I have this Childhood’s fantasy about the myth that a Cat has nine lives. It’s a terrific secret that I have kept close to my chest up until these moments of reflection on the persistent accusations from top flight appointees of the President on the capacity and credibility of the man holding sway as the nation’s anti-graft Czar- Ibrahim Magu.
Then in my early elementary school days at the Saint Peter’s Clever Primary school in Kafanchan Kaduna State which was in my own time renamed Aduwan 1 Primary School with the take over of Catholic mission schools by the Kaduna State’s political administration, a certain English class teacher used that idiomatic expression, it stuck in my memory.
As someone who also loves the Scientific side of life, I wanted to validate or invalidate that statement that Cats have nine lives literally even though the Class teacher clearly told us its etymology of that expression that fundamentally made it even more perplexing to me with my young mind.
So I observed a certain cat of a neighbour to see if there is truth in that saying that Cats have nine lives.
One day, the beautiful pet cat ran out into the street and was knocked down violently by a speeding motorbike and it stood motionless.
The owner dashed out of the house and together with the Motorbike rider, they drove to a famous animal doctor not far from our home.
Tragically, the Veterinary physician pronounced the dog clinically dead.
I actually dutifully followed these people to the Vet clinic and I heard when the ultimate pronouncement was made that the pet cat was clinically dead but since I had the preconceived belief that the cat like all other would have nine lives, I waited for it to wake up and begin the second phase of the nine lives. But it never did.
I immediately asked the doctor how come that this cat has just a life when we were told in the school that Cats have nine lives.
My question made everyone to laugh and immediately the anger that had bottled up in the mind of the cat owner disappeared as he accepted the condition of settlement made by the bike man who showed profound penitence.
Well, many decades after this incident, I’m again witnessing a scenario that replicated that iconic word that Cats have nine lives.
This time, the real cats are not involved but politicians and some members of the Federal Government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari who have continued to exchange public spat over the propriety or otherwise or rather the ethical fitness of the man at the helm of affairs at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who is now a Deputy Commissioner of Nigerian Police Ibrahim Magu is the thematic area of our focus in this reflection.
I will return to state the facts as they had emerged on the public disagreements between Ibrahim Magu; the Federal Attorney General and minister of justice Malam Abubakar Malami and the erstwhile Director General of the Department of States Services who is a kinsman of President Muhammadu Buhari Alhaji Lawal Daura.
It would seem that Ibrahim Magu may have presented the political character of a Cat with nine lives or rather someone who has a godfather in the person of the President for him to have lasted up to five years without meeting a Senate confirmation to such an extent that the Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo spoke tongue in cheek to support an aberration that allows someone to remain in an acting position even after he failed the Congressional hearing thrice and has a heavy indictments hanging on his neck like a sword of Damocles.
How does he Ibrahim Magu manage to stay in office amidst formidable indictments that clearly describes him as totally unfit to hold the high office that he currently holds? This scenario is amongst many that have signposted the current administration as a HOUSE divided amongst itself but yet has not collapsed like the unholy pack of cards.
This interrogatory appears identical with the typical question imposed as a Child to the Veterinary doctor which also a scientist has expertly handled and posted online as if cats can cheat death?
In response the writer says: “Cats are incredibly intelligent and intuitive. They have lightning-fast reflexes, quick decision making skills and remarkable dexterity.
However, there is no scientific evidence that suggests cats have nine lives. As far as we can tell, our feline friends have one life on this earth, just like everyone else.
Therefore the myth of cat’s having nine lives is no truer than the myth of black cat superstitions.
As a responsible pet owner, you need to be just as careful with cats as you would with any other pet,” (www.petplan.co.uk).
