International civil society organizations – Re:Common, The Corner House and GlobalWitness – based in Italy and United Kingdom, have expressed concern that the exit of former acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu would affect Nigeria’s anti-corruption profile in the international community.
The groups in a letter to the Chairman, Presidential Panel of Inquiry on Allegations against Mr. Magu, Justice Ayo Salami Rtd, said that Magu’s exit might have been orchestrated by those against the fight against corruption.
The three groups have assisted Nigeria in many ways to retrieve stolen funds and assets running into billions of dollars and are currently behind the prosecution of oil giants said to have swindled Nigeria of billions of dollars in the infamous OPL245 scam.
The petition, signed by Lucas Manes, for Re:Common; Nicholas Hildyard, for The Corner House; and Simon Taylor, for Global Witness said that while they admitted the rule of law, the antics preceding the exit of Magu raised basic question about the prospect of fair trial.
It said this is also not just a matter of improving the democratic process but also critical to ensure that international community partners also continue to see Nigeria’s fight against the corrupt as credible.
The international partners also called on Justice Salami to ensure public access to the trial of Magu to provide the bastion of credibility and public trust.
“We can report that as things stand, these apparent failures of due process have already seriously dented the confidence of a number of key international partners in Nigeria’s fight. If this situation is not radically and urgently changed, some may well conclude that the President’s fight against the corrupt was merely a token gesture, a passing phase, to be discarded when the going got too tough” the groups cautioned in the letter.
It said in its view, such a conclusion would only ensure Nigeria’s efforts to hold the corrupt to account and bring back stolen assets from abroad becomes much more difficult.
In recent years, the groups have been committed to providing help where appropriate to President Buhari’s anti-corruption drive, including efforts to hold those engaged in corrupt activities to account and to repatriate stolen assets to Nigeria from abroad.
During this time, they have had the pleasure of working with Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies, including and especially the EFCC. The groups said under Magu, they have been “enormously impressed with their tenacity, skills and performance.”
The groups said in the case of the EFCC, it was impossible to overstate the contrast between its efficacy today with that of the “timid” and “sclerotic,” in effect, “defanged agency that was the EFCC during the administration of President Buhari’s predecessor – a matter we referred to in our recent letter to the President.”