NUHU RIBADU'S PARDON, AND 138 OTHERS
Last week, