By Ezra Odogu, Abuja
Following the appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari of the Director of Operations at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mohammed Umar, to oversee its affairs all eyes are now on the new helmsman in terms of expectations.
Some Nigerians, including staff of the commission, have spoken on what Umar should do in order to avoid what they termed as the ‘banana peels’ that led to the fall of his predecessor.
The appointment of Umar, who hails from Kano State, to oversee the affairs of the EFCC has put paid to the confusion that pervaded the the anti-graft agency in the wake of the arrest of the embattled Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu on Monday last week.
For almost a week after he was reportedly picked by security operatives, Nigerians were kept in suspense as the presidency failed to officially communicate on the probe of the Acting EFCC boss.
But at the weekend Buhari officially approved Magu’s suspension and named the agency’s Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar to take charge and oversee the activities of the EFCC pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation by Justice Ayo Salami-led panel.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) who made the announcement on Friday in a statement by his media aide, Dr. Umar Gwandu said the approval was in order to allow for unhindered inquiry by the Presidential Investigation Panel under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act and other relevant laws.
“President Buhari has approved that Umar should take charge and oversee the activities of the Commission pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation and further directives in that regards,” Malami was quoted as saying.
Following sundry allegations contained in petitions against Magu by the Department of State Service and the AGF, Buhari constituted the Justice Ayo Salami-led panel to probe Magu following petitions by Malami and the Department of State Service (DSS).
Apart from a damning DSS report, Malami, in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari had detailed alleged cases of malfeasance against Magu, and sought his sacking for alleged corruption and insubordination. Malami’s memo which was said to contain 22 allegations against the embattled EFCC chairman also accused Magu of diversion of recovered loot.
Given the antecedents that characterized the emergence and eventual exit of previous chairmen of the anti-graft agency not many Nigerians see the appointment of the EFCC’s Director of Operations, DCP Mohammed Abba Umar, to take charge of the Commission, as a tea party.
For him to succeed, multiple sources within and outside the EFCC said the new acting chairman, Umar, must learn from the experience of his predecessors, especially the suspended Magu.
This they predicated on the fact that since the establishment of the EFCC in 2003 to investigate financial crimes in Nigeria, the agency has had a history of chairmen with unceremonious exit.
One of the things the new helmsman, Umar has been charged to avoid is what has been described as ‘Magu’s high-handed leadership style’ which was said to have not only affected his confirmation by the Senate but also created bad blood among his staff.
Both inside and outside sources said that Magu never trusted anybody in the commission, a development that did not only lead to low morale but mass resignation of staff members.
For instance, in 2016 one Hafsat Bakare, who headed the Human Resources Unit, was said to have applied to resign over alleged interference by Magu, alleging that he wanted to dictate recruitment process in the commission.
It was only after intervention by influential people in government that she was said to have withdrawn her resignation letter. Several other senior members of staff were also said to have been frustrated and threatened to leave.
Magu was also accused of violating civil service rules relating to secondment, transfer of service and annual leave. Apart from running the commission without the director of operations, Magu was said to have, instead, appointed two deputy directors to head the unit. He was also accused of dominating the EFCC workforce with police personnel, thereby hindering the career progress of regular members of staff.
Another banana peel Umar has been asked to avoid in order not to go the way of Magu is what has been described as ‘inter-agency rivalry and personal ego’ A top National Assembly staff who cited this reason said in confidence that this was contained in the yet to be released report of a Senate Ad- hoc Committee that investigated the November 21, 2017 incident, where the EFCC tried to arrest former directors general of National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and Department of State Services (DSS), Ayo Oke and Mr. Ita Ekpenyong, respectively.
The source said the relationship among Magu, and National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj-Gen Mohammed Monguno (rtd) on the one hand, and a former SSS DG, Alhaji Lawal Daura, on the other hand, was acrimonious more than the rivalry among their predecessors.
“The rivalry was part of what led to the DSS writing a scathing report against Magu that the Senate under the leadership of Senator Bukola Saraki denied confirming Magu as the substantial EFCC boss,” the source said, adding that the new helmsman must learn from this if he intends to succeed.
‘Buhari must restore confidence in EFCC’ Following the suspension of Magu, some leading Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) across the country have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to quickly restore confidence in the nation’s anti-corruption efforts.
The Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi, told Daily Trust on Sunday that with all that has transpired in the last couple of days, it is clear that the anti-corruption fight is at crossroads.
According to him, it is clear that there are many top and lower cadre operatives in the anti-graft agencies who will be asking if the sacrifice of fighting corruption is worth it. He said the way forward is for President Muhammadu Buhari who made an avowed commitment to fight corruption to move quickly to restore confidence and order, as the public is coming away with the impression that the government itself has become too disorganized to effectively fight corruption.
