*Even though the police have denied it, Nuhu Ribadu DID enter Nigeria, and visited the home of Gani Fawehinmi in Lagos. Here is video footage of Ribadu at Fawehimni’s home, speaking and signing the condolence register. Interesting to note that Ribadu is a “leftie”…you’ll see what I mean…*
Part three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gMXfJ58sFA
Part four: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtQKVqyRSSY
This is an excellent clip of former EFCC chairman Nuhu Ribadu testifying in impassioned terms about corruption before a U.S. Financial Services Commssion. He speaks of the devastating impact that corruption has had on Nigeria. Please also note his testimony regarding a former Niger Delta Governor who he prosecuted, and whom tried to block his prosecution by offering Ribadu millions in bribes (stuffed cash in bags). Ribadu refused the bribe and instead tendered the cash as evidence.
Ribadu’s reward? He was fired and the corrupt Governor who tried to bribe him, is in Ribadu’s words, one of the most powerful men in Nigeria, and is a backer of the ruling party. Not easy to figure out who he is referring to.
An excellent video on the involvement of large multi-national companies in corruption in Nigeria. This feature video by PBS discusses the involvement of American company Halliburton in bribing Nigerian leaders. An interesting aspect of this is that the bribery took place at a time when former United States Vice-President Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton. Albert “Jack” Stanley, the CEO of Halliburton’s subsidiary KBR was also implicated in the bribery allegations, and the video alleges that Halliburton/KBR paid bribes to former Nigerian leaders Generals Abacha and Obasanjo.
The video features interviews with former EFCC boss Nuhu Ribadu and former President Obasanjo. For those who keep harping that Ribadu’s anti-corruption efforts were ineffective, note that (a) he prosecuted thousands for corruption (and got nearly 300 convictions) (b) he was offered and refused to accept a $15 million cash bribe from one of the corrupt Governors he was investigating.
If you really want to know about African and Nigerian economic progress, and are tired of the old cliched stories about Africa that only involve wars, fmaine or disease, watch this excellent video. For those who don’t know her, the speaker is Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former Nigerian Finance Minister and a very senior figure at the World Bank where she is Managing Director.
In this briliant speech given to an audience with no visual aids or written notes, she speaks with clarity and precision on the tremendous reforms and economic growth in Nigeria and Africa. She got a deserved generous ovation for this speech. This is also a primer for all those in the “President Obasanjo” did nothing brigade in Nigeria. Watch and learn….
Finally, Nigeria’s corrupt Governors have got what they wanted. Their arch nemesis Nuhu Ribadu has been dismissed from the police, the corruption charges against them have stalled and they are free to now go and enjoy more of Nigeria’s money abroad in the UK, US and Swiss bank vaults.
Amazingly a section of the Nigerian public criticise Ribadu for prosecuting those who steal from them. Alams, Dariye et al were hailed as heroes by their communities on their return (i.e. the very people they steal from)! It is time we accepted that the Nigerian public are PART OF THE PROBLEM, and corruption in Nigeria is not just a problem of leadership. It has also eaten away at the souls of the populace to the extent where some of them can no longer tell right and wrong, and hail thieves who steal from them, and stigmatise the man who tries to catch those thieves on their behalf. These corrupt leaders are emblematic of Nigerian society and they represent the decadence of the society they emerged from. There are many “common men” in Nigeria, who if given the chance would loot as much as, or even more than the current leadership. Nigerian leaders reflect the nature of Nigerian people, not vice versa.
While everyone is screaming blue murder at Ribadu’s “selective nature”, no one seems to remember that the people he prosecuted are the same people who looted the treasury. Niger Delta militants are blowing up pipelines, fighting against the federal government and kidnapping civilians, when their former Governor James Ibori controlled a budget larger than the entire GDP of some entire African countries, and was busy stashing their money in the UK. Ibori has finally got his victory.
After a long wait, Nigeria’s President Umaru Yar’Adua has finally completed his cabinet reshuffle. The list of “new” ministers is underwhelming and there are no radical differences. The notorious Attorney-General and Justice Minister Michael Aondoakaa has been retained (he of Ribadu hounding and Ibori protecting fame). So do not expect any corrupt ministers, officials or former Governors who looted the state treasury to be prosecuted any time soon. As long as Aondoakaa remains in office, Nigeria will remain a Shangri-La for looters of state funds.
Noteworthy new ministers are Professor Dora Akunyili – formerly head of Nigeria’s National Agency for Food And Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC). When it was announced that she was shortlisted for a ministry, it was presumed she would be made the new Minister of Health (she is a Professor of Pharmacy). However instead she was instead appointed Minister of Information and Communications (the government’s chief propaganda minister) which is an odd post for a Pharmacy Professor who gained fame battling peddlers of fake pharmaceutical drugs.
Lots of old “new” faces in the new Federal Executive Council. The former OPEC Secretary-General Dr Rilwanu Lukman returns to the government yet again as Petroleum Minister. As a reminder, Lukman first held this post under the regime of Ibrahim Babangida in 1986 – 22 years ago (yes TWENTY TWO). He also served as Babangida’s Minister of Mines, Power and Steel, and as Foreign Minister. He was an energy adviser to the immediate past government of President Obasanjo.
Another familiar face is the new Minister for Special Duties Ambassador Ibrahim Musa Kazaure. I recall cringing with embarassment several years ago when immediately after the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni activists by the Abacha regime, Kazaure appeared on national television in the UK to defend the execution and Abacha’s regime. Kazaure was then serving in an ambassadorial role for the Abacha military regime.
The full list of the key Federal Executive Council ministers (Ministers of State are excluded):
Agriculture and Water Resources: Dr Abba Sayyadi Ruma
Attorney-General and Minister of Justice: Michael Aondoakaa
Aviation: Mr. Babatunde Omotoba
Culture & Tourism: Bello J. Gada
Defence: Dr. Shettima Mustapha
Education: Dr. Sam Egwu
Environment: John Odeh Ogar
Federal Capital Territory: M.A. Aliero
Finance: Mansur Mukhtar
Foreign Affairs: Ojo Maduekwe
Health: Prof. B. Osotimehin
Information & Communications: Prof. Dora Akunyili
Interior: Major-General Godwin Abbe (retired)
Justice Minister & Attorney-General of the Federation: Michael Kaase Aondoakaa
Labour: Chief A. Kayode
Mines and Steel: Dizeani Allison-Madueke
Niger Delta: Ufot Ekaette
Petroleum: Dr. Rilwanu Lukman
Police Affairs: Dr. I.Y. Lame
Science and Technology: Dr. A. B. Zaku
Special Duties: Ibrahim Musa Kazaure
Tourism and Culture: Adetokunbo Kayode
Transport: Alhaji Ibrahim Bio
Women’s Affairs: Mrs. S.H. Sulaiman
Works and Housing: Dr. Hassan M. Lawal
Youth Development: Akinlabi Olasunkanmi
Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria: Chukwuma Soludo
Given the current controversy surrounding former EFCC boss Nuhu Ribadu, I thought it worthwhile to dig into the archives and let readers review this article published a year ago by Tell Magazine on former Delta State Governor James Ibori who was accused of scandalous corruption, and was being prosecuted by Ribadu until Ribadu’s removal from the EFCC stopped Ibori’s prosecution. Today, Ibori is a free man, his prosecution has stalled and he is still enjoying his illegally gotten wealth and access to Nigeria’s political elite. This is the story of how Ibori stole from the Nigerian people.
Friday, November 23, 2007
TELL Magazine Details Allegations of Corruption
Against Ex-Governor James Ibori
After spirited efforts to escape justice, the law is catching up with James Ibori, former governor of Delta State accused of stealing billions of state funds and laundering most of it abroad
Ex-Governor James Ibori of Delta State
If all had worked according to plan, James Ibori, former governor of oil-rich Delta State, would have become one of the most powerful and influential men in Nigeria today. Having generously oiled the wheels of the presidential campaign machinery of Umaru Yar’Adua, Ibori saw himself as a kingmaker who should call some shots in the new government. The former governor, it was gathered, demanded to be made minister in the lucrative petroleum resources ministry. He is also believed, at one point, to have considered being minister of the strategic federal capital territory ministry. But apart from the need to be paid back for his substantial investment in the President’s campaign, Ibori’s desire to be a powerful member of the new administration was also for the simple but strategic reason of self-preservation.
The handsome and fabulously wealthy ex-governor knew that he had been under investigation for corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. For more than two years, the anti-corruption agency had investigated Ibori for allegedly looting Delta State treasury. Becoming a powerful minister in the government would have, at least for some time, secured his freedom from prosecution. So Ibori thought.
However, immediately he learnt of moves by the former governor to become a minister, Nuhu Ribadu, EFCC chairman, put paid to the scheme by placing before President Yar’Adua evidence of Ibori’s monumental looting of his state’s treasury.
Today, Ibori is neither a minister nor is he anywhere near the corridors of power. Rather, he is virtually a fugitive from the law. Ibori and some members of his family and associates are currently being embraced by the long arms of the law not only in Nigeria but also in Britain and the United States, US.
At the time when the EFCC began the clampdown on former governors, Ibori found it convenient to flee to the US. Ordinarily, Britain, where he has investments, houses, luxury cars and fat bank accounts, would have been the natural place to go. But he would most likely have been arrested in that country as the London Metropolitan Police has a strong case of money laundering against him. However, even America, his initial place of succour, has become too hot for him to stay. The magazine has learned that he had to quickly take off from the US and return to Nigeria a few weeks ago after he got wind of the fact that authorities in Florida had also commenced investigations on him in a money laundering case.
As Ibori made his way back home, he was believed to have instructed Theresa, his wife, and former first lady of Delta State, to also return home from Britain where she was staying. However, Theresa was arrested October 1, 2007 as she was waiting to board a plane to Nigeria. Her arrest was in connection with the Metropolitan Police’s money laundering investigations against Ibori. Already, three persons related to and used by Ibori in laundering money have been arrested in London and are currently under restraining orders. These are Adebimpe Pogoson, the ex-governor’s personal assistant, Christine Ibori-Ibie, his sister, and Udoamaka Okoronkwo, a female associate believed to have had a son for him. Theresa, a British citizen, was arrested by men of the Proceeds of Corruption Unit of the Metropolitan Police but was granted bail. However, she is expected to report back to the police in London in January 2008 for further questioning.
The investigations into alleged corruption and money laundering against Ibori have been long drawn, involving security authorities in Nigeria, South Africa and Britain. And the magazine’s own investigations have revealed that the Metropolitan Police has virtually concluded its probe of the former governor. It not only has a watertight case against him, but is in a position to arrest and prosecute him.
A glimpse into the money laundering case against Ibori in London is provided in a witness’ statement supporting an application for a restraining order on Ibori’s investments and assets in Britain and other countries. Written by Paul Gardiner, a financial investigator employed by the Metropolitan Police to unravel the web of the ex-governor’s money laundering schemes, the statement, which was actually presented to the Southwark Crown Court in order to obtain a restraining order on Ibori’s assets, reveals not only persons and companies used by Ibori to launder monies amounting to over N35 billion, but also the circuitous route that the funds were made to pass through to disguise their sources.
Specifically, Ibori, who is being investigated for committing offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act under British law, allegedly criminally stole billions of naira when he was in government and laundered some of same in Britain “thereby committing offences under section 327 and 328 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002”.
Operating like an international crook versed in the art of money laundering, and using the likes of Pogoson, Okoronkwo, Ibori-Ibie and a host of other associates as well as offshore companies and fronts, the former governor allegedly stole funds through the award of often bogus or often inflated contracts, paid monies into the accounts of these people who then transferred the funds into designated accounts abroad. Following a circuitous route, a lot of the monies were then routed to accounts and companies owned or controlled by Ibori. To disguise the sources of the funds, Ibori, through a firm of attorneys in London, also created shell companies in Gibraltar, British Virgin Islands, Switzerland, Mauritius, Panama and other remote parts of the world, to which monies were paid so that they could be legitimised through purchase of properties and other assets. These companies include Haleway Properties Limited, registered in Gibraltar, Teleton Quays Limited (in British Virgin Islands), Erin Aviation Limited (Mauritius), Stanhope Investment Limited (Polynesia), Julex Foundation (Panama) and Parabola International Corp. (Mauritius).
Documents at the Southwark Crown Court, London, showed that Ibori devised a simple method to launder the money he allegedly stole from Delta State coffers. For example, during his eight-year rule, cash and drafts worth about £2 million were paid to Pogoson from Delta State accounts. Money was paid into her account in Asaba and Lagos, from where it was electronically transferred into the United Kingdom, UK, accounts of MER Engineering, a company owned by the former governor. Ibori was a director in the company before he became governor. However, since 1999, Pogoson has been the sole signatory to the company’s accounts. From MER’s UK account, nearly $1.5 million was then electronically transferred into the account of a front company for the ex-governor, Stanhope Investment, held at Private Bank AG Geneva and other accounts held by him in Switzerland. Police forensic investigators from London discovered that because of the law in Nigeria which barred him from having foreign accounts, Ibori opened the account in the name of Stanhope in Switzerland, and through it, he paid for the purchase of an armour-plated Mercedes MayBach in April 2005. He is known to have several such foreign accounts. Ibori coughed out €406,600 and had the vintage car shipped to his home in South Africa. It was also from this account that the ex-governor paid the initial deposit of $4.7 million for the purchase of a Bombardier Challenger jet, total cost of which is put at $20 million. He transferred the money in June 2005 to the account of Parabola International Corp held in Zurich. The money was then transferred into the accounts of Arlington Shamas, Solicitor, London, Ibori’s representatives, for onward transfer to the aircraft manufacturers.
