On Wednesday, November 11, 2015, Ibrahim Mustafa Magu, formally assumed office as the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Two days earlier, the Federal Government had announced his appointment in succession to Ibrahim Lamorde who held the post between November 28, 2011 and November 9, 2015.
By the appointment, Magu became the fourth chief executive of the agency, after Nuhu Ribadu, Farida Waziri and Lamorde.
”General” as he is fondly called, Magu is no stranger to the operations, philosophy, ideals and objectives of the EFCC, being a pioneer staff of the Commission.
He is an illustrious member of the elite corps of officers whose sacrifices and courage in handling some of the tricky investigations in the formative years of the agency imbued the Commission with much respect and reverence.
Many Nigerians believe that Magu has been an effective EFCC chairman, who has helped President Muhammadu Buhari to recover several billions of Naira from past and serving government officials since assumption of Office.
However, nearly 15 months since his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari, to head the EFCC, Magu remains chairman, only in acting capacity, as the Senate has failed to confirm him as the substantive chairman of the anti-corruption agency.
Twice his name has been submitted to the Senate by the Presidency, and twice his nomination was rejected.
Recall that on December 15, 2016, Senate rejected Magu’s nomination citing damning report from the Directorate of State Services (DSS).
Magu’s rejection was announced at a press briefing in the National Assembly by the Senate spokesman, Sabi Abdullahi, after a two-hour closed-door meeting.
Abdullahi cited an unfavourable security report as the reason for Magu’s rejection.
“This is an official statement from the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It’s the statement on the confirmation of the nomination of the chairman and members of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria wishes to inform the general public that based on the security report available to the Senate, the Senate cannot proceed and confirm the nomination of Ibrahim Magu Mustapha as the Executive Chairman of the EFCC.
“Accordingly, the Senate hereby rejects the said nomination and has returned the said nomination to Mr. President for further action,” Abudullahi said.
Despite his rejection by the Senate, the Presidency resubmitted Magu’s name for confirmation. Similarly on March 15, 2017, the Senate again rejected the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, after the DSS, reaffirmed its position that the nominee lacks integrity to lead the country’s anti-corruption agency.
Mr. Magu was rejected after appearance before the Senate for his confirmation hearing during which Dino Melaye raised the DSS report dated March 14.
“In the light of the foregoing, Magu has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption stand of the current government,” the DSS report, read by Mr. Melaye, stated.
While many are blaming those in the Senate under investigation for corruption for alleged obstruction of Magu’s confirmation, we believe that the blame should rest squarely on the Presidency.
The DSS is under the presidency and it has been the tradition that for security reasons nobody is appointed into sensitive positions without a favourable report from the DSS. Ministerial nominees have been rejected based on DSS report. Only recently some ambassadorial nominees were rejected by the Senate because of unfavourable DSS report.
Therefore given the sensitive nature of EFCC chairman position, the Presidency ought to have gotten a favourable report from DSS before forwarding Magu’s name to the Senate.
Had the presidency done that it would have invited the DSS Director General and acting chairman of EFCC, to settle whatever differences there are, before forwarding Magu’s name to the Senate.
And if the Presidency through such meeting found compelling reason to believe that Magu failed integrity test nominate another person in his place.
It would have saved the Presidency from the embarrassment that Magu’s rejection has generated which portrays it as inept.
We are also disappointed by the silence of the Presidency since Magu’s latest rejection by the Senate. This is unfortunate for an administration that made war against corruption its core mandate from the Nigerian people.
It is time for the Presidency to take a stand on who becomes the substantive chairman of the EFCC or risk the anti-corruption war of the Buhari administration being seen as a mere child’s play.