The convoluted procedure of Magu’s case

There are growing signs that President Buhari’s administration does not understand the significance of Magu’s case. Also, this government has been rather reckless in its choice of procedure. This is evident in the incoherent and muddled-up press statement given by Shehu Garba, senior media assistant to the President.

In the presidency’s first official statement, coming five days late, the presidency made the following disturbing and confusing assertions:

“A series of documented allegations were made against the Ag. Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Following a preliminary review of the allegations leveled against the Ag. Chairman and several other members of his staff, there were grounds for a detailed investigation to be conducted.

“Hence, an investigative panel was constituted in compliance with the extant laws governing the convening of such a body”.

This cannot be correct. What preliminary review led to the panel that is conducting a secret criminal trial of Magu? And what are the extant law that authorized the arrest and unlawful detention of a suspect? Once Magu was arrested, the extant position of the law is Section 35 of the Constitution, which gave you or whoever is holding him twenty-four to take him to court.

“Meanwhile, Mr. Magu is being availed the opportunity to defend himself and answer the allegations against him. This is how it should be, as is the fact that under the Laws of Nigeria every citizen is presumed and remains innocent until proven guilty.”

This is a blatantly dishonest statement. Magu is in detention without any valid order of any court. In fact, his detention beyond 24 hours without court order was a denial of the opportunity to defend himself. And where should he defend himself if not in a court of law, which the government has carefully avoided?

“Those who see Mr. Magu’s investigation, as a signal that the fight against corruption is failing, have unfortunately, missed the boat.

“There is no better indication that the fight is real and active than the will to investigate allegations in an open and transparent manner against those who have been charged to be custodians of this very system.”

Again, the presidency misses the argument. What makes Magu’s investigation a huge sign of failure is that it exposes the weaknesses in the selection of those who lead the war on corruption. It raises a legitimate concern that there are many more people like Magu in various other agencies supposedly fighting corruption, just that they have not been caught. It taints in a fundamental way the entire war against corruption. It raises the possibility that the people leading the charge against Magu are themselves in the same shoes. Furthermore, the investigation has been everything but open and transparent. It was not even clear which law enforcement agency arrested Magu. Even the fact that he was arrested was initially denied by government. The decision to ban the press from the proceedings of the panel further accentuates these concerns.

“Under this President and Government, this is our mantra and guiding principle. There are no sacred cows, and for those who think they have a halo over their heads, their days are also numbered”

Again, this is nonsense. Magu was a secret cow for 5 years, after similar allegations prevented his confirmation by the Senate.

“No other administration in the history of Nigeria would have moved to bring into the light and public domain such an allegation.”

And no other administration in history would keep in office for five years an official denied confirmation by the Senate, an act clearly in violation of the law. That makes President Buhari complicit in the crimes alleged against Magu.

The full text of the presidency’s press statement is as follows:
———

PRESIDENCY STATEMENT ON THE SUSPENSION OF MR. IBRAHIM MAGU

A series of documented allegations were made against the Ag. Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Following a preliminary review of the allegations leveled against the Ag. Chairman and several other members of his staff, there were grounds for a detailed investigation to be conducted.

Hence, an investigative panel was constituted in compliance with the extant laws governing the convening of such a body.

As is the proper procedure, when allegations are made against the Chief Executive of an institution, and in this case an institution that ought to be seen as beyond reproach, the Chief Executive has to step down from his post and allow for a transparent and unhindered investigation.

The EFCC does not revolve around the personality of an individual, and as such cannot be seen through the prism of any individual.

Therefore, the suspension of Mr. Ibrahim Magu, allows the institution to continue carrying out its mandate without the cloud of investigation hanging over its head.

The EFCC has many good, hardworking men and women who are committed to its ideal and ensuring that the wealth of our country isn’t plundered and wherein there is an act of misappropriation such person(s) are brought to justice.

Meanwhile, Mr. Magu is being availed the opportunity to defend himself and answer the allegations against him. This is how it should be, as is the fact that under the Laws of Nigeria every citizen is presumed and remains innocent until proven guilty.

We must realize that the fight against corruption is not a static event, but a dynamic and ever evolving process, in which the EFCC is just one actor; and as we continue to work towards improving our democratic process so shall every institution of ours also embark on that journey of evolution.

What is however important is that there must be accountability and transparency and our people must realize that they would be held to account. This is the building block in the fight against corruption, the establishment of the concept of Accountability and the recognition of the Rule of Law.

Those who see Mr. Magu’s investigation, as a signal that the fight against corruption is failing, have unfortunately, missed the boat.

There is no better indication that the fight is real and active than the will to investigate allegations in an open and transparent manner against those who have been charged to be custodians of this very system.

Under this President and Government, this is our mantra and guiding principle. There are no sacred cows, and for those who think they have a halo over their heads, their days are also numbered.

Mr. Magu was not immune – and regardless of the obvious embarrassment that potential acts of wrongdoing by him, given the office he held, may appear for the government.

No other administration in the history of Nigeria would have moved to bring into the light and public domain such an allegation.

Garba Shehu
Senior Special Assistant to the President
(Media & Publicity)
July 11, 2020

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