online earlier this week over the apprehension and detention of the suspended Acting Chairman of the Commission, Ibrahim Magu. Last monday a combined team of Department of State Services personnel and policemen had stormed the EFCC office at Wuse II in Abuja and arrested Magu moving him to the Presidential Villa to face a presidential panel headed by a former President of the Appeal Court, Justice Ayo Salami.
He is still in custody at the Force Criminal Investigation Department headquarters in Area 10, Abuja facing interrogation upon interrogation. Following sleazy reports and petitions it had emerged that Magu had four houses and was moving money outside the country through third parties! The panel reportedly grilled him on transactions of the EFCC under his leadership that had been fraught with allegations of financial misappropriation.
The accusations against the EFCC boss which were filed by the AGF Malami also accused him of alleged discrepancies in the reconciliation records of the EFCC and the Federal Ministry of Finance on recovered funds. Malami said Magu declared N504bn as recovered funds instead of N543bn found in the CBN recovery account. He was also accused of insubordination to the Office of the AGF. Added to these allegations were claims that Magu failed to provide enough evidence for the extradition of Diezani Alison-Madueke to face trial at home.
The erstwhile Director of Operations at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mohammed Umar, has been appointed to oversee the operations of the anti-graft agency pending the completion of investigation and acquittal or conviction of Magu.
Ibrahim Magu appeared to be living in fools' paradise before now. In acting capacity for years following the refusal of the Senate to confirm him as the substantive Chairman of the Commission Magu with his dour demeanour and allegations of graft against him by the DSS inspired no confidence in the battle against graft. His friendship with a business mogul from the north never helped his case either.
Since its inception there has been none of its Chairman that boasted of professional independence or independent-mindedness in carrying out its operations. Ribadu was all fire and fury but he was loyal to 'Baba' to a fault. Nuhu's EFCC was used as a weapon of 'war' against the opposition. As third term gambit became a source of discord Obasanjo used the EFCC to whip opponents into line!
Ribadu fell without achieving much other than helping 'Baba' to control or jail his political enemies. Mrs Waziri was said to be 'promoted' to the position by criminals, the Ibori gang et al, to be able to sabotage the efforts of the Commission. She was sacked for her mediocrity and connivance with looters. Lamorde came in and performed worse than Waziri and Ribadu before him.
Enter Magu the 'mugu'! As he held sway uneasily it became clear that a glorified 'mugu' like Magu cannot possibly hunt down and cage sophisticated 'guys' out there challenging the system and devicing new technological means of exposing and exploiting the loopholes in the anti-corruption campaign.
The argument in official quarters has always been that when you fight corruption corruption fights back but this argument is hollow and indefensible in the sense that those charged with the onerous responsibility of fighting graft are not above board. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands!
We have argued before (and that argument remains valid even today) that for the EFCC to function optimally and professionally the head must be an intrepid incorruptible graft-loathing individual above partisan politics. Apart from the Chairman representing a man of honour for whom primitive acquisition or accumulation of wealth means little or nothing the EFCC could produce sound convincing result if a Special Tribunal is legislatively put in place to facilitate trial and jailing of looters.
Now that the 'mugu' in Magu has been exposed there is an urgent need for societal soul-searching. Some posers beg for answers, to wit: Why is the war against graft not yielding enough dividend? Is the President himself committed to the battle? Why must he be seen to be in company of looters accommodating them and encouraging them to loot more?