Pogoson, who resides in London in a house owned by Ibori’s sister, was arrested in April 2006 for money laundering charges but was released. She was further interrogated February this year, accused of holding many accounts in Nigeria with which she helped her boss launder money.
In the same dubious manner, Ibori, in the guise of awarding contracts to some companies, used his sister and Okoronkwo to loot Delta State funds and launder same abroad. Court documents in London and Nigeria show that in February 2005, acting as a purchasing representative to Onovin Nigeria Limited, a Nigerian company owned by Vincent Uduaghan, younger brother to Emmanuel Uduaghan, current governor of Delta State, Ibori-Ibie, the ex-governor’s sister, received over N38 million ostensibly for the procurement of running tracks for stadia in the state from a German firm. A total of £300,000 meant for the purchase of the tracks was transferred into Ibori-Ibie’s account with Barclays Bank, London. However, an inspection of her Barclays account showed that only a total of £123,717.72 was paid to BSW, the German suppliers. The shortfall of £176,182.26 is believed to have been laundered for the former governor.
In the case of Okoronkwo, between May 26, 2005 and June 8, 2005, she received about N105.5 million of Delta State government funds. The monies were then transferred into her HSBC account in London in three tranches – £200,000 on June I, 2005, £150,000 on June 14, 2005 and £200,000 on June 20, 2005. An inspection of the account showed that some of the monies were transferred to Ibori and Terry Waya, a Nigerian businessman currently serving a jail term in Britain for money laundering, while there is also evidence that properties and other assets had been bought for Ibori from funds in Okoronkwo’s HSBC account. For example, on July 20, 2005, Okoronkwo issued a cheque of £311,000 to Arlington Sharmas Solicitors which was used to purchase a house at 42, Great Ground, Shaftsbury, Dorset. The property was registered in the name of Teleton Quays but is used by Ibori and his wife.
It was discovered that Ibori had instructed Bhadresh Gohil, a partner in Arlington Sharmas, who was central to the incorporation of front companies and legitimising laundered funds for the ex-governor, to register Teleton Quays and purchase the property in the company’s name. Okoronkwo is also known to have purchased another house in London at a cost of £388,077.62 for Ibori in the name of Boyd Properties. In all, over £2 million have passed through Okoronkwo’s HSBC account, most of it paid directly into a London Barclays account number 00115916 in the name of James Ibori.
For the role they played in laundering money for Ibori, the trio of Pogoson, Ibori-Ibie and Okoronkwo are currently subject to restraint proceedings in London and, if found guilty of money laundering charges, face jail sentences of many years.
Yet, the British investigations have revealed even more startling discoveries. Ibori, in late 2005, hatched a plot to legitimise some of his allegedly stolen and laundered money through the purchase of a Challenger jet from Bombardier. Since he knew that he could not directly send money to the aircraft manufacturers, as that would have immediately raised questions in many quarters, Ibori got Gohil to register companies to use for the transaction and to make payments for the jet. In December 2005, Gohil, on behalf of Ibori, brokered a purchase deal for the Challenger at the cost of $20 million between Teleton Quays and Bombardier. Gohil also incorporated another company, Erin Aviation, in Mauritius, which later took over as the buyer from Teleton Quays. In July 2005, four payments totalling £4,788,176.92 were made from Ibori’s account held in the name of Stanhope into a Schrader Bank, Zurich account in the name of Edward Shemutete for Parabola International Corp. Shemutete is a known international expert in money laundering and legitimising corruptly gotten funds. He is currently under investigation in Zambia, his home country, for allegedly helping former President Frederick Chiluba launder money abroad.
Investigators say that Shemutete was most likely fronting for Ibori as he was introduced to the bank by Gohil, the same man who acted for the ex-governor in many other businesses. On September 29, 2005, the money was transferred from the Parabola account into a Barclays Bank, London account, which turned out to be a client’s account held by Gohil’s law firm, Arlington Shamas. The firm later made the payment to Bombardier.
