This headline, which speaks to the ongoing saga of the embattled Ibrahim Magu, is absolutely false; as well as offensive to millions of Nigerians who have never taken a penny illegally from anyone.
However, the title is also borne out of frustration, looking at our anti-corruption fight.
It easy to adopt the usual argument that “the right people are not given the opportunity”. Well, this argument is not supported by empirical and historical facts. Since independence, we have had almost everyone from different background in different governments and regimes.
Corruption is cancer. Indeed, no society can survive when corruption thrives; particularly when a nation’s anti-corruption Czar is being accused of re-looting recovery assets. Which brings us to the case of Magu, the suspended acting Chairman of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
His fall from grace has been given different themes in different quarters. Some have referred to it as the “hunter becoming the hunted”; while others have been more charitable with Magu by referring to it as “corruption fighting back.”
Here lies the challenge of public discourse.
The noise is creating a confusion. Here is the basic question. Did Magu commit the offences he is being accused of? The answer is, we do not know. Simple!
The same President Muhammadu Buhari who suspended Magu kept him for over five years as acting Chairman; despite an indicting report by the Department of State Services (DSS) during his Senate confirmation in 2016. And the president has also set up a committee headed by the respectable Justice Ayo Salami; a man who once suffered public humiliation by the powers that be.Therefore, Magu will probably get a fair hearing. Hence, there is no point for speculations and predictions. But what is heart-cringing in this saga is, who is not a thief in Nigeria? Because there is a possibility that indeed Magu is guilty of what he is being accused of.
The thought that it is possible that Magu could have stolen or diverted some part of the recovered loot is the problem here. Who can we trust? Why is there a seemingly uncontrollable tradition of official kleptomania in this country?
Since 1999, if we take a look at the profiles of all political appointees; you will be marvelled at the calibre of persons who have served this country. Many of them came from multilateral agencies with Ivy League certificates. Some were from the organised private sector, a few have been clergy and so forth. However, the country has been left in ruins.
A retired Colonel, Sambo Dasuki turned the $2.1billion meant for purchasing of weapons to be used by his fellow comrades on the battle-field to election patronage/re-election money.
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Last week, Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, ordered the interim forfeiture of 48 choice property; allegedly belonging to a former Chairman of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Ngozi Olejeme. Mrs. Olejeme joins Mrs. Alison Madueke, the former Petroleum Minister in the league of; ‘what a man can steal, a woman can steal better.”
In Nigeria, we have seen situations where assumed reformers have also turned to grabbers.
We all recall Stephen Osagiede Oronsaye, former Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Financial Action Task Force; who is facing prosecution for allegations of stealing N240million. This is in addition to another 24 count charges.
What of Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT)? The man was charged with reforming the Nigerian pension scheme. However, he ended up stealing, sorry, allegedly stealing over N100 billion.
Of course, there are instances of victimisation, where people are falsely accused of corruption. That’s the problem. We have had elites who have done so many impossible things that people can easily believe anything. It’s just like accusing Boko Haram of cannibalism. We know it’s gross, but it’s something they can do.
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Hence, the assertion that everyone is a thief is right, until proven innocent of course. Again, this brings us to the judiciary. Sadly, the court has remained the biggest cog in the wheel of the fight against corruption in Nigeria. If alleged celebrity fraudster Hushpuppi was facing trial here in Nigeria; there is a strong possibility that the case will be in court for the next 20 years.
There is a need to reform the judiciary. If not, we should have social courts for trying financial crimes. But it should not stop at financial crimes. Whether political or civil matter, justice should not be delayed to prevent justice being denied. It’s simple!
Victims of false accusation need the court to clear their names. On the other hand, those claiming a witch hunt should also push for speedy trial to save the witch from the hunter; or to even allow the hunter to take down the witch.
Indeed, no one can take away the achievements of Magu.
But an anti-corruption Czar should not have skeletons in his/her wardrobe; particularly if the Attorney General is the one shouting thief!