In the case of Magu, it is evident that he is not actually endowed with those wonderful intellectual gifts ascribed to the Cats as revealed in the aforementioned website on pets. Ibrahim Magu has managed to survived largely due to his sycophantic affiliations to President Muhammadu Buhari to an a ridiculous extent that he wore a campaign lapel of Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress who ran as an incumbent for a final four year term against the well favoured opposition Presidential candidate and the erstwhile Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar whose political boss then President Olusegun Obasanjo created the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) and ICPC. Magu wore that political campaign lapel to the high profile inauguration of the multibillion new office complex of the EFCC located in an upscale area in the Jabi District of Abuja by the amazing Jabi Lakes in the Federal Capital Territory. His unabashed political support for President Muhammadu Buhari coupled with his closeness to the influential national leader of All Progressives Congress Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu the Jagaban of Borgu in Niger State and the Asiwaju of South West of Nigeria have helped to keep him immune to the hige body and avalanches of accusations that if proven should send him to prison.
For the purposes of this reflection, let us repeat with a newspaper reporter that MAGU’s ordeals began in the first tenure of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration when a damning report by the Department of State Security Services (DSS) surfaced thereby exposing the alleged double life, sabotage and corruption of the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu and, were cited as the reasons by the immediate past session of the Senate for its refusal to confirm him as the substantive chairman of the anti-graft agency.
The eight session of the Senate asked President Muhammadu Buhari to send the name of a fresh nominee for its confirmation, but gave the nod for the screening of other nominees of the commission by its anti-graft committee.
As widely reported then, Magu’s rejection was announced at a press briefing in the National Assembly by the then Senate spokesman, Sabi Abdullahi, after a two-hour closed-door meeting.
Senator Abdullahi who recently in the current ninth session of the Senate attempted to midwife a hugely unconstitutional legislation against social media freedoms, was reported to have cited an unfavourable security report as the reason for Magu’s rejection.
Hear him: “This is an official statement from the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It’s the statement on the confirmation of the nomination of the chairman and members of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).”
“The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria wishes to inform the general public that based on the security report available to the Senate, the Senate cannot proceed and confirm the nomination of Ibrahim Magu Mustapha as the Executive Chairman of the EFCC.”
“Accordingly, the Senate hereby rejects the said nomination and has returned the said nomination to Mr. President for further action,” Abudullahi said.
Abdullahi, as captured by the media
tried to avoid questions from journalists on why it took the Senate too long to arrive at the decision and why it also took the parliament almost two hours before making its decision public.
But following the insistence by journalists that the Senate must explain its decision, Sabi said: “There’s no confusion here. We have said it was based on a security report. Please, all of us public officers go for security screening, everybody!
“And we are saying that based on a security report, we cannot proceed and confirm him and we are rejecting his nomination and returning it to Mr. President for further action, that’s just the statement. It’s as simple as that.
“That’s exactly what the Senate has said and I don’t have any other explanation more than this.”
The security report, which was given to journalists and confirmed an earlier report that the acting EFCC chairman was being investigated for his close ties to an indicted retired Nigerian Air Force officer, Commodore Umar Mohammed, was written by the DSS and addressed to the Senate on October 3, 2016.
In the 15-paragraph letter, DSS said its investigation conducted on Magu showed that in August 2008, following a search at his residence during the tenure of Mrs. Farida Waziri as the EFCC chairman, some sensitive documents that were not supposed to be in his possession were found.
The report also said the discovery resulted in his detention and subsequent redeployment from EFCC back to the Nigeria Police Force after which he was suspended from the Force.
The report further said that in December 2010, the Police Service Commission (PSC) found Magu guilty of “acting prejudicially to state security, withholding files, sabotage, unauthorised removal of EFCC files and acts unbecoming of a police officer and awarded him severe reprimand and punishment”.
The report as analysed by a reporter of Thisday news paper revealed that upon the appointment of the immediate past chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, he made the return of Magu, who had earlier worked with him when he was the EFCC Director of Operations his top priority, a situation it said eventually culminated in his return to EFCC.
It added that Magu’s return to EFCC, at the instance of Lamorde, was an attestation to his culpability in allegations of corrupt practices.
It further disclosed that Magu lives a flamboyant life to the extent of currently occupying a rented apartment of N40 million, at N20 million per annum, which it said was not paid for by the EFCC but by Commodore Umar Mohammed, whom it described as a questionable businessman who was once arrested by the DSS.
Mohammed was said to have lavishly furnished Magu’s residence at the cost of N43 million.
He was also accused of proceeding on official and private trips in a private carrier, Easy Jet owned by Mohammed.
On one of such trips, he was said to have flown to Maiduguri along with Mohammed, and the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, who was being investigated by the EFCC over complicity in funds allegedly lodged with the bank by the former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
To prove the allegation of opulence and as a confirmation of his flamboyant lifestyle, DSS accused Magu of cultivating the habit of flying first class against the directive of the president.
For example, he was said to have once flown first class to Saudi Arabia to perform the lesser hajj at the cost of N2.9 million.
The report also alleged that Magu lived a double life, portraying himself as an anti-graft czar, on the one hand, and living a secret life, on the other hand.
For instance, he was said to have divulged official secrets to Mohammed in view of the benefits he was deriving from him.
The DSS also said it discovered a number of official documents Magu had made available to Mohammed when it searched the latter’s house.
One of such letters was said to have been forged from the Office of the Vice-President containing the report of a fictitious investigation by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to the president requesting for approval to commence a probe into a matter claimed to have involved the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and his brother, Dumebi.
The report further stated that Magu was fond of covering his shortcomings using police cronies to execute operations, coupled with discoveries that such cronies had acquired a lot of landed property for themselves. The questions surrounding acquisition of assets is troubling as we will later see in the latest letter from the Federal Attorney General and minister of justice Abubakar Malami indicting Ibrahim Magu for the second time and asking that he be dropped from the position as head of the anti graft body.
In its conclusion, the report from the DSS to the Bukola Saraki led eight Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it stated: “In the light of the foregoing, Magu failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.”
Although at the time that all of these back and forth arguments on the desirability or otherwise of proceeding with the confirmation by the eight session of the Senate proceeded, President Muhammadu Buhari was going back and forth from London hospitals and so the Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo was the acting President. It has been said that Ibrahim Magu enjoys special place in the heart of the National leader of the All Progressives Congress Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose political god son Professor Yemi Osinbanjo the Vice President acted as President for some months whilst his boss President Muhammadu Buhari was on medical tourism in Great Britain.
It would seem that the then acting President saved Magu by not dropping his name as nominee to assume the substantive position of chairman of EFCC but rather the Vice President initiated some legal arguments and semantic gymnastics to save the neck of Ibrahim Magu who was indicted by the Senate based on the damaging reports sent in by the then Director General of the Department of States Services Lawal Daura who would go on to find his way into a hot soup when he led a 100 man armed forces from the DSS to invade the National Assembly in what is considered an attempted coup against the leadership of Senate President Bukola Saraki who did not see eye to eye with President Muhammadu Buhari due to political differences that surfaced when he mustered the support of the opposition People’s Democratic party’s Caucus in the Senate to become the Senate President against the dictatorial dictate of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The then acting President who is Vice President and the political boy of Bola Ahmed Tinubu the political godfather of Ibrahim Magu sacked the then Director General of the Department of State Services Lawal Daura who had earlier masterminded the writing of the extensively damaging report against Ibrahim Magu.
So Ibrahim Magu survived that bold attempt that rubbished his credibility but fought back through media propaganda to sell the dummy of a great anti corruption warrior who is being witchhunted by corrupt politicians because he refused to be bribed.
However, this belief that he is above board is once more threatened by a report authored by no other person than the number one chief law officer in Nigeria Abubakar Malami who is the minister of justice and a trusted political ally of the President in whom Muhammadu Buhari is well pleased or so it seems.
On June 18th 2020, the media were awashed with reports that the Federal Attorney General and minister of justice Abubakar Malami indicted Ibrahim Magu of serious infractions which if verified should see him do time in prison with some of the corrupt politicians that he has helped sent to the prisons.
The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), had in the letter leaked to the media for maximum effect recommended to President Muhammadu Buhari the sacking of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu.
Malami, in a memorandum to the president, centred his recommendation on several grounds “raging from diversion of recovered loot to insubordination and misconduct” by Magu.
Sources stated that Malami included a short list of three candidates for consideration to replace Magu.
But one of the media house seems to have started waging war against the Attorney General of the Federation in subtle support of Magu by presenting the facade that Irahim Magu has begun fighting back and his supporters within the Presidency quoted by the newspaper say as follows: “removing Magu at this time when he has given muscle to Buhari’s anti-corruption fight would be a mistake.” This is propaganda taken too far given that the well grounded arguments presented by the Federal Attorney General and minister of justice Abubakar Malami are almost unassailable. Only a reckless government will be abreast of such a damaging allegations and still keeps the indicted official on seat.
Ibrahim Magu’s media spin doctor said: “It is painful that the EFCC boss is facing certain powerful forces who have decided to remove him in spite of his remarkable achievements,” the friendly national paper affirmed.
On the other hand the newspaper quoted sources as saying that given the weight of Malami’s allegations against Magu, the president may be inclined “to set up a probe panel that will look into the veracity of the allegations and make necessary recommendations.”
One of the sources told select journalists that “I can authoritatively tell you that though Magu has survived previous plots to remove him, the AGF’s legal opinion remains the deadliest plot to get Magu out of the EFCC as AGF’s letter to the president contained 22 weighty allegations that require Buhari’s decision on whether or not to send Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation or replace him. This is because the office of the AGF is the supervising ministry of the EFCC and so his legal opinion cannot be treated with levity.”
The unnamed source also asserted thus: “For example, Malami alleged accounting gaps or discrepancies of figures concerning the recovered assets, claiming that Magu was not transparent enough in the management of recovered assets…”
A Magu supporter said:” It will interest you to note that Malami accused the EFCC boss of disclosing a total naira recovery of N504 billion but lodged N543 billion in the Recovery Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Incidentally, this exceeded the disclosed figures by N39 billion.”
According to the supporter of the EFCC boss, what should be a point of commendation is now being used against Magu. I ask, how can an irreconcilable account be a bonus for a chief accounting officer of the nation’s anti-graft body? This is like placing logic upside down. Whether you understate or over state an account, there is an element of doubt because data must be accurate and scientific or else it is lacking in the ingredients of integrity and credibility.
The reporter quickly stated that others said: “Malami also accused Magu of blatant display of arrogance and insubordination to him as supervising minister of the EFCC.”
According to the source, Malami claimed that most of the recovered assets by the EFCC were allegedly sold by Magu without the knowledge of anyone.
“But it is unfortunate that this claim is at variance with the public auction of assets by the EFCC,” the pro-Magu’s propaganda machine sold the dummy to that same reporter blowing hot and cold at the same time in a straight forward news reporting that needs no individual opinions of the Reporter who filed the story.
This undue delay by President Muhammadu Buhari to take a decision on Ibrahim Magu marks the lowest point in his administration which displays the indecisive style of the current administration and the apparent abdication of responsibility as the President. How can the President preside over an administration whose key functionaries are at persistent war with each other? How can the Director General of the Department of States Services and the nation’s Chief law officer pass a vote of no confidence at different times against the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC Ibrahim Magu and the President pretends that all is well? Mr. President all is not well. The earlier you take a decision to clean the Aegean stable and set up a formidable and credible team to head the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the better. The government can not pretend to be fighting corruption when the officer in charge of the EFCC is himself being accused of worst offences than the persons the institution ought to deal with for committing financial crimes? The President must bring to an end this deceit, deception and fraudulent claims of waging any war against corruption because his house is in disarray and the accusations against the person of the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC Ibrahim Magu are extensively damaging and if swept under the carpets then the whole claims of combating corruption becomes a ruse and a phantom political gymnastics.
*** Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.