By Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
The Civil Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Transparency International Nigeria is calling on the Presidential Panel set up to investigate allegations of corruption and insubordination leveled against the Acting Chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, to carry out a thorough and fair investigation. The panel, which is headed by the former president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami (Rtd) is investigating allegations made by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, against Ibrahim Magu.
While it is unclear what the real issues are, CISLAC is concerned about the conflicting signals it sends to Nigerians. Being that Ibrahim Magu heads a very sensitive position of a sensitive government agency tasked with the investigation of financial crimes, such as advance fee fraud and money laundering, it is thus pertinent that the case be handled with all diligence and transparency in order to ensure that the gains in the fight against corruption are not lost in the battle for supremacy and political advantage
This development has heightened the need for reforms in Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs), which is long overdue. In the aspect of Asset Recovery, CISLAC has been consistent in calling for a reform of the system, which is prone to mismanagement, embezzlement and political misuse . There is no clear framework on who takes custodian of recovered assets and how they are utilized. The Government has claimed recoveries of assets worth billions of dollars without accounting who manages these assets, how these assets are utilized and what prevents the re-looting of looted assets. The control of lucrative asset recovery ‘business’ of asset freezes, confiscations and repatriations has caused inter-agency rivalry among ACAs saddled with the responsibility of fighting corruption.
We therefore urge the enactment of the Proceeds of Crime Bill and the Mutual Legal Assistance Bill, which would go a long way in strengthening the anti-corruption fight in Nigeria, take the war against corruption to the doorstep of treasury looters and ensure that repatriated assets are utilized for the benefits of Nigerians. It would also clarify the roles of ACAs and put an end to inter-agency rivalry and bring more transparency in the utilization of recovered assets. The repeated failure to enact the legal framework, which would once and for all clarify mandates in recoveries of assets, is an ample evidence of political interference in the fight against corruption, where Nigerian politicians seek personal advantages at the expense of the Nigerian public.
Furthermore, it is important that the National Assembly and the Executive work towards amending the EFCC Act. The board of the EFCC has been dormant and non-inclusive of Non-State Actors. We ask for the arm of government responsible for the oversight of the EFCC, and other ACAs, to ensure that the board is active and that Non-State Actors are included in the board in the amendment of the Act to ensure accountability in the fight against corruption, which is consciously lacking.
In this pandemic era where the utilization of funds repatriated and funds donated to fight COVID-19 are opaque and questioned, it is important that the attention of Nigerians are not just being diverted to cover up sharp practices over the management of donated and recovered funds.
We therefore urge the panel to make the results of the investigation public in the interest of the president and in order not to rubbish the progress made in the fight against corruption and undermine the efforts of stakeholders. Public trials of heads of anti-corruption agencies send a wrong signal to Nigerians and the international community about the genuineness of the fight against corruption. This incident comes at the worst possible moment and may hamper our national efforts to fight transnational financial crimes and national scams, which has plunged Nigerians into poverty and deprivation. Full transparency of the investigation Panel is of paramount importance.
We also ask that sanctions be meted out where necessary to serve as a deterrent for officers saddled with the fight against corruption and political office holders.
We call on civil society organisations, the media and Nigerians to continue to monitor events as they unfold and demand justice is served.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
Executive Director, CISLAC