But there were more intriguing disclosures from the examination of the Teleton/Bombardier deal. By July 2006, a total of $9,856,685.22 had been paid for the jet. A breakdown of the payment shows that apart from the $4.788 million paid by Stanhope/Parabola, Bombardier also received $599,963.98 from Wings Aviation Limited; $899,805.96 from Erin Aviation; $249,007.72 from Pamaron Oil and Gas Limited; another $899,896.68 from Wings Aviation and a last transfer of $951,178.07 from Erin Aviation. The entry of Wings Aviation makes the jet purchase more intriguing. Wings Aviation is registered in Nigeria as a charter services provider.
Interestingly, investigators found out through a letter written by Gohil that Stanhope Investment and Parabola International Corp, both believed to be owned by Ibori, were principal shareholders in Aviation Development Corporation, the parent company of Wings Aviation. The investigators in London have inferred that Ibori, through his offshore companies, owns Wings Aviation and that he also provided the monies paid by the company for the Bombardier jet. The investigators equally believe that the agreement between Erin Aviation and Bombardier is to be terminated and the purchase price of $20 million returned. The investigators have moved to place a restraining order on the jet or monies returned by the manufacturers and are also asking for a restraining order on houses, cars and accounts believed to be held by Ibori or his proxies.
These include three houses in London and Dorset, four vintage cars (a Bentley Continental GT, Mercedes MayBach, a Chrysler and a Jaguar) as well as several accounts held in his name and those of his front companies such as Stanhope Investments and Teleton Quays.
The London money laundering investigations on Ibori tell only one side of the story of this young man’s mindless looting of the funds kept in his trust when he was governor of Delta State. The investigations actually derived from investigations in Nigeria on Ibori spanning over two years by the EFCC. Although the EFCC had kept its investigations close to its chest, it was forced to come out with its findings after the Delta State government took the commission to court to restrain it, among other things, from arresting or prosecuting Ibori. In an affidavit deposed by Yahaya Bello, the head of the team that investigated the Ibori case, the EFCC finally opened a can of worms on the ex-governor’s looting ways. Many of the EFCC findings better explain some of the missing links in the British authorities’ investigations. The EFCC investigations uncovered several questionable payments to companies, associates and aides of Ibori, running into billions of naira. For example, it was discovered that there were monthly lodgments of Delta State cheques of between five and seven million naira into the accounts of Onovin Nigeria Limited. Vincent Uduaghan, owner of the company, told investigators that the payments which totalled N350 million in five years were for the supply of fuel from Total Nigeria Limited in Benin, Edo State. But Total, which did have a fuel supply contract, denied having any dealings with Onovin Nigeria Limited.
Furthermore, it was discovered that lodgments of up to N400 million were made from state accounts into the accounts of Ede Ogoro, private secretary to Ibori, and Charles Isiayei, chief accountant to Delta State Government House. It was also revealed that these two men also made several cash lodgments running into billions of naira from “security votes” of the state into the accounts of companies controlled by or connected with Ibori. These include Koln Nigeria Limited, Silhouette Travels, Prime Chambers, MER Engineering Limited and Bainenox.
Another interesting discovery was that part of the money paid from Nigeria for the purchase of the Challenger jet was one million dollars by Pamaron Oil and Gas through Fidelity Bank.
The EFCC investigations also showed how Ibori bought into several companies in Nigeria, including recently privatised state ones using proxies to disguise the source of funds. For example, the National Fertiliser Company, NAFCON, was acquired in 2005 by O-Secul Nigeria Limited owned by Mike Orugbo for $152 million. Orugbo was able to raise only $2 million but, curiously, the company was able to raise the balance from Oceanic Bank with which it had no prior relationship. The bank later received a total of $46 million to acquire 39 per cent of NAFCON from Copex Management Service, the same company that paid money to Arlington Sharmas on behalf of Erin Aviation for the purchase of the Bombardier jet. This time, Copex paid the money on behalf of Nortore Mauritius. This company has been found to belong to a group of foreign investors two of who were brought into the deal by Arlington Sharmas, Ibori’s UK solicitor friend.
Oceanic Bank received a further N4.418 billion from Brisbane Limited, owned by Henry Imasekha, a known friend and associate of Ibori, for 13 per cent of the fertiliser company. Probes into the money paid by Brisbane only opened a new vista of Ibori’s thievery. It was discovered that, in 2001, Imasekha had secured a N2.2 billion loan from New Nigeria Bank to buy 10 per cent shares in Econet Nigeria Limited. There was no evidence that he had a relationship with the bank. Curiously, a few weeks later, the Delta State government bought off five per cent of Imasekha’s shares for N2.5 billion. This money was used by the businessman to pay off the bank loan. But he still had N300 million as well as five per cent of Econet shares. The money used in paying for Brisbane’s 13 per cent shares in NAFCON came from the proceeds of the sale of Imasekha’s remaining shares in Econet.
