by Umar Sa’ad Hassan,
If the President sincerely thinks he is doing the right thing by asking the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami SAN to probe allegations of corruption by 2 government officials, then we are in more trouble than we thought. The only plausible explanation to it if that is not the case, is that he is carving out an escape route for ‘his people’.There is just no up side to this arrangement.
The AGF cannot be expected to rely solely on evidence presented by the Senate because of the circumstances surrounding the relationship of its leadership with the Presidency and as such,would have to go the extra mile to ascertain some of the allegations against the acting EFCC boss,Ibrahim Magu and the Secretary of the government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal. If not for anything but for President Buhari’s stand on corruption; a prominent factor in his victory at the 2015 polls.If more compelling evidence surfaces, it would hurt the President a great deal.I don’t think Malami is the best person to handle this when he has a DSS he supposedly can vouch for after pulling its current boss, Lawal Daura from retirement to man its affairs.
The acting EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu is said to have accepted bribes severally even before he was elevated to his present status and that he is currently domiciled at a N20M per annum residence paid for for 2 years by a beneficiary of his dubious practices. For the AGF to do a good job,he might be required to not only study files,bank statements and phone records over a period of time but also to interview/interrogate a lot of people-from Magu’s colleagues down to the subjects of previous investigations he handled.The AGF and those in his office are not equipped to perform these tasks for the simple reason that they weren’t trained to do so. They are lawyers.
There is a need to be thorough, like I earlier stated, because of the implications that would accompany the emergence of more damaging evidence. The President has already been criticized for his nonchalance to allegations there had been sharp practices on the part of the SGF, Babachir Lawal when they first sprang up and many still feel he would sweep the matter under the rug at the slightest opportunity he gets.
Both sets of allegations are so sensitive, they touch on the integrity of President Buhari’s administration. If the President can refuse to comply with numerous court orders granting the former NSA, Sambo Dasuki, bail for the sole reason that it is unfair for him to seek medical care abroad,while millions have been left orphaned and homeless by the abominable acts of he and his cohorts, then he should know that it is also not within the moral ambit for his SGF to steal from those people.It would be catastrophic for the AGF to come up short.
The case against Lawal is a very strong one.Asides,the contract sum being inflated (N270M to clear invasive weeds), the company was reportedly incorporated in 1990 to offer ICT services and the lawmakers claim as at the time,the contract was awarded in March 2016, he was still part of the company which is a clear contravention of the Code of Conduct for public officials as enshrined in the constitution. As at the time the committee submitted its report, he was still the sole signatory to the company’s bank accounts.
If Lawal is let off the hook, this government would be no different from the last one that shielded its aviation minister, Stella Oduah and helped the then Petroleum Minister, Deziani Maduekwe escape from a National Assembly probe into how she was flying private with taxpayers money.
As things stand, Buhari’s ‘Zero tolerance for corruption’ reputation is hanging by a thread.The former first lady has not been prosecuted or as much as questioned by the EFCC despite having her properties seized. Many still feel the seizure was a face-saving measure necessitated by her public attempt to bail put her cronies by laying claim to the monies found in their accounts. Her husband,the ex-President has not been questioned despite being linked to Dasukigate by at least 2 persons. That thread would give way if Magu and Lawal aren’t dealt with accordingly.
The best interests of Nigeria would have been better served if the President had constituted a committee.
Preferably one comprising of former and present servicemen along with the attorney-general.Former servicemen to ensure neutrality, present ones to accord the government investigative apparatus when required and the AGF to provide legal advice. The AGF would ordinarily be the most dispensable member of an ideal probe committee.
His primary duty as the nation’s chief law officer is the prosecution or otherwise of criminal cases as is provided by Section 174 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and while some may say nothing precludes him from handling a probe when asked to, the need for a bodacious inquiry into a matter he is ill-equipped to handle outweighs any other consideration.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano.