Shock waves swept through the National Assembly and among members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday following comments made by Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el Rufai, but which were attributed to Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
Just Wednesday, Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, while briefing journalists in the Aso Villa, hinted at efforts to resolve disagreements with the Senate over the lawmakers’ decision not to screen any presidential nominee over Osinbajo’s comments months ago that seemed to suggest the Senate’s confirmation was not needed for the appointment of Ibrahim Magu as boss of EFCC.
Angered Senators Wednesday suspended screening of nominees until the Acting President retracted his alleged offensive comments.
But standing in for Osinbajo in Kaduna, el Rufai disclosed that Magu would remain the anti-corruption czar in the lifetime of the present administration, a position considered in Abuja as another affront on the National Assembly.
Mum was the word from the usually active spokesmen of the Presidency; but a source suggested that the Kaduna comments being attributed to the Acting President appeared to be a personal agenda being pushed under the cover of the presidency.
Lai Mohammed could also not be reached for his position on the matter.
There has been no love lost between the National Assembly and el Rufai, often leading to public spats between him and key operatives like Speaker Yakubu Dogara and his own representative in the Senate, Shehu Sani.
In fact, Sani walked out of the Kaduna event because el Rufai was invited, because as he later told an online newspaper, “I don’t think someone invited in this event fits into the philosophy and principles of the EFCC. I don’t know how the EFCC can squarely investigate corruption cases in Kaduna with some of these characters cutting the tape of their new abode.”
Said el Rufai in Kaduna Thursday at the opening of EFCC office there: “Mr Chairman, two weeks ago, I discussed the EFCC and your appointment with President Muhammadu Buhari and he told me he has every confidence in you and every confidence in the commission and the work that you have been doing, and as long as he is president you remain the chairman of the EFCC,’’ he said.
Not done, he added: “Last night, I spoke with the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who reconfirmed the position of the President and told me that as long as he remained the Acting President or Vice President, Ibrahim Magu would remain the chairman of the EFCC.”
“That is the only message from the President, so those thinking that corruption is winning this war, Magu would remain their nightmare for the next two years or six years as the case may be.’’
Doubts were being roundly expressed in Abuja Thursday over the veracity of the attributions since no formal speech was read.
One member of the FEC put a big question mark on the reports, even though he opted not to be quoted.
The Kaduna government had given EFCC the office, according to el Rufai, to show its “zero tolerance to bad behaviour by public office holders, contractors, businesses and citizens.
He said further: “We applaud the leadership of the EFCC for taking the significant step to establish a state office in Kaduna.
“I assure you that you can continue to count on us in Kaduna to support the commission in every facet of its activities.
“We have set aside land for your training school awaiting the submission of your application.
“We have also set aside land to build your staff housing estate if you so require.”
In his own remarks, Magu said: “If we can pause and trace the root cause of the problem that confronts us as a nation, we will discover they are all linked to corruption.
“Corruption is the cause of the recession that has pushed our people deeper into poverty and the insurgency that has visited death, displacement and untold hardship on Nigerians in the North East.
“This is the reason I have suggested that we set up prison for the corrupt in the Sambisa forest, where they can be kept away and have the sobriety to be truly reformed.”