Before They Cripple The Fight Against Corruption
Since Friday 20th November 2020, when the presidential panel of Justice Ayo Salami, set up by President Muhammadu Buhari submitted its report to the president, the media has been awash with all manner of opinions, mostly on the speculated recommendations of the panel to the president.
What seems to be a consensus is that Magu was indicted, and because since inception, the commission has been headed by police officers, it was felt that the time has arrived for a change. In getting a replacement, the president should look for one outside the police palace, so said the panel.
Long before the presentation of the report, the body language of those behind the probe, particularly feelers coming from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN, have indicated the indictment of Magu in the investigation. Everyone knows that it’s just a matter of formality, for the president to be given the paper work.
As a pointer to that, few days to the submission of the report, Magu was invited by the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, to answer questions on some accounts which were discovered to be undeclared by him. For some reasons, that I feel are not germane enough to warrant what he did, Magu refused to honour that invitation. To me, that’s a near admission of guilt, or a case of the enforcer of law, disrespecting or refusing to recognize the powers of a constituted authority. From the court of public opinion, Magu must be ready to receive another indictment for that action.
If you know someone is out there waiting to have the opportunity to roast you, you don’t rub oil on your body and stand near the fire. You don’t do anything that would give him undue advantage. You have made the job extremely easy for him to accomplish, by simply pushing you forward into the fire.
In accepting the Justice Salami report, President Buhari was quoted as saying, “no one is too big to be tackled in the fight against corruption”. And precisely that is where lies my interest, and where we shall continue to hold the President accountable, at least to see if he would not spare those seen as sacred cows.
Magu must go if found wanting, but those accusing Magu must also be probed, if the allegations against them are convincingly strong enough to be looked into. What is good for the goose, must be made good for the gander. It is only fair to revisit the popular Yoruba proverb of, if you point an accusing finger at someone, you should check the direction of three of your fingers.
I am not yet a lawyer, although I plan to become one when I grow up, but before then, I would borrow a thing or two from the various conversations I have been having with my lawyer friends, one of whom was elevated to the exalted position of SAN last week- Justice is not justice unless it is done in such a way that it is seen to be done. The public would be very happy with the President if he fulfills his promise of, I am for all, I am for none.
While I have no quarrel with whoever the authority deems fit to appoint as replacement for Magu at the anti graft commission, my major concern is the perceived attempt to punish an institution, because of the offence of an individual. By the provision of the law, the police are the ones vested with the powers to investigate and prosecute.
If because as a police officer Magu had messed up, or a few police officers attached to the EFCC had messed up, is it fair to simply throw away the baby and the bath water? Must the offense of the child affect the father?
In sieving through the recommendations of the report, the President should look at the powers of the police, as they affect investigations and prosecutions, and see whether or not, bringing someone outside the police would create any inter agency rivalry, that may mar the smooth running of the anti graft agency.
The President can pick replacement from any arm of the security if he so wish, or elevate from amongst the existing members of staff of the agency, but methinks, without the cooperation of the police, who if humiliated, may not necessarily continue committing their best to the fight, corruption can only become more coerced.
Already, since sometimes in September this year, when the President signed the Nigeria Police bill 2020 into law, which repeals some sections of the Police Act, there has been a lot of disquiet with regards the issue of prosecution. There are rumbles everywhere between the Police Service Commission, the office of the AGF and the Force Headquarters.
Historical, the Nigeria Police are vested with the powers to prosecute criminal cases in the courts, but the new law has come with something different, which may cause rifts between the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and the Force Headquarters. PMB must be aware that all is not well between the PSC and the FHQ, with lots of casualties on police performance.
The fate of this quagmire, would determine the destiny of the relationship between the new leadership of the EFCC and the Police. And by extension, the future of the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
Mr. Ibrahim writes from Abuja.
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