“The drama around Magu should immediately cease, and the government should follow due process without dragging the anti-corruption institutions in the mud. Importantly too, this is the time to look at the wider issues around the Proceeds of Crime Agency.
Since the main allegation against Magu is about accountability in the area of recovered assets, the legislation for the creation of that important unit to manage and account for recovered proceeds of corruption becomes the more critical,” Ibrahim said.
On his part, the Chief Executive, Connected Development (CODE), Hamzat Lawal, said that President Buhari needs to urgently address the Nigerian people and brief them about the corruption investigation and indictment against the acting EFCC Boss, Magu.
“We must ensure that this process is transparent and does not demoralize the good women and men working day and night in the EFCC. We must continue to build strong institutions that would uphold the rule of law and Mr. President must set that example to show the Nigerian people and the international community that we are fighting corruption and no one would be spared,” Lawal said.
Similarly, the convener, Say No Campaign Nigeria (SNC-Nigeria), Ezenwa Nwagwu, said that while there is nothing wrong with the arrest or invitation of anyone to answer questions pertaining to law, the dramatization of the Magu case or any other is not good for the country.
“The EFCC should be re-organized. The case of making security officers as head of the EFCC should be looked into. It should be such that interested and competent Nigerians either home or abroad can apply for the EFCC top job in the interest of the country,” he said.
Also, the Convener Take Back Nigeria Movement (TBNM), and Co-convener, Say No Campaign (SNC-Nigeria), Mr. Jaye Gaskia said that to be clear, no one, not even an anti-corruption Czar, an ombudsman or the President of a country should be above the law or treated differently from other citizens by the law, thus the law should be allowed to run its course on the Magu case.
“For the time being everything has been undertaken in a very opaque manner. It is important that citizens are availed of real-time and accurate information about his situation – the nature of the allegations against him; his current status, whether suspended, sacked or not,” Gaskia said.
The Umar we know – EFCC staff
Some staff of the EFCC preferring anonymity, said as Director of Operations, Umar was athorough professional who always made sound recommendations.
“He remained focused on his duty and maintained a good rapport and relationship with regulars and seconded staff alike. A clear opposite of his predecessor,” a source said.
Another source said Umar was one of those who were against Magu’s militarization of the commission and outsourcing of training to National Defence Academy (NDA). But for him to succeed, according to some staff, Umar must undo a lot of the decisions Magu made, like acknowledging ‘unjust dismissals’, some of which have been judged in court in favour of the staff, by effecting the judgments and reinstatement.
“He must return the training of staff to our academy and return it to its pride of place before the emergence of Magu in 2015. He must also restore strict adherence and implementation of the rights and privileges of the staff of the commission by bringing back the implementation and enforcement of the Staff Regulations of our commission which had always been the yardstick before Magu,” another staff said.
A senior official of the EFCC said Umar must have the courage to recognize and acknowledge the ranking system of the commission and discontinue the internal strife that continues to grow within as regards promotion, responsibility of regulars who were usually made to condescend to police officers lower in rank on grounds of “experience”.
“He must undo the creation of many redundant and non-efficient zonal offices which Magu created with no sincere purpose but to siphon funds which otherwise would have been used for operation costs. He must pay cognizance to the specialized trained forensic and special duty officers and their units because they were trained at a huge expense only for Magu to transfer them out on a frivolous basis,” the official said.
In the same vein a female staff said the new EFCC helmsman must ensure that career progression as stalled by Magu to allow police superiority in the commission, be addressed as many promotions have been stalled for years.
“He must ensure prompt payment of backlog of staff allowances which have altogether been stopped for years by Magu. Also, delays in payment of operational travel allowances and nonpayment thereof must stop. He must begin to make a case for a more independent EFCC, which has less seconded police presence to allow growth of the regulars in duties and responsibilities as should be commensurate with their years of experience,” she said.
“He must begin to observe the rights of alleged persons in EFCC media publications in line with the adherence to the not guilty until proven guilty by law aspect, to avoid defamation of character and other unnecessary litigations by persons investigated. “He must strive to achieve special courts for corruption to hasten the judicial process in corruption cases because our cases are sometimes deliberately made to linger for no reason,” another staff said.
But the Nigerian Senate refused to confirm Magu as chairman of the agency due to “security reports” by law enforcement agencies in the country. A trained financial crimes investigator with a background in forensic accounting, Magu gained public attention when he led many high-profile investigations against former governors, including James Ibori of Delta State and Bukola Saraki of Kwara State.
He is also said to have been in charge of investigation into the alleged role of former Kwara State governor and immediate past Senate President Bukola Saraki, in the collapse of Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria.
Sourced from Daily Trust