Imasekha is believed to be a front for Ibori. The EFCC also alleged that Ibori used several companies to divert N5 billion from Delta State coffers into the purchase of shares from Afribank. The commission claims that the entire money had been recovered and returned to the state government. Ibori is also alleged to have similarly invested in high net worth portfolios, including Wilbros Nigeria Limited, among others.
The accusations against Ibori are, indeed, grave. They constitute the most brazen and monumental case of looting by any former state chief executive. And there is not one of these allegations that the ex-governor is unaware of. There is proof obtained from some of his arrested associates that he has actually made efforts to suppress potentially incriminating evidence. Beyond this, Ibori has also played a game of survival by using his understanding of the nation’s political system to escape the law. Many believe he has an ally in Michael Aondoakaa, the attorney-general and minister of justice. Aondoakaa’s attitude towards the fight against corruption is, perhaps, better understood against the background of his having crossed the path of the commission in the past. As one of the counsel to the Benue State government in its action against the EFCC, the state government was asking the court to declare the commission an illegal body and that it had no right to investigate corruption cases against any official of the state. That case was recently decided in favour of the EFCC. Ibori’s first strategy was to buy time from prosecution by orchestrating the removal of Ribadu.
The magazine learnt that as soon as Yar A’dua came into office, Ibori and others recruited by him put pressure on the President to remove the EFCC boss. Their story was that Ribadu had thoroughly messed up and lost respect among Nigerians for allowing former President Olusegun Obasanjo to use him for political battles. If he is to be taken seriously about fighting corruption, then Ribadu would have to go, the President was told.
Having failed in this mission, Ibori and others who were afraid of Ribadu reportedly banded with Aondoakaa whom they knew had a grouse against the EFCC and its helmsman. To incapacitate the commission, a plot was hatched to remove its prosecutorial powers. Aondoakaa briefed Yar’Adua and soon presented a formal letter requesting to direct all prosecutions by the EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, and the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB.
It was curious that the attorney-general was interested in only these three agencies connected with the prosecution of corrupt governors. However, the fallacy of his action was soon exposed when the President reportedly got superior legal advice from respected legal icons. Aondoakaa was forced by a thoroughly embarrassed President to reverse a decision he had announced to the whole world.
But Aondoakaa has not stopped acting on behalf of the same people that his office should be willing to prosecute if there is a case against them. The attorney-general forcefully took over the prosecution of the EFCC’s case against Orji Kalu, former governor of Abia State, based on a purported restraining order on the EFCC. However, Femi Falana, a Lagos-based lawyer, speaking to TELL in Lagos last week, said there was no such court order. Aondoakaa has also incurred the wrath of many Nigerians, particularly lawyers, for attempting to extricate Ibori from the restraint proceedings in a London court. The Southwark Crown Court in London had on August 2, 2007 frozen Ibori’s assets around the world estimated at about $35 million. But the freeze order was lifted on October 2, 2007 after Speechly Bircham, Ibori’s lawyer, presented to the court a letter written by Aondoakaa stating that the former governor was under no investigation in Nigeria. It was gathered that Bircham had written to the attorney-general to inquire if Ibori was under investigation. Without reference to the EFCC, ICPC, CCB or any other investigating agency in the country, Aondoakaa wrote back to the lawyer saying Ibori was not under any investigation. Significantly, as pointed out by a lawyer, Aondoakaa also said in his letter that as attorney-general, he had not requested for assistance in investigating Ibori as required under the mutual legal assistance programme between Nigeria and Britain. This, more than any other factor, let Ibori off the hook. But that victory was only temporary for the former governor as another court has reinstated the freeze order on his assets. Aondoakaa was said to have initially denied writing any letter to Ibori’s lawyer until the controversial letter was published on the Internet.
Perhaps, embarrassed by the seeming tardiness with which his government is prosecuting the war against corruption, President Yar’Adua directed the attorney-general to cooperate with the British investigating authority. Again, curiously, at a lawyers’ conference in Singapore, he announced the setting up of a special anti-corruption unit in his office.
