By Bayo Bernard
At last the Nigerian Senate nailed Ibrahim Magu, an Assistant Commissioner of Police and controversial chairman, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. For the second time, the police officer failed confirmation of the upper legislative chamber to become the substantive head of the commission. “Nobody can stop me” as EFCC chair Magu had earlier boasted immediately after he was grilled by the senators.
During his tension soaked appearance at the red chamber, Senator Dino Melaye , Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory, FCT, in his usual combative self, plainly told Magu that the Senate would rather take him to ‘Golgotha’ for slaughter than allow him to keep his job. That was exactly what happened at the end of the day as many angry senators refused to back Magu for the job, citing many reasons including his indicting by the Department of State Security, DSS. The situation has now paved the way for President Muhammadu Buahri to look elsewhere for his replacement.
It’s widely believed that the president will be more circumspect this time around in his choice of Magu’s successor following the controversy that trailed Magu’s short spell as Acting EFCC boss. Indeed, the growing clamor from Nigerians who spoke with the magazine immediately after Magu was, again, turned down by Senate, is that aside other factors, President Buhari should widen his search beyond the North for the next EFCC boss.
Thus, following this suggestion, some southerners in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, have stepped their lobby in the presidency, though sources close to the frail President Buhari informed the magazine that it still remained sketchy the part of the country where the president will make the new pick for EFCC chair.
From its inception in 2002 when the commission was created by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, all its chairmen had been appointed from the North. The commission’s pioneer chair, Nuhu Ribadu is from Adamawa state and presided over the agency before he was removed by President Umaru Yar’adua in 2009 under controversial circumstances.
Ribadu was succeeded by Farida Waziri, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG from Benue state who ran the affairs of the commission before then President Goodluck Jonathan, replaced him with Ibrahim Lamorde from Gombe state.
On his assumption of office in 2016, President Buhari nominated Magu as the commission boss subject to confirmation of the Nigerian Senate, thus continuing with old tradition of northern candidacy set by ex-President Obasanjo whose successors in office have maintained the tradition though no part of enabling EFCC law supported the action.
Section 2(1) a and 2(1)(a)(II) states that the commission shall be headed by the chairman who shall be the chief executive officer and chief accounting officer, and who ” shall be a serving or retired member of any government, security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent,” as long as the person is a Nigerian.
Therefore, the decision to appoint all-northern-EFCC-chair since the commission was created 15 years ago is considered misused of presidential powers by President Buhari and his predecessors, insist some legal experts. ” Are they saying no southerner is qualified to be EFCC boss?. If that’s the case, the disgrace of Magu by the senate confirmed that he’s the least qualified to occupy that position,” says Dimeji Imran, a legal practitioner.
He explained further that if honesty is the basis of appointing the commission’s boss, Magu has further proved that corruption is a national malaise that does not exempt anybody. ” If the thinking is that a section of the country cannot preside over an anti-graft agency because of perceived dishonesty, the case of Magu has proven that suggestion wrong,” Imran further stated.
He said making the EFCC chair exclusive of Northerners has also trickled down the commission’s ranks and file, now dominated by that section of the country. Before Magu was rejected by the Senate, one of the Senators, Hope Uzodinma, accused the EFCC- led Magu of favoring the North in its last recruitment exercise late last year. Though Magu denied the claim, the suggestion that the commission is dominated by a section of the country cannot be totally dismissed.