The news that former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) boss Nuhu Ribadu was demoted by two ranks should come as no surprise. Ever since President Umaru Yar’Adua came to office there has been a concerted effort by Ribadu’s enemies to discredit him and destroy his influence.
The genesis of Ribadu’s ordeal can be traced back to his concerted campaign against corruption and dogged efforts to prosecute corrupt state Governors. Being a state Governor in Nigeria is big business and a very convenient avenue for amassing wealth. Some state Governors have budgets that are larger than the entire national budgets of other countries. The Governors have shamelessly exploited their immunity from prosecution to loot their state treasuries. However the Governors found a stubborn enemy in Ribadu. Ribadu revealed that Nigeria had lost over $400 billion to corruption and looting by corrupt politicians. Ribadu became a symbol of accountability when he began to expose the shady dealings of the politicians and prosecuting them, and circumvented the Governors’ immunity in Nigeria by having some of them arrested in foreign countries when they travelled abroad. It seemed that the Governors were not safe anywhere.
If allowed to continue, Ribadu’s campaign could have drawn a line in the sand and been a watershed for Nigerian corruption. He was hailed internationally for his brave fight against corruption and became the darling of the local and international press who feted him. His anti-corruption campaign spurred investor confidence and gave Nigeria’s anti-corruption fight legitimacy. A popular street phrase in Nigeria was that “the fear of Ribadu is the beginning of wisdom”. However the tide turned against Ribadu in 2007.
THE IBORI FACTOR
When several of the Governors’ term of office expired in 2007, their immunity from prosecution also expired. Ribadu then struck. He compiled a dossier on several corrupt Governors, had them arrested and began steps to prosecute them. Those arrested included the powerful Governors of Abia and Delta States respectively, Orji Kalu and James Ibori.
In other countries Kalu and Ibori would be regarded as Mafia dons or gangsters. Despite the fact that convicted criminals cannot be elected to office in Nigeria Ibori somehow managed to be elected Governor of Delta state. Both Ibori and his wife Theresa had criminal records in the UK after they were convicted of stealing goods from the UK building store Wickes. His wife Theresa was a cashier at the store and she colluded with her then boyfriend Ibori to steal items from the store. Both of them were convicted of theft. When Ibori became Governor of Delta State his small time theft turned into big time looting. In oil rich but impoverished Delta State, Ibori used state funds to acquire a personal fortune and ostentatious wealth. While the people of his state wallowed in poverty, Ibori used state funds to buy a fleet of luxury cars, a private jet, a solid gold mobile phone and luxury houses in opulent neighbourhoods of London.
THE AONDOAKAA FACTOR
When President Obasanjo’s term of office expired in 2007 and he was replaced by Umaru Yar’Adua, Ribadu became a marked man. The efforts to discredit and remove Ribadu began when the new Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Michael Aondoakaa started a slogan of “due process” and used his office to block Ribadu’s prosecution of Governors. He alleged that Governors were being prosecuted by Ribadu without “due process”. Then he claimed that Ribadu’s EFCC was subordinate to the Justice Ministry and such prosecutions could not take place without his (Aondoakaa’s) consent.
Matters came to a head when Aondoakaa personally wrote a letter to London’s Metropolitan police to block their attempt to prosecute Ibori in the UK for money laundering. Aondoakaa refused to co-operate with the Metropolitan Police’s efforts to prosecute Ibori. Ribadu was undaunted. He had Ibori arrested in December 2007. The EFCC also alleged that Ibori offered them a massive bribe to drop the case against him. An EFCC official claimed that they tape recorded the offer by Ibori. By attempting to prosecute Ibori, Ribadu stepped on powerful toes and went too far in the eyes of Nigeria’s corrupt elite. Ibori is a leading member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party and bankrolled Yar’Adua’s election campaign. It was then that they began plotting Ribadu’s downfall.
Less than three weeks after Ibori’s arrest, Ribadu was removed from his post as EFCC boss. See: http://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2008/01/14/ribadus-removal-i-smell-a-rat/. The pretext was that Ribadu needed to attend a course at Nigeria’s National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). A few weeks after Ribadu’s removal the corruption charges against former Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye were dropped and Ibori was granted bail.
DEMOTION: ANOTHER HUMILIATION FOR RIBADU
Last week the Police Service Commission, (PSC), ordered the demotion of Ribadu and 138 other police officers promoted under the previous administration of President Obasanjo. Once again the “due process” card was played and it was alleged that the promotions were carried out without due process. Ribadu was demoted two ranks from Assistant Inspector General to Deputy Commissioner of Police. The demotion now throws up an academic issue of whether he is senior enough (in his new rank) to continue with his course at the NIPSS. The NIPSS course is only for officers of the rank of at least Assistant Inspector General.
YAR’ADUA: SILENT ACCOMPLICE
A silent accomplice in all this is the President Umaru Yar’Adua who has failed to rein in his renegade Attorney-General Aondoakaa, and who has allowed Nigeria’s corrupt politicians to run dishonest circles around him. Yar’Adua’s own moral authority is degraded by the fact that he came to office after a rigged election financed by Ibori. Many of the Governors being prosecuted are also from Yar’Adua’s PDP party.
Can Ribadu salvage himself? He could call the government’s bluff and resign in protest at his treatment. That would make him a martyr and the victim of a witch-hunt. For now though it seems that Nigeria’s fight against corruption has taken several backward steps.