Ibrahim Magu: A Case for Fair Hearing

No sincere follower of the purported ongoing investigation of Ibrahim Magu, who was recently forcibly sacked as Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), would not describe the exercise as what it truly is: a charade. An orchestrated extralegal act so brazenly packaged in the worst form of travesty.

Without any tinge of doubt, Abubakar Malami, the infamous attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, is the architect of this conspiratorial affair that unfortunately bears a presidential rubber stamp. From the moment Magu showed his hand as one who would be his own man outside President Buhari‘s influence as far as the fight against corruption is concerned, Malami knew he had to work on both the president and the former EFCC boss to enable him to achieve a substantial consummation of his self-serving mission.

Regrettably, he has succeeded to a large extent. He has been able to completely reverse whatever good fortunes Magu hitherto enjoyed in the eyes of Buhari. To get this far, though, he must have initiated a sustained and indiscriminate calumny of the EFCC under Magu, following up with a blistering offensive that culminated in the biased petition to the president chronicling sundry allegations of corruption and mismanagement against Magu. The outcome of the petition is the Justice Isa Salami administrative panel, which was secretly put together and, unknown to many, had kicked off a covert probe of Malami’s prey in, of all places, the presidential villa.

Only a handful of people, even in the power circle, knew of the existence of the panel and its intended purpose. But the lid blew open to the public as soon as Magu was “kidnapped” on the street in the mid-morning of July 6, 2020, by security operatives and swiftly bundled to the villa to face the panel. By this time, the drama was already shaping up to present the audience with an ugly theme of well-scripted injustice and campaign of calumny.

It’s all too obvious. There is no need harping on the point that contrary to the normal order of proceedings in matters like this, Malami the accuser is also the judge here, a fact that can’t be said to be lost on the chairman of the panel, Salami, himself a well-regarded judge of sterling adjudicatory attributes. Instead of being taken before the panel as he was told when he was seized, Magu was kept somewhere in the precinct of the villa for 10 days under conditions that left much to be desired. Of all those days under captivity, not once was he brought before the panel for him to be interrogated.

The object of this exercise is unmistakable to the discerning who are clearly in the majority. They knew that Magu was doing a good job but Malami wanted him out of the way by all means just so he can weaken the anti-corruption war and redirect its course to his own advantage. Femi Odekunle, professor of criminology and member of Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), the think-tank set up to advise the government on issues of corruption, was one of the earliest voices to criticise Magu’s removal and subsequent ordeal, blaming it on Malami and other forces around the presidency who are bent on hijacking government’s anti-corruption crusade to suit their own needs.    

No one quarrels with probing the poster child of the Buhari government’s anti-corruption campaign if only the venue of the exercise and the procedure adopted don’t smell strongly of bias against him. That the issue of lack of fair hearing has been counted as a major stain in the garment of the Salami panel is a thing of grave concern. Itse Sagay, professor of law and chairman of PACAC, raised two issues on this ground in a recent interview with The Sun newspaper.

Copyright © The News chronicle