The rejection of Ibrahim Magu for the second time as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is generating a lot of controversies. In this interview, a former Chairman of the Labour Party, Chief Dan Nwanyanwu, said he was not surprised at the development but described it as an indictment on the integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari who reposed so much confidence on Magu that he had to renominate him a second time. Nwanyanwu tells ONWUKA NZESHI that Buhari could still re-nominate Magu for the third time if he still has implicit confidence in him
For the second time in two months, the Senate has rejected the nomination of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and this is generating a lot of controversy. What is your interpretation of the situation?
I am not surprised at what happened to Magu because the Senate had made up its mind without considering whether the man is doing his job or not. So, it is left for the President to make up his mind and take a position. In a normal society and in other climes, once the President has sent a name twice, it goes to show that he has confidence in the nominee to execute the job. But here, the President’s opinion didn’t matter to the Senate because they had made up their mind and I can say that it is corruption fighting back.
What do you think is the way out of this matter?
The President can reappoint Magu and leave him in acting capacity until he leaves office. Let the man go and face his job. The only reason why people would want their appointment to be confirmed is so that there they will become substantive and so that when they are doing their job, they will put everything they have into it. It is also for security of tenure. This is why if some is occupying a position in acting capacity, he has to be careful sometimes so that he does not do something that will make them throw him away. I think that that is exactly what has happened because Magu started doing his work from day one.
So it is left for the President to decide whether he still wants him and if the President wants him, he may wish to reappoint him and leave him there. If the President satisfied about all these comments about his integrity and all that holds no water but it’s the machination of all those who didn’t want Magu to do his work or people he may have stepped on their toes. The President can reappoint him and Magu can still perform his duties as Acting Chairman of EFCC.
But have you considered the other side of the argument which says that Magu, having been rejected twice is no longer fit for that position?
I don’t think that argument is correct because by rejecting twice, the Senate is also questioning the power and integrity of the person of Mr. President who after looking at all the facts around him, reappointed him. What the Senate did in its second rejection of Magu is indicting the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for renominating him. They cannot explain that the President did not look at all those allegations that led to the first rejection before reappointing him. So they are indicting the President. If they say that Magu has no integrity, it goes to show that the person that nominated him again has no integrity. So the President has to exercise his powers by reappointing him in acting capacity so that he can go and do his work without sending his name to the Senate again. He can continue to do that work as Acting Chairman of the EFCC.
As a lawyer, do you think that option is legal?
What is illegal about it?
Are you saying that Magu can continue to do his work in acting capacity ad infinitum?
No. No. No. You see, when you are acting, even when you have a period of acting, you can be reappointed in acting capacity. There is no law that says that after acting period if for six months or one year, or that you cannot be reappointed to service in acting capacity again. This is why I told you. That the buck at the President’s table. If the President is convinced that Magu is being witch-hunted or he is unjustifiably accused of lacking in integrity, he can reappoint him into that office; he does not need to write no letter to the Senate.
The Senate based its position of DSS’ damning report against Magu. Have you seen that report and are you saying that such a report should be ignored?
There are two reports from the DSS – one for and the other against Magu. So how can two conflicting reports emanate from the same institution and you choose to act on one? You see fighting corruption is not a tea party. It is a serious matter and those who are likely going to be victims will do anything and everything to make sure that the fight does not progress. The fact is that our country has been raped to a point of no return and those who milked the country will do anything to ensure that the fight against corruption does not succeed. So, I am not surprised at what is happening at all. I am not surprised at all.
Are you saying the DSS is in disarray given this scenario of one institution submitting to conflicting reports on one subject matter?
I have not said so. I never said that and you cannot attribute the word “disarray” to me. What I said was that the same public institution brought two reports; one for and the other one against him on the same subject matter.
If you are interpreting it to mean that the institution is in disarray that is your own language. If the DSS felt very strongly about its report and recommendation, it is supposed to discuss it with the President and convince him why that name should not go again. I can tell you that the President must have discussed it with them before he sent the name again.
I don’t think the Senate was fair to the President to turn down the nomination again. Unless the President doesn’t know what is happening and we are given the impression that the President is there running the country. Except again the President is shielded from the facts but I keep saying that the fact that the President renominated him and asked for his confirmation, shows that the President did not believe all that have been said against Magu.
It goes to show that the President was not convinced with the allegations against Magu. It goes to show that President has implicit confidence and trust in the person of Magu to do that job. It summarizes everything. It is not a situation whereby you … unless we are told that the President is not aware of what is going on and is doing something else.
The fact that after all these and the nominee of the President is rejected a second time shows that the President’s power to appoint people is being challenged and by implication, they are also questioning the President’s integrity. If a President nominates someone for job, the first time you rejected him and he sends him again you reject for lacking integrity that means they could also accuse the President of the same thing. That is why I told you that I am not surprised at the outcome because they had made different arguments in order to frustrate the confirmation of the nominee. I am not surprised at what happened and I am not persuaded by it.
Under the doctrine of Separation of Powers, the President has powers to appoint while the Senate has the powers to confirm. Are you saying that the Senate has no powers to reject a nominee when it deems it fit?
They can even reject him a hundred times if they so wish or in their own wisdom. The fact is that the Senate can reject any angel from performing its functions in Nigeria but in the exercise of that power, they must do it legally and judiciously. You must be seen to be honest, free and fair. I have told you in the past, that if you look at the Senate, there are many ex- governors there whose files are with the EFCC so you don’t expect them to take a decision that will take them to the Golgotha. Remember the place in The Bible called Golgotha – the Place of the Skulls? If you are expecting them to just receive the nomination and agree, you must be expecting too much because by so doing, they would be signing their death warrants. That is natural and that is human, but I thought that the interest of Nigeria should supersede all our personal interests.
During the process of screening for confirmation, the Senate said that Magu failed to respond to some of the issues they raised satisfactorily. Don’t you think it reserved the right to reject him if he could not give an update on the amount if looted funds the EFCC had recovered under his watch?
It is not possible for him to give exact figures of what the EFCC has recovered because money is recovered everyday and even the day before he went to the Senate, money was recovered at the Kaduna Airport. The sum of N49million was abandoned in that airport and another one may have been recovered as he was in the Senate Chamber. So how could he give you exact figures? All they should have done was to say, come back later and give us the exact figures.
Some Nigerians are of the view that the matter was unnecessarily personalized and has placed Magu as if he is the only man who can run the EFCC. Can’t the President send a replacement?
I don’t know any nominee that will come that they will not find something against and that is why I told you that the President can, if he is still convinced that this is a plot against Magu and that it is an attempt to frustrate the fight against corruption; if he is convinced that Magu is being witch- hunted, if that is his position as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he can renominate Magu as Acting Chairman of the EFCC and Magu can go about doing his job and Senate confirmation will not be required.
I am not saying that Magu is the only person that can do the job but this thing has come to a point whereby corruption is fighting back against corruption; whereby the President’s position on who will do things right is being challenged not by saints, not by puritans but by people whose files are with the agency that is meant to fight corruption in this country.