EFCC: Now, may we never have another Ribadu

By Sunny Igboanugo on 10/11/2015

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Magu

In 2004 or thereabouts, I had a very bitter spat with agents of former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Malam Nuhu Ribadu. The matter in issue was the case of one Maurice Ibekwe, then member of the House of Representatives.

The federal lawmaker, had just taken his seat at the Green Chambers, when the EFCC officials swooped in on him and took him to task for his alleged, but never proven involvement in a series of Advance Fee Fraud, otherwise known as 419. Now, don’t ask me, if the sudden interest of the anti-graft agency had to do with how he won the election that took him to Abuja, especially when even that early Ribadu had unwittingly or no, betrayed the direction he was going with his task. I suspected that much, but I had no way of proving it. So, it never formed part of my issue with the agency.

Rather, what I detested was the clearly inhuman face the case took. Here was a man brought to the Federal High Court in Lagos, almost a vegetable. The picture of a completely bloated figure wheeled into the courtroom, not only left a sour taste in the mouth, but represented an awful testimony that Ribadu and his men were more interested in achieving a predetermined goal willy-nilly. What I didn’t know and still don’t know is whether that objective was a personal desire to see at least one big fish go down and therefore give the needed impetus to the anti-graft crusade or simply one meant to be a vendetta for elements in the commission or those whose interests they wanted to serve.

What was incontrovertible was that something was totally wrong and I did not fail to point this out. In fact, at that stage, what the former lawmaker was asking was to be set free from the EFCC gulag, to enable him seek medical attention in order to be fit to stand trial. But Ribadu would hear of no such thing, even though it was clearly evident even to an infant that no meaningful exercise could be conducted with Ibekwe in that state.

Of course, in my condemnation of Ribadu’s posture in opposing the bail application, I had drawn a parallel between Ibekwe’s case and that of Mamoun Darkazanli, a Syrian-born naturalised German. This was an alleged member of the dreaded Al-Qaida cells, particularly linked to the November 11, 2001, bombing of several targets in the United States, now popularly known as 9/11, one of the world’s terror cases, which claimed close to 5,000 lives.

My argument then was if Darkazanli, who was, indeed, among 41 suspects, including Osama Bin Laden, indicted by Spanish Judge, Baltasar Garzon, and who was to be extradited to face trial in that country under a European Union treaty, could be freed because his arrest warrant was ruled by a German court to be inconsistent with the laws, why should Ibekwe be allowed to suffer a slow and painful death when the Nigerian law presumed him innocent until proven guilty, which was yet to be pronounced?

Of course, this was the point where I got in trouble with the former Nigeria’s celebrated “anti-corruption czar,” as he was then known. For days on end, his hounds were all over me, telling the world how people like me were paid agents, recruited by corrupt Nigerians to spring them out of trouble, a tag, which I bore quietly. Needless to say that Ibekwe, died few days after. Indeed doctors from the National Hospital in Abuja, had confirmed that he was dying of renal failure and his end near if urgent medical attention was not given, a fact that was used to back up the bail application before the court.

Funny enough, instead of any form of remorse, or attempt to take responsibility for what could have, in some climes, been regarded as official murder for which he ought to be held accountable, Ribadu put the blame on the dead man’s legal team, for trying to delay the trial. In other words, the plea that he should be allowed to get well in order to be in good shape to stand trial, was interpreted as a ploy to stall the proceedings. That is Nigeria for you.

Now, what was the reaction of Nigerians? Mum. At best, the very few who found something wrong, could only manage a few murmurs here and there, while the rest fought hard to find a way of rationalising what would have attracted public outrage that could have led to many heads rolling in saner countries.

Yes how could anybody stand up against a Ribadu of that time? In fact, I’m sure were it not for the Ribadu phenomenon, the trial judge in that case would have taken one look at Ibekwe and ordered him to be taken to his doctors. But how could he commit such a hara-kiri, when a Ribadu was involved, especially when he had made it one of his several sing-songs that “corrupt” judges were responsible for his inability to win his anti-corruption crusade?

So, when anybody asks me why I remain such an unrepentant pessimists on the anti-corruption war in the country, this is one of the incidents I cite. Why? I believe that in spite whatever many people think or say, Ribadu destroyed the structure of anti-corruption war in Nigeria more than he tried to or even intended to build it.

EFCC

That there was no single conviction in any court in Nigeria of any big time criminal, besides the cut and join, uncoordinated and inarticulate presentations often accentuated and celebrated in the media, is an ample testament to the puerile and futile nature of the Ribadu model of anti-corruption war.

It is important to recall this, following the current change at the helm of affairs of the anti-graft agency, with the removal of Ibrahim Lamorde, who was until Monday, November, 9, its chairman. Lamorde, a known acolyte of Ribadu, as the Director of Operations at that time and who was appointed on the exit of Mrs. Farida Waziri, Ribadu’s replacement, has been swapped with Ibrahim Magu, one of his deputies.

It is even more important to recognise the warning bells that has begun to ring since the new development. Virtually all the media reports I have read, tag Magu as a “no-nonsense investigator of the commission at its inception, who was removed along with several other key officials by Farida Waziri when she became chairman in 2008.”

Now, it is important that the implication of that appellation sinks properly. For one, it could mean that Nigerians are expecting another man of “action” – another Ribadu.

Well, much may not be known about this new anti-graft fighter beyond being described as an astute man at his job, but one thing stands out, even before he starts his job – corruption cannot be driven away by mere wishes or determination to impress the world. It is a painstaking exercise that involves expertise. The passion that must drive Magu to work, must not be that of impressing Nigerians by practically breaking the door with the leg without nothing to show for it, but of actually eradicating corruption and no more.

The only way of doing this is not to pander to public appeal through the now popular media trial, but, to through proper investigations, prepare watertight cases that would not be torn to shreds by one smart Alec waiting for him in court.

For his enemies are not simpletons. They are men and women who do not only know how to cover their tracks, but have the resources to spring them out of the tightest corner at any time. Even President Muhammadu Buhari, would have by now known what media trial is all about.    

Society is organic. We must learn from the past.

 

 

 

Source Whirlwindnews.com

Posted on November, 10 2015

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