A comedy of scandals
It’s been a double – even triple – whammy of scandals for the Muhammadu Buhari administration that leaves its much-trumpeted anti-corruption credentials in tatters.
The nation is transfixed by the sight of Ibrahim Magu, the very symbol of that crusade, on a cross of sorts awaiting crucifixion for his alleged sins.
Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, says the dramatic probe into his activities as EFCC chairman, is evidence there are no sacred cows. But Magu isn’t just any ordinary ‘cow’: he came to personify the administration’s commitment to fighting graft.
So much so that when the Senate under Bukola Saraki declined to confirm him, the government hitched itself to him – allowing him to continue in acting capacity for five years – rather than put the assignment in the hands of a lesser character.
It is therefore a bit late in the day to make the argument that the anti-corruption fight isn’t about one individual. The government created the impression that only Magu could pull off what it wanted done. In the process it downplayed institutional effort. To now imagine that the damage done to his reputation would somehow not rub off on it, is to play the ostrich.
To compound matters, popular belief is this is part of a power struggle as Buhari begins his long walk to Daura.
As a result of the vicious infighting, all sides are briefing against one another in the media. We now know enough about Magu’s alleged sins just as we are learning about what his nemesis, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, may or may not have done wrong.
While the embattled EFCC boss is having to explain his management of recovered billions and hundreds of houses, we now know that Malami approved the sale of seized crude by a company that is facing trial for theft of the same item! His defence? The company had not been found guilty.
Whatever happened to conflict of interest? If the firm is eventually found guilty, how would his approval of this awkward transaction then look?
We are also fast discovering that modesty as a lifestyle isn’t an article of faith subscribed to by all in government.
Those who are angry at Malami’s move against Magu have flooded social media with videos and images from his son’s wedding, complete with guests arriving by private jets and ‘spraying’ naira like there was no tomorrow.
Surely, it is embarrassing that after the Central Bank criminalised such abuse of our national currency, the activity was on full display at an event associated with the nation’s chief law officer.
Also Read: MAGU: WHEN THE ARRESTER IS ARRESTED
Whichever way the Magu matter ends, it’s bound to impact the activities of the EFCC. A new man would spend the next year trying to impose his style and personality and weed out loyalists of the ousted boss. Whatever momentum had been built would quickly evaporate as the agency is transformed into another of Abuja’s somnolent monuments to failure of government.
This isn’t to say Magu shouldn’t face the music if found culpable.
As if the EFCC show wasn’t bad enough, the Nigeria Delta Development Corporation (NDDC), is serving up another fine mess. An unprecedented soap opera exploded upon us with Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio and erstwhile Acting Managing Director of the parastatal, Dr. Joi Nunieh, as protagonists.
It would have amusing if wasn’t a replay of a very Nigerian abuse of position and public funds of tragic proportions.
The NDDC was set up to develop a region that has suffered criminal neglect for decades despite providing the bulk of the nation’s finances. In this cause trillions of naira have been funnelled through its coffers over the years.
But instead of development, a coterie of rapacious officials have fleeced it so much so that the region is no better than it was before it came into being.
Courtesy of the ongoing National Assembly probe we hear tales of how billions have evaporated. Nunieh swears she only spent N8 billion during her tenure and not N22.6 billion. So what happened to the outstanding?
The Interim Management Committee (IMC) has been asked to respond to claims it misappropriated N40 billion in the short time it has been in office. Its leaders were floundering when they appeared before the Senate ad-hoc committee and couldn’t account for N183 billion at the last sitting. They even managed to award themselves N1.5 billion for coronavirus relief.
These amounts aren’t exactly peanuts. The bulk of Nigeria’s 36 states don’t have annual budgets of up to N180 billion.
Nunieh has also made very grave allegations of corruption, abuse of office and improper conduct against Akpabio. She even claims he sexually harassed her – a misadventure for which the one-time distinguished senator reportedly received a dirty slap.
Afforded the opportunity on television to respond to the wide-ranging allegations of misconduct, the minister dismissively pointed out Nunieh had had four husbands as well as an attitude problem.
Even if you paint her as a woman scorned, she’s created serious problems for Akpabio that are not going to disappear with one flippant answer. She has laid charges of criminal misconduct that impinge on his integrity and they need to be addressed.
It is noteworthy that both are lawyers and understand the implications of throwing such charges around in public. The lady has dragged the minister’s name in the mud, yet he hasn’t threatened to sue her.
Now fair is fair. If Magu is suspended while charges against him are being probed, can the same administration turn a blind eye against torrid allegations against other senior cabinet members that are damaging its image?
This is bigger than one person’s fate – whether that individual is Magu, Malami, Akpabio or Nunieh.
Buhari isn’t running for re-election but I imagine he’s concerned about his legacy. He campaigned twice on an anti-corruption slate. But what difference has been made if the same stomach-turning tales of sleaze are being churned out by the system in a manner that keeps pace with the regime he replaced?
Just a little food for thought for the president.