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The fall of Magu: A lesson for Nigeria’s power wielders

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By Dr Moses George

Power is so transient that public office holders, especially in Nigeria should always be conscious of its fleeting nature. Such mindset is necessary to keep public office holders conscious of the need to continually curtail their excesses, and to do the right thing while in office.

The unexpected down turn of events in the life of the powerful and highly venerated Ibrahim Magu came to many as a rude shock. From 9th November 2015 until his suspension on 7th July 2020, Ibrahim Magu has been acting as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

For almost five years, the man continued in office inspite of the provisions of section 2(3) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004 which stipulates that the Senate must confirm him before he could continue in office.

Twice the Senate refused to confirm him due to reports of damaging allegations of corruption leveled against him by the Department of State Services (DSS). Yet, the president went ahead to retain him, and even reappointed him for a second term. That implied how powerful or well connected he was.

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The Senate’s refusal to confirm Magu raised some salient questions at that time. Did the Senate sincerely repudiate Magu’s confirmation because he was unfit for the job, or was it that some corrupt elements in the national assembly and elsewhere wanted to capsize the anti-corruption campaign of president Buhari. The later assertion was widely held by the public.

Instructively, this is not the first time that Ibrahim Magu would have some skirmishes with the law. It would be recalled that on 4th August 2008, he was apprehended as a result of an allegation which led the police into discovering some EFCC files and a computer containing classified documents at his Abuja residence. Consequently, he was redeployed into the police after days of detention. This incident occurred when Farida Waziri was the commission’s chairman.

It would also be recalled that Magu was severally reprimanded by the Police Service Commission (PSC) in December 2010 after it found him guilty of certain actions prejudicial to state security. Notwithstanding these alleged infractions, Magu was reabsorbed into the anti-graft agency when Ibrahim Lamorde became the EFCC chairman. This provoked the question: why was Ibrahim Magu considered as the most suitable candidate for EFCC’s top job despite his alleged shortcomings?

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Magu’s present travail started when he was accosted on the way from his EFCC’s Formella Street office, Abuja, and driven to Aso Villa, to face the presidential panel set up to probe his alleged infractions of corruption. This whole episode is playing out following Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the federation’s (AGF), petitioning the president to sack him over some “weighty” allegations, which included the diversion of recovered loots. In addition to the allegation that Magu and some of his cronies re-looted the recovered loot, Malami also accused the acting EFCC chairman of insubordination and misconduct.

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As the presidential panel set up to look into these and other allegations is carrying out this task at the villa, Nigerians should wait patiently for the outcome of this inquiry without jumping into premature conclusions. Even in their eagerness to know the outcome of the panel’s findings, Ibrahim Magu should not be subjected to media trial and public conviction since he is still a mere suspect; thus presumed innocent.

This whole episode should reaffirm the confidence of Nigerians in the present administration. With Magu’s current travail, it is apparent that under president Buhari, nobody is above scrutiny.

However, the inglorious exit of Ibrahim Magu is a tragic reminder of the urgent need for temporary power wielders to act with moderation, modesty, circumspection and humility. It is an exhibition of the transience and ephemerality of power. It shows the vanity and vain gloriousness of the illusion and delusion of the grandeur of power and influence.

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