President Muhammadu Buhari sent two letters to the Senate on Tuesday renominating Ibrahim Magu as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC; and rejecting the senate’s indictment of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) over fraud. Below are five takeaways from the letters:
1. Some animals are more equal than others: If you had any doubts about that, yesterday’s letter was conclusive proof that the anti-corruption war is one-sided. When it comes to fighting corruption, there are sacred cows in the Buhari administration. Lawal and Magu join a long list of other members of the Executive arm of government who were accused of corruption, but will never be investigated or prosecuted because they are in the good books of the President.
2. The Presidency is uncoordinated or insincere or both: We reported yesterday that the aide to the President on National Assembly, Sen. Ita Enang had denied knowledge of the letter re-nominating Magu, noting that he lacked details to comment on the matter. If the president’s point man with the senate was unaware of his move, then that’s a disaster; if he was lying, that’s a credibility problem.
Also, the Department of State Security, DSS, an agency under the Office of the National Security Adviser, which is also under the Presidency, wrote the Senate, alleging that Magu was unfit to be EFCC Chair. The DSS letter was the primary reason Magu wasn’t confirmed. Yet the presidency has overruled the DSS without giving details of its reasons. Confusion.
3. Buhari’s anti-corruption war is in tatters: Buhari’s credential for emergence as President was his perceived spartan and austere lifestyle which endeared him to many supporters. He was the man with the single-minded focus to stamp out corruption. But as Sen. Shehu Sani who headed the committee that accused Lawal of graft said, the “letter is a funeral service for the president’s anti-corruption war.”
4. The more things change, the more they remain the same: Just like Goodluck Jonathan before him, Pres. Buhari has chosen loyalty to those in his circle over loyalty to ordinary Nigerians who have been wronged. Jonathan kept his interior minister who coordinated a recruitment exercise that led to scores of deaths; he left his petroleum minister who was accused of mind boggling corruption. Buhari has also chosen Lawal over the millions of IDPs who bore the brunt of his alleged fraud.
5. The death of commonsense: Of all the reasons to give for exonerating Lawal, the president went with a supposed fact that the man was not given fair hearing. That was not true. Lawal had opportunities to defend himself – the Senate committee invited him but he stayed away. But let’s assume he truly wasn’t given fair hearing, what Buhari should have done in the instance was simple: investigate and confirm if he’s truly guilty of the grave offences. In that case, his letter should have said investigations proved Lawal to be innocent. He did not do that but chose to rely on technicalities like a supposed lack of fair hearing and that only three members of the committee signed the report. (Sani said it was actually seven of the nine members who signed.) Goodwill lost. Sad.