Even the most naive and pious person should be able to see through the smokescreen in front of the removal of EFCC boss Nuhu Ribadu. Although the ostensible reason for Ribadu’s removal is that he is being sent on a compulsory routine “course”, I see the fingers of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Michael Aondoakaa all over Ribadu’s removal.
What started as a petty power struggle between Ribadu’s EFCC and Aondoakaa’s Justice Ministry has turned more sinister and Machiavellian. Ribadu has been sent away from the EFCC because he has stepped on powerful toes in his anti-corruption campaign, and because he is in the process of prosecuting corrupt former Governors with close links to Nigeria’s current leadership. It is that simple.
It is no coincidence that Ribadu was deposed the week after his EFCC agents arrested the former Delta State Governor James Ibori. For those who do not know, Ibori has a criminal record (even though Nigerian law bars convicts from holding political office) is a close associate of President Umaru Yar’Adua and was rumoured to have financed Yar’Adua’s election campaign. He is also alleged to have embezzled millions of state funds which he used to buy among other things, an aeroplane, lavish cars and houses, and a mobile phone made of solid gold.
Aondoakaa took aim at Ribadu within a short space of time after the former was appointed Attorney-General. First Aondoakaa alleged that the EFCC was subordinate to his Justice Ministry and had to seek his approval before arresting suspects. When Ribadu resisted, Aondoakaa resorted to sabotaging planned EFCC prosecutions of corrupt politicians and businessmen. Next, Aondoakaa alleged that the EFCC’s search of Globacom Chairman Mike Adenuga’s residence was improper and not in accordance with “due proces”. Then he sabotaged the London Metropolitan police’s prosecution of James Ibori by refusing to co-operate with British authorities, and by writing a letter which stalled the prosecution and got Ibori off the hook in London. When an attempt was made to prosecute former House of Representatives Speaker Patricia Etteh for corruption, Aondoakaa applied to an Abuja High Court to dismiss the case. Do not be surprised if Ibori’s proposed trial is also stopped in the near future.
The exit of Ribadu is the latest chapter in the attempt to protect Ibori and other powerful corrupt politicians. The man whose integrity is at stake here is not Aondoakaa or even Ribadu. Now is the time for President Yar’Adua to stand up and be counted. Now is the time for him to declare once and for all whether he is for or against the war on corruption. The honourable course of conduct is for Yar’Adua to fire Aondoakaa and order the continuance of the pursuit and investigation of corrupt public officers. However does Yar’Adua have the courage to bite the hand that fed him?