Anti-corruption activists warn against ‘shadow boxing’ between Magu, AGF Malami

Some anti-corruption campaigners on Sunday warned against a feud between the acting chairman of the anti-graft EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.

The two senior law enforcement officials have not openly castigated each other, but anti-graft activists say they are alarmed by recent “shadow boxing” that could truncate the anti-corruption drive of the Buhari government.

“What the country needs at this moment, particularly in the war against corruption, is focused leadership,” the campaigners said in a joint statement to PREMIUM TIMES Sunday.

“In our opinion, this is no time to give in to the wiles of inordinately ambitious fifth columnists.”

The statement was signed by Chido Onumah, African Centre for Media & Information Literacy; Olanrewaju Suraju, Civil Society Network Against Corruption; Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre; Mohammed Attah, Procurement Observation and Advocacy Initiative; George-Hill Anthony, Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group; and Ibrahim Modibbo, Democrats of Conscience.

The activists said some recent actions of Mr. Malami have exposed his incompetence and desperation to deface the image of Mr. Magu, whose commitment to the anti-corruption war they lauded.

They condemned a recent opinion piece penned by Mr. Malami’s media aide, Salihu Isah, as “sweeping and grievous,” yet “without an atom of proof.”

Mr. Isah had accused Mr. Magu frustrating efforts to reform the country’s anti-corruption mechanisms, resulting in the suspension of Nigeria from Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units, an informal network of national financial intelligence units.

The Egmont Group suspended Nigeria at a July 5 plenary in Macao, sending ripples through the country’s anti-corruption circles.

Some analysts argued that the development could severely weaken Nigeria’s ability to fight endemic graft, since it would mean that other countries would stop sharing crucial financial and other information with Nigeria.

Nigeria is slated to be completely removed from the list by January 2018 unless some immediate changes are implemented. Foremost amongst Egmont Group’s demands is the independence of Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit from the EFCC.

Although Mr. Magu maintained that the NFIU had not been compromised in any way by his commission, the Senate amended the NFIU law last month, splitting it from the EFCC.

The House of Representatives has not picked up the amendment, but Speaker Yakubu Dogara had spoken strongly against it.

“If we start granting autonomy to some of the units, and then instead of cooperating, we are having inter-agency rivalry, you will further frustrate the battle against corruption,” Mr. Dogara said last month.

It remained unclear if President Buhari will sign the amendment even if the House concurs with the Senate.

Presidential spokespersons Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES request seeking the position of the administration on the amendment.

In their statement Sunday, the activists absolved Mr. Magu of any wrongdoing in the Egmont Group fallout, slamming Mr. Isah for acting as Mr. Malami’s proxy to raise an issue which Mr. Buhari had already set up a committee to look into.

They also weighed in on a recent demand by Mr. Malamithat the EFCC give regular updates to the Attorney-General’s office on ‘serious cases’. (A case is considered serious if it involves N50 million and above, according to the EFCC regulations 2010.)

Mr. Malami had accused Mr. Magu of flouting the regulations by keeping serious cases away from him as the AGF. But the EFCC denied shutting the AGF out of its decision, saying it had cooperated fully with demands because it recognised the supervisory role of the Ministry of Justice over its activities.

The activists said Mr. Malami lacked moral rights to demand such updates from Mr. Magu because he had either bungled or failed to thoroughly prosecute so many cases since assuming office.

“Even in cases such as the ones involving judges arrested for alleged corruption by the State Security Service, the AGF has not fared well in prosecuting them,” they said.

In contrast, Mr. Magu had prosecuted hundreds of cases since he assumed office, the activists said.

“We don’t think the action of the AGF is in tandem with the anti-corruption agenda of Mr. President!” they added.


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