Ahmed Abaya is one of the principal counsels of Armstrong Attorney, an Ilorin-based law firm, in this interview with KAYODE ADEOTI, he speaks on the likely reasons Magu was rejected as the substantive EFCC boss among other issues. Excerpt:
The allegation of corruption has been on the increase in the judicial system of our country, what is your take on this?
We need to understand that corruption is everywhere; the fact that the bar is feeling the heat much at this time doesn’t mean that other sectors in the country are clean and doesn’t also mean that majority of lawyers are corrupt. The President Buhari led administration is playing its part to sanitise the system.
Though since 2015, there have been cases in the court bordering on corruption by some senior lawyers, to me; the development is sending a signal to we young lawyers to know the path to tow so that we don’t end up losing our integrity to corruption. I believe money will surely come later, but as a lawyer, integrity and good personality matter most, that is what we eat and if it loses its worth, there will be hunger. We should not also forget that our systems in the country need general overhauling because of some people who have come into it for bad reasons.
Senator Florence Ita-Giwa once said Magu should lobby his way around if he wants to be confirmed, can you put things in the right perspective?
Virtually all Nigerians understand that the game they are playing at the National Assembly as regards to the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as the boss of EFCC has an undertone of politics. The President has forwarded his name as the constitution empowers him to the National assembly, and from there, they found him not worthy enough for the position, some times last year, they came out to say he has failed integrity test, he was rejected, since there is no law that state he should not be re-presented the President forwarded his name again. This action however opened up some wounds which till now still stand ambiguous. There was a letter that came from the DSS indicting him for some corrupt practices, everybody know politics is been played in all of this. But, I would rather advise the President to present another person for the Senate, we are over 170 million in population in Nigeria. And whether we accept it or not, the Garvel has come down against him and that shows rejection that is backed up by law. In the real sense, Nigerians understand the game; even the report of the AGF on his finding concerning Magu, when I read all those things, I did not see anything to nail that man.
The Senate represent Nigerians, our interest, so we just have to accept their position. But looking at it in another way, if it is in advanced countries like US, Australia, UK, the president would have done his underground work, he should have lobby if truly he want him to work for him. In UK, there are lobbyist, is a legal body, President should have adopted this means to get the confirmation of his candidate.
Also, though we don’t know if it is still speculative, we learnt that eighty per cent of the Senators have been listed for investigation and prosecution. They might feel that Magu’s involvement in EFCC might open up their hidden secrets. Nigerians understand that the President is working but he must do more, he should allow the rule of law to work. I believe it is going to be hard to get somebody like Magu again.
You said President should have lobbied his way with the Senate over Magu’s confirmation, is lobby constitutional in Nigeria?
In Nigeria, there is no law that forbids lobbying, but the process must be legal, once he doesn’t go about with gratification it is allowed. It is never a crime to lobby; it is obtainable in the advanced countries.
What is your position over the list of looters, the AGF says it is wrong to publicise?
The idea of pay back game has worked in some countries, where they will call upon the looters and ask them to pay back what they’ve embezzled. But there is no law that says they should publish the names of those that have looted our money and there is no law that equally says they shouldn’t but I can understand the position of the government over their insistence to publish it, people will surely be clamouring that the government should try and jail those people and such will not work. That will also scare majority of people that will want to return money stolen in the country treasury, I just want to employ Nigerians to support the government in the fight against corruption. The truth is, majority of those people that are returning the money are cabals. They are who is who in Nigeria; it is not easy to prosecute such figures. If we can get them to return the money that is ok.