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Magu’s troubles: The state of play

By Olatunji Dare

“We have now been there earlier than,” not a number of Nigerians would have mentioned with greater than a contact of cynicism, having regard to the dismissal of Ibrahim Magu, most lately chair of the Financial and Monetary Crimes Fee (EFCC).

Weren’t his predecessors in that workplace – Nuhu Ribadu, Ibrahim Lamorde and Farida Waziri – hounded out in roughly the identical circumstances by panicked political officers involved that the threesome have been pursuing their remit with an extra of zeal and fearful that the layers of safety they’d woven over the a long time to  cowl up their corrupt dealings is perhaps yanked off?

So, they struck first.

From their strategic positions within the legislature and the upper forms, they waged wars of attrition to frustrate, distract and undermine the EFCC.  With assist from compromised media shops, they planted within the public consciousness and embellished at each iteration and reiteration data designed to discredit its chief govt and its key operatives.  It’s as in the event that they have been following the previous boxing maxim that in case you kill the pinnacle, the physique will die.

Not one of the officers left the company on his or her personal phrases.  None acquired even a grudging commendation for achievements starting from the modest to the substantial on a mission ranked among the many most harmful of nationwide assignments.  Every departed broken by a trainload of scurrilous allegations – the extra scurrilous, the higher; allow them to show the costs false, or shut up and put up.

Magu’s on-going predicament is at backside a variation on an previous theme. Even so, the variations between how his predecessors have been despatched packing and the bureaucratic cum pseudo-judicial torture to which he has been subjected, particularly this previous fortnight, are startling.

I exaggerate, however not by a lot, after I evaluate the way of his arrest to a kidnapping.  He was on an errand when safety officers, armed for deadly fight, besieged his convoy, re-routed it to the Presidential Villa and hauled him earlier than a Presidential Investigation Panel (PIP) which instantly slapped on him a battery of prices starting from prison breach of belief to incompetence and “insubordination.”

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His trial had begun in earnest, earlier than a panel assembled in secrecy by the Legal professional-Normal and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), reportedly with the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari.  Since his arrest, he has been held in detention by the police.

It’s infamous that Buhari had been beneath great stress from key figures within the Nationwide Meeting, enterprise barons who function on the precept that nothing succeeds like wheeling and dealing in public contracts, and by some so-called politically uncovered individuals who command huge wealth of doubtful provenance.

Buhari gave the impression to be resisting these loud, well-orchestrated calls for.  When Magu’s time period ended, he didn’t title one other official to switch him. However he didn’t nominate Magu for recent time period nor prolong his tenure, maybe fearing sure defeat within the Nationwide Meeting.  And so, by design or default, Magu remained in workplace, lulled right into a false sense of safety – till they got here for him.

The trial, beg your pardon, investigation, is being performed in an environment of intense prejudicial publicity.  Hardly a day passes with out some new components added to the Magu’s alleged misdeeds in workplace.  A customer to Nigeria would possibly certainly be led to consider that Magu has been the difficulty with Nigeria since he took workplace if not a lot earlier, a personification of the corruption that’s synonymous with Nigeria’s worldwide profile; an official who, given a remit to test official corruption, turned it right into a licence to switch public property to himself and his cronies on a scale nearly past perception.

There’s something nearly Kafkaesque about some features of the proceedings.  Successfully in captivity, Magu has had no entry to materials witnesses and paperwork that may allow him reply to the costs he’s going through.  Even Magu’s legal professional, Wahab Shittu, has complained that he has had no entry to the panel’s phrases of reference, with out which he can not signify his shopper robustly.

As I’ve famous, the battery of prices is really formidable.  It isn’t a rushed job, and definitely couldn’t have been ready in a single day.  The attentive public has a proper to imagine that the allegations would have been painstakingly investigated earlier than they have been parlayed into substantive prices.  And from there, the logical recourse could be to a court docket of legislation.

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As an alternative, we’ve got a panel whose transient, it should be supposed, is to analyze the allegations and decide their validity.  After which, what? Advocate a substantive trial whether it is glad that the established details warrant prosecution, or within the absence of such a dedication, dismiss the costs.

In america, it belongs within the province of a grand jury that makes this type of dedication. Our physique of legal guidelines makes no provision for such an establishment.  However I’ve it on the authority of the Legal professional-Normal that the particular investigation panel is absolutely backed by our legal guidelines.  That could be the case.

However is the entire thing, not simply one other judicial fudge, one of many many who have dogged the tenure of considered one of most ingenious and intensely political attorneys-general (shades of ROA Akinjide, with out the forensic brilliance) of the federation ever.  Making sweeping, categorical prices first and investigating later doesn’t accord with the spirit of our legal guidelines.

Nor do our legal guidelines allow any official to be a choose in his or personal trigger, because the Legal professional-Normal seems to be doing.  Of the six members of the investigating panel, two are from his workplace and report on to him.  At the very least one different, is a division over which he has jurisdiction.

One can not assert categorically that the panel is rigged, regardless of Malami’s scarcely-veiled resolve to see the again of the previous EFCC chief.  However the entire thing raises questions of equity, and of due safety beneath the legislation.

Nor does the looks of a battle of curiosity finish there.  One of many prices levelled at Magu is “insubordination” to the Legal professional-Normal.  That makes the entire thing seem private – and petty, too, it’s essential to insist.  Even within the elastic mandate Malami claims, at what level did Magu’s “insubordination” to a superior in a forms ruled by the Normal Orders and administrative guidelines morph right into a penal crime?

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Because the Bard might need mentioned, the person doth complain an excessive amount of.   And he doth overreach, too.

To lend a veneer of respectability and legality to the proceedings, they trotted considered one of Nigeria’s most revered jurists, the Hon Justice Isa Salami, out of retirement, and named him chair of the investigative panel – the identical jurist {that a} posse of highly effective political figures who share Malami’s world view had tried to destroy in a sustained marketing campaign of calumny, in addition to which Magu’s present ordeal nearly looks like a praise.

It’s with nice satisfaction that I quantity myself amongst a handful of influential media figures and well-regarded authorized students who defended Justice Salami’s honour and integrity at each level, culminating in his rehabilitation and in his being restored to his rightful place in our judicial historical past.

One thing tells me that Justice Salami could have glad himself that the panel has correct authorized standing, and had agreed to serve from a way of responsibility.  However there are duties and there are duties, and I need to say, with all due respect, that he ought to have on this matter exercised a finer sense of discrimination. He ought to have suggested that Magu be dropped at trial earlier than the common courts primarily based on the indictment, with out the mediation of an investigative panel.

We should hope that this troubling expedient doesn’t go on to represent a precedent.  The panel shouldn’t be precisely a kangaroo court docket however in idea if not in follow, it bears hanging resemblances to at least one. Magu must be granted bail and, collectively along with his attorneys, granted entry to all of the human and documentary materials he wants to answer the grave prices he faces.

Nigerians, even these suspected of excessive crimes, deserve higher.  So does our fledgling democracy.

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