A new role for Magu
In a democratic government that is marked by the absence of an autocratic pecking order that harks back to the days of medieval despots, conflicts among the key players in the political space are inevitable. But since there is no allowance for any of the three arms of government to hegemonise authority, they are all expected to adhere to a constitutionally ratified cooperative principle that oils the wheel of good governance.
Such a principle is violated if instead of the arms of government mustering enough capacity to resolve their disagreements, they allow them to hurt governance. This brings us to the long-drawn rift between the Presidency and the Senate over the confirmation of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu. The conflict is festering as both arms of government continue to maintain their hardline positions.
The Senate has vowed not to confirm any presidential nominee until Magu is relieved of his job. It feels affronted by the unresolved contradiction that the same Presidency that gleefully declared that it did not need the approval of the Senate for Magu to be in office wants the upper legislative chamber to confirm presidential nominees.
In its attempt to wriggle out of the cul-de-sac it has found itself, the Presidency is considering taking the matter to the Supreme Court for judicial intervention. When the rift between the two arms began, the Presidency obviously relished the support of the public. The latter eagerly waited for that moment when the Senate would declare itself shellacked by the Presidency. Beyond supinely contemplating the impudence of the Senate to appropriate powers it has not been given by the constitution, some people made themselves available to be hired to protest against the chamber. But these protests have since fizzled out since it has become clear that the Senate would not disavow its position.
Yet both arms of government are faced with a matter that can easily be resolved without involving the court. But the case may not be finally resolved even if the Presidency wins at the Supreme Court. We are alerted to the difficulty of a judicial resolution of the crisis when the Senate argues that apart from the poor performance of Magu at his screening, it was the Department of State Services (DSS) that provided the negative report on the basis of which it rejected him. So if the court rules that the Presidency does not need the Senate’s confirmation for Magu to be in office what happens to the DSS report? Would that ruling discredit the position of the Senate that a sullied arbiter cannot fight corruption?
Those who blame the Senate for the lingering dispute are not fair to the upper legislative chamber. For, the Presidency has more to do to resolve this issue than the Senate. If it is only Magu who can do the job as the Presidency insists, it means the government is not really ready to fight corruption. For, instead of the fight being driven by a clearly defined system, it is being built around one person. Does it mean that if Magu resigns or dies today the anti-corruption campaign would suddenly come to a halt? The insistence of the government on Magu exposes it to the charge that it has an ulterior motive that negates the interest of the nation that it claims to protect. There is the suspicion that the government is afraid that a replacement for Magu might not be as pliable as to do the bidding of the government. This only confirms the suspicion that the anti-corruption fight is only targeted at some people, especially the members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and others the government feels are threats to its interest. While we await a judicial pronouncement on the matter it is only fair if we cease blaming the Senate for rejecting Magu. The lawmakers must not succumb to the Senatephobia that is expressed by the clamour for its scrapping. The Presidency and its officials who began the fight against corruption must be above board.
The long-drawn battle over Magu is hampering governance. An urgent solution is needed. But going to the Supreme Court is not the solution that is needed. Is it that governance would be stalled until the court decides? If the government believes that only Magu can do the job, there is no need going to the Supreme Court. It should simply remove him from the EFFC as its chairman and disband the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption headed by Prof. Itse Sagay. It should set up another one in its place and make Magu to oversee it. Through this, although Magu would not be visible as the EFCC chair, he would still be effectively in charge but not subject to the elusive confirmation of the Senate.
The existence of the Sagay panel has only evinced a lack of capacity for governance on the part of the Buhari government. Why should the panel still be in existence? Must it keep advising? Can’t the government set up enduring and unimpeachable terms for the anti-corruption battle and leave the EFCC to operate by them? Must we run our government by committees? After all, whatever advice the panel has been giving to the Presidency has not led to the prosecution of the corrupt associates of Buhari. It has only led to the egregious violation of the constitution as in the case of the former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki whom courts have granted bail but is still being detained. It has led to those accused of corruption in the government as in the cases of suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation Lawal Babachir and equally suspended Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Ayo Oke being probed by government officials without the findings being made public. It has not led to EFCC winning court cases. Rather, despite the so-called advice the panel has been giving, the EFCC has only been mocking itself in the courts as it continues to lose cases. So the panel is not really serving the interest of Nigerians and there is no need sustaining it with tax-payers’ money. In the face of the brazen anomalies in the government’s fight against corruption, we expect the members of the Sagay panel who are distinguished citizens to have resigned their positions if they were really out to serve the public and fight corruption without favouritism. Nigerians do not expect to see a presidential panel on corruption that fits itself into the role of an organ of government that has lost its primary mission to propagandist pyrotechnics.
Giving Magu this new office would enable him to fine-tune his strategies on how he would secure the convictions of corrupt persons and build a prison for them in Sambisa forest where they would waste away instead of enjoying their lucre in the quietude of their gold-plated mansions.
Besides, the common argument of Buhari which has been re-echoed by others is that corruption is a major threat to the development of the country. Thus, fighting it is as important as generating revenue for the country. In this regard, Buhari who is so much concerned about fighting corruption and saving the nation’s revenue from being frittered away by corrupt political leaders would do well to take up the chairmanship of the EFCC. After all, it is the need to avoid our oil revenue being stolen that has made Buhari to declare himself the Minister of Petroleum. Again, Buhari as the chairman of the EFCC would be a boost to the anti-corruption fight as his body language alone would make our leaders to wean themselves off the demons of larceny that goad them into appropriating public office as an opportunity for self-enrichment.
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