Ribadu: Ceasefire on anti-corruption war?

By Casmir Igbokwe
Published: Sunday, 30 Dec 2007
An Igbo adage says when a man on top of a palm tree pollutes the air the flies get confused. Certain actions of Nigerian leaders with regard to the war against corruption have left many citizens confused and dumbfounded. In an article in this column last Sunday, I wrote against the attempt by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Michael Aondoakaa, to merge the anti-graft agencies.

In the article entitled, ‘Aondoakaa’s dogfight with anti-graft agencies,’ I likened the AGF to Maurice Fox, a Briton. Fox (77) was accused of always farting at a social club he visited at Devon in England. Following complaints from other disgusted members, authorities of the club banned him from such an act anytime he was indoors. I cautioned that the AGF‘s flatulent anti-graft policies were also becoming too disgusting to many Nigerians and that he should control his actions. Now, the police authorities have decided to take over from Aondoakaa. And the mess is getting messier.

Last Thursday, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mike Okiro, confirmed what started as a rumour. According to him, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, will proceed on a one-year course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru near Jos. The course, the IG noted, was to equip Ribadu for more challenges ahead.

Okiro stressed, “The claim that the battle by politicians to sack Ribadu may have shifted to his constituency is unfounded and it is a calculated attempt to smear the good name and reputation which I have built over the years as well as portray the Nigeria Police Force in a bad light. This is because I am not a politician and I am not succumbing to the whims and caprices of politicians as being speculated.”

Well said. But Okiro should answer the following questions: What impact will this course have on the current job of Ribadu as the EFCC boss? Is he going to Kuru to master how to prosecute corrupt public officials? If the IGP is grooming him as a potential IG of Police, will he be the one to appoint Ribadu to that position or the President? And does Ribadu, in his current position, report to the IGP or to the President?

Undoubtedly, the chickens have finally come home to roost. The plot against Ribadu started with an attempt to stifle the powers of the anti-graft agencies to prosecute suspects. Aondoakaa wanted them to get his permission before prosecuting anybody. Public outcry led to the stoppage of that plan. Not yet satisfied, the AGF sent his boys to court unannounced to take over the case the EFCC instituted against the former governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu. He also frustrated the trial of the former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, in London. When he talked about merging the EFCC with other anti-corruption agencies recently, I thought that was the highpoint in the grand plot to get at Ribadu.

But the current go-on-study-leave order indicates that a drowning man will never get tired of clutching a straw. President Umaru Yar’Adua may feign ignorance of the moves to cripple the EFCC. But let him know that the major suspicion now is that he is the one beating the drums for Aondoakaa and Okiro. And the aim may be to shield the corrupt politicians who sponsored his electioneering. Ribadu is seen as a dogged fighter. In spite of obvious lapses in his methods, he has personified the war against graft. So far, he has prosecuted seven governors and is set to prosecute more. Invariably, those who have skeletons in their cupboards are scared. Hence, Ribadu must be stopped by all means.

There is no sincerity in the actions of most of our leaders. They say one thing today and do a different thing tomorrow. For instance, after the assassination of the former Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, in 2001, the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo vowed to do everything possible to unravel the mystery surrounding the murder. The Assistant Inspector General of Police investigating the killing, Mrs Abimbola Ojomo, strove hard to unravel this mystery. She provided useful leads. But when the coast seemed to be getting clearer, the powers that be sent her on study leave.

Yar‘Adua started well as President. He has taken some popular decisions, which have endeared him to the people. He professed zero tolerance of corruption. But what is happening now to Ribadu and the anti-corruption agencies is giving contrary signals. The President should not allow the gains he has made so far to be frittered away.

Section three of the Act establishing the EFCC provides for two terms of four years each for the chairman of the commission. Ribadu has only completed a tenure. He still has more than three years to finish his second term. The Federal Government should allow him to finish the job he started before sending him on any course. The President should also call Aondoakaa and Okiro to order if he is not in support of what they are doing. He should warn them to leave Ribadu and the EFCC alone. Though a police officer, Ribadu, in his current position, does not report to the IGP. His successful arrest and prosecution of the former IGP Tafa Balogun lends credence to this fact.

It is unfortunate that we have been paying lip service to the war on corruption. No nation succeeds with that kind of attitude. In July this year, China convicted and executed the former director of the country‘s food and drug safety agency for corruption. Zheng Xiaoyu was accused of taking 6.49million Yuan ($1m) in bribes from pharmaceutical firms in return for approving new drugs.

The other day, the Supreme Court in Peru sentenced the former Peruvian President, Alberto Fujimori, to six years in prison and fined him $92,000 for abuse of power. Fujimori sent a military aide, who posed as a prosecutor, to illegally search and retrieve boxes of video and audio tapes from the apartment of the wife of his former intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos. The tapes allegedly contain incriminating evidence of corrupt practices against the erstwhile President.

We need to be hard on our corrupt officials too. That will deter people from the act. Experience has shown that Nigerians obey the laws of the land if they see some sincerity on the part of their leaders. It happened during Muhammadu Buhari/Tunde Idiagbon‘s regime. The War Against Indiscipline of that era taught people to respect the laws of the land and to behave themselves. We can achieve the same feat again if Ribadu is given a free hand to wage the anti-graft war.

Feedback

Re: Aondoakaa‘s dogfight with anti-graft agencies

Casmir, you are superb, amazing and entertaining. Your choice of topics is educative, informative and really cuts across different spheres of life. Keep the flag flying. Kudos.

Clifford Enobun

nboycosa@yahoo.com

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