In Nigeria, politicians have a way of providing entertainment enough to keep people away from the television. This usually comes in the form of verbal swats between opponents, scuffles in parliament and denials so puerile that even a child would discern that he or she was being told a blatant lie.
Such is the nature of the political landscape, and Nigerians are ever ready to make the most of these moments on social media, especially on Twitter. Last month, however, it was no joking matter when the Nigerian senate rejected President Muhammadu Buhari’s nomination for the chairman of the federal anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The nominee, Mr Ibrahim Magu, was already serving as the chairman of the agency, and has so far overseen the institution of corruption charges against several senior government officials. This includes the former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki, who has been detained since last year, after being accused of diverting USD2,2 billion that had been meant to buy arms to fight Boko Haram.
“The Senate wishes to inform the public that, based on an available security report, the Senate cannot proceed with the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,” said Senate spokesman Abdullahi Sabi. “The nomination of Ibrahim Magu is hereby rejected and has been returned to the President for further action.”
The rejection of the appointment of Mr Magu last month was the second time the Nigerian Senate voted against his confirmation as the substantive chairman of the agency, following the first rejection in December 2016. The reason for the Senate’s stance is a security report produced by another federal agency, the Department of State Services (DSS).
The 14-paragraph confidential report, which was addressed to the acting clerk of the Nigerian Senate last October, said that Magu had failed the so-called ‘integrity test’, adding that confirming Magu would be tantamount to immobilising the cause to stop corruption in Nigeria. President Buhari had promised to tackle corruption and waste head on after becoming the first opposition candidate to become president in Nigeria in 2015. Magu’s ‘sins’, as outlined by the security report, include allegations of corruption, “gross violation of human rights” and being in possession “of undeclared pieces of property”.
Without a doubt, the DSS is out to stop any attempts by the senate to install Magu as the substantive chairman of the anti-corruption agency.
Without a doubt, the DSS is out to stop any attempts by the senate to install Magu as the substantive chairman of the anti-corruption agency. Some people are suggesting that confirming Magu’s appointment would create serious problems for certain political bigwigs who are scared that they might be indicted of corruption as soon as Magu assumed full leadership of the agency. Consider the fact that the EFCC has arrested and detained at least 10 prominent Nigerians since President Buhari appointed Magu as the acting chairman of the agency in November 2015.
Is this the toughest job in Nigeria?
Magu’s odyssey isn’t new: Other acting chairmen of the EFCC were also subjected to fierce attacks during their confirmation hearing in the Senate. These including Nuhu Ribadu, Farida Mzamber Waziri and Ibrahim Lamorde, all of whom eventually went on to head the commission. However, what makes this case peculiar is that this rejection suggests that there could be some hidden political battles between the executive and the legislature, though Nigeria’s senate president, Bukola Saraki, has denied any such political undertones.
What is baffling about the scenario is that both the EFCC and DSS are under the Nigerian presidency. It is therefore worrying that the DSS could muster the courage to challenge the ascendency of Magu to fully fledged chairman of the EFCC, as opposed to his current position of acting chairman. For the record, the act that established the anti-graft agency empowers the Senate to confirm or reject the appointment of the chairman of the EFCC.
Until now, the Nigerian presidency has not issued any statement concerning the senators’ stance on Magu. Last year, when the upper chamber of the Nigerian legislature voted against his nomination, it did not deter President Buhari from nominating him again in January, saying that he had been ‘adequately briefed’ on the security report. Political analysts say that the president’s insistence on having Magu as the chairman of the EFFC should be closely monitored.
Political analysts say that the president’s insistence on having Magu as the chairman of the EFFC should be closely monitored.
Another political drama
Nearly one month after the concerns raised over Magu’s case leaked out into the public discourse, another political drama of sorts has ensued between Yakubu Dogara, the leader of the Nigerian lower chamber, which is known as the House of Representatives, and the governor of northern Nigeria’s Kaduna state, Nasir el-Rufai.
Both leaders have accused each other of not being transparent in their dealings. After a series of verbal fisticuffs, Dogara and El-Rufai published their earnings and the budgets of the lower chamber of Nigeria’s parliament and Kaduna state respectively. In truth, their published earnings are short of what these leaders receive.
When considered as a whole, these events indicate that parliament and the executive are still struggling to create room for cooperation when it comes to pushing for the collective interests of Nigerians. This is unhealthy for democracy and for national development.