In a related development, Aondoakaa, the magazine learnt, has also been putting pressure on the CCB to withdraw from his office about 18 case files submitted in relation to corruption cases against former governors. Many Nigerians have blamed President Yar’Adua for attempting to protect Ibori and other former governors from prosecution. But the President’s attitude to his former colleagues is said to be that he did not tell anybody to steal state funds to fund his campaign and that, in any case, he personally received no money from any of them; so there are no entanglements for him. Even sources in the anti-corruption agencies confirm that the President has never interfered with their investigations of the former state chief executives. What has happened, it is said, is that some people have exploited the President’s natural disposition to do things by the book – to follow due process – to sell the new mantra of “rule of law” to him in order to slow down the momentum of the anti-corruption campaign.
As it is now, none of these strategies has worked for Ibori who is now on the run from the law in Britain and America. Soon, with the setting aside of the restraining order on the EFCC to do its job, Ibori’s days as a free man may be numbered.
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?
Nigeria is internationally famous for three things: oil, its Super Eagles football team, and its spectacular government corruption. However, contrary to popular belief it is quite simply a myth that corruption is perpetrated mostly by the government. Most Nigerians are paradoxically and simultaneously, accomplices, active participants, victims and agents provocateurs of corruption in their society.
LEGAL IMPEDIMENTS: Section 308 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution
The first step to understanding corruption in Nigeria is the acknowledgment that corruption is the norm rather than the exception. Corruption is part of the system and has even been inadvertently sanctioned by the Constitution. Section 308 of the Constitution shields the President, Vice-President, Governors and Deputy Governors from civil or criminal proceedings, arrest and imprisonment during their term of office. This Section was intended to prevent frivolous lawsuits from being brought against public officers which might impede their management of their official duties. However in a country as notoriously corrupt as Nigeria, it has been a legal cloak for embezzlement, and has placed many public officers above the law. The result has been that several Governors have been able to loot state treasuries at will with no fear of arrest or prosecution.
However, corruption is not the exclusive preserve of the government. Although most Nigerians condemn corruption as a practice of the “Big Men” and government officials, most of the population are willing accomplices. There is an inherent hypocrisy among Nigerians about corruption. Most citizens acknowledge that corruption is an impediment to Nigeria’s economic development and reputation, yet the ordinary Nigerian’s unquenchable thirst for the acquisition of material wealth, possessions, fame and power fuels corruption by others. Even those that disapprove of corruption by government officials freely admit that they would do the same if they were in government, and they simultaneously participate in practices that are inappropriate. The fuel industry is an excellent illustrative example of how corruption and dishonesty flows from the top all the way down to the lower rungs of Nigerian society. The oil industry is rightly or wrongly perceived as the epicentre of government corruption and abuse in Nigeria. Is the government alone in its abuse of the oil industry? During fuel strikes and shortages petrol stations have frequently been accused of surreptitiously hoarding fuel in order to deliberately amplify shortages and drive prices even higher. In other words they exploit and deteriorate the misery of the already hyper-extended fuel consumer. Malpractice is not limited to petrol station proprietors. Black market street sellers of fuel in such circumstances are also distrusted by some motorists. Motorists often accuse them of diluting the petrol they sell with other chemicals. In the “food chain” of the oil industry, private citizens also dangerously “tap” oil from pipelines in order to sell on the black market. We should avoid using benign words like “tap” and call the practice what it is: theft. This theft is carried out with no remorse for the fact that the oil being stolen is a national resource, or any thought of the explosive danger caused by damage to pipelines. Thousands of lives have been lost in pipeline fires caused by “tapping”.
