When the hunter gets hunted: On Ibrahim Lamorde’s dismissal as EFCC’s chair

In a classic case of the hunter becoming the hunted, Ibrahim Lamorde has been sacked as the head of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). The former chairman of Nigeria’s major anti-corruption agency is the latest on a long list of senior officials relieved of their positions by President Buhari.

Though reasons have not been given for his removal, there is a report of a corruption scandal which has tainted and threatened Mr. Lamorde’s position as the head of the EFCC. Following his removal, the President has appointed Assistant Commissioner of Police, Ibrahim Mustafa Magu as the Acting Chairman of the Commission. Magu, who has served at the anti-corruption agency since its inception, is described as a no-nonsense and incorruptible man, but so was Lamorde until August this year, when the senate launched investigations over allegations of diverted and stolen funds, amounting to about $5billion.

Lamorde denied these allegations, calling it a “smear campaign,” but refused to appear before the senate. His failure to do so was interpreted by some as an admission of guilt, prompting the Anti-Corruption Coalition to issue a statement demanding for Ibrahim Lamorde’s resignation.

“Following these weighty and yet-to-be-denied allegations of fraud against Lamorde, in addition to his silence so far which we now interpret to mean admission of guilt, we hereby declare that Mr. Lamorde has lost the moral ground to continue as the Chairman of the EFCC and demand his immediate resignation or sacking by President Muhammadu Buhari,” the statement read.

Prior to his ascent to power on the 29th of May 2015, President Buhari was best known for his anti-corruption campaign. Since the 72-year-old became president, he has taken measures to keep his promise of ridding the country of corruption by carrying out what is popularly termed “a clean-up.” Buhari has relieved some top government officials of their jobs including Joseph Thlama Dawha, former General Managing Director of the NNPC, Ado Bayero, former Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), and his former liaison officer, Nura Rimi, amongst others.

President Buhari has said that strengthening institutions is part of his strategy to combat corruption. A month ago, at the opening ceremony of the maiden training programme of the Network of National Anti-Corruption Institutions in West Africa (NACIWA), the President, represented by the Secretary to the Federation, David Lawal, reiterated the need to strengthen agencies in fights against corruption.

With Lamorde heading EFCC, the country’s major anti-corruption agency, it is understandable why he was asked to leave – to stop the smearing of the institution’s image. It is believed that his replacement, Magu, will do a good job of governing the institution based on his wealth of experience.

Magu reportedly spearheaded the investigation of James Onanefe Ibori, former governor of Delta State, who was convicted for money laundering in the United Kingdom, and also played a major role in leading the investigation of Senator Bukola Saraki, in the collapse of Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria. In addition to this, he was recently named a member of a committee set up by the President to probe a $2.2 billion arms purchase deal under the supervision of former National Security Adviser, Ibrahim Dasuki.

But as with a good number of politicians, Magu is not without a controversial past; in 2008, he was accused of illegally keeping case files of politicians being investigated by the EFCC. After being suspended for months, he was reinstated in the commission by Ibrahim Lamorde.

While a good number of Nigerians are impressed with the actions of the President in ridding institutions of corrupt members, others are sceptical, calling it a cosmetic change of personnel without a definite change to the deeply decayed system.

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