Once an individual lands a government job, (s)he will be inundated with near irresistible requests for ‘assistance’, finance, contracts and material benefits from members of his or her society. To resist such requests would be to risk being ostracised by their own kinfolk. The community expects and encourages the selective and disproportionate distribution of the “benefits” of government finances to the relatives and community of the government official. The African extended family and patronage system ensures that a government official finds it culturally difficult to resist. If a government official condemns corruption and refuses to use government finances to enrich them self and their community, such an official would be denounced as foolish and would be derided for having nothing to show for their time in government. Negative comparisons would be drawn with other officials who (corruptly) enriched themselves, and the official would be asked why he was still living in the same one house while his colleagues in government have acquired ostentatious status symbols of their time in government such as cars and expensive houses at home and abroad. The current generation of Nigerians do not desire governments or institutions which seek to inhibit their ability to illegally acquire wealth. Nigerians have become accustomed to the culture of corruption around them, and are very quick to condemn and dispense with governments that push the elimination of corruption as a major policy platform. The regime of Major-Generals Buhari and Idiagbon launched a severe and unprecedented anti-corruption campaign for over a year and a half between January 1984 and August 1985. They tried and imprisoned politicians that embezzled state funds. Before long, Nigerians were unhappy with the duo. Disapproval of their anti-corruption campaign was not explicit, but was subtly cotton wooled into ostensibly academic and sober critiques of their “high handed” and “repressive” nature. Nigerians celebrated when Buhari and Idiagbon were overthrown and replaced by a gap toothed armoured corps General from Minna named Ibrahim Babangida. Readers should not delude themselves into believing that General Abacha ran the most corrupt regime in Nigeria’s history. Abacha was the most openly and brazenly corrupt, but before him came his mentor and role model Babangida. Nigeria’s moral fibre was destroyed under the regime of General Babangida. That is not to say that corruption was non-existent before him, but under Babangida, corruption was systematised, institutionalised and brought home as a fact of life to the doorstep of every Nigerian. Babangida allowed Nigerians to see the ugly mirror reflection of their morality. He recognized many Nigerians for what they are: commodities whose loyalty and soul is on sale to the highest bidder. Many “pro democracy activists” denounced the corruption that took place under military rulers but were silenced by the financial “settlement” culture that was so pervasive under Generals Babangida and Abacha. The current anti-corruption efforts of the EFCC and ICPC are derided for being “selective” and for not catching every corrupt individual. These unsophisticated criticisms are the moral equivalent of a bank robber objecting to his arrest by the police on the grounds that other bank robbers whom the police have not arrested are still on the loose. The author is of the opinion that most Nigerians should be grateful for this “selective” prosecution by the EFCC because if every corrupt Nigerian adult was arrested: (i) there would not be enough prisons and detention space to hold them, and (ii) a great deal of the workforce would be behind bars. Nigeria has bred something far more sinister and sophisticated than petty graft and bribery. The still unaccounted $12 billion dollar gulf war oil windfall, the Okigbo report that has never been acted upon and the absence of public outrage at these events is symbolic of the tacit acceptance of corrupt practices as “The Nigerian Way”. Corruption in Nigeria is not just an offshoot of collapsed social and governmental institutions, nor is it the result of a hostile economic environment. The roots go much deeper and are symptomatic of the gradual but residual breakdown of Nigerian societal values and morality. It is the result of Nigerians’ failure to distinguish right from wrong, and of a nationwide refusal to condemn dishonesty. Nigerians only condemn corruption when they are not the beneficiaries of it.
A WAY FORWARD?
Western nations have lower levels of corruption not only because their law enforcement authorities are more zealous. The psyche of their citizens is different from that of the Nigerian. The UK and New Zealand are two countries with the lowest levels of official corruption in the world. The overwhelming majority of citizens in those countries reflexively obey the law as a matter of their nature and inner will. They do not have to be coerced into obedience. This is due to the attitudinal and societal rejection of corruption in these countries. There is a moral consensus in these countries that corruption is degenerative for their society.What can be done for Nigeria? I propose two approaches that might be a god start. The first step is the elimination of the systemic procedure which inhibits measures aimed at eliminating corruption. Section 308 of the Constitution should be amended (not deleted) so that the President, Vice-President, Governors and Deputy Governors should be immune from civil, but not criminal proceedings. The semantic difference is that such officials would be immune from being sued in vexatious civil litigation (with apologies to Gani Fawehinmi) but would not be immune from investigation, arrest or imprisonment for the commission of crimes (including those involving corrupt practices and financial impropriety). However such a constitutional amendment is unlikely to occur anytime in the near future. The prerequisites for a constitutional amendment are formidable. Constitutional amendments in Nigeria require a two-thirds majority approval vote in the federal Senate and House of Representatives, and further approval by two-thirds of the 36 State House of Assemblies in Nigeria. To reach such a degree of consensus in a country as large and fractious as Nigeria would be near miraculous. Other methods are required. Nigeria needs a moral revolution. That moral revolution cannot be accomplished while the present generation remains. Many members of the present generation have been so utterly corrupted that they are beyond redemption. Nigeria cannot and will not progress until they expire. Hope lies in the young and unborn who have not yet been tainted by the society around them. By inculcating from a young age, the destructive social effects of corruption, a new more honest generation may emerge in future. The teaching of values should be compulsorily incorporated into academic syllabi from primary school until the completion of university. I will not deny that this sounds like a subtle form of indoctrination, but it might be the only way to save Nigeria from itself. Corruption in Nigeria will be brought down to manageable levels only when a national consensus is reached that corruption is a corrosive impediment, and when it is rejected by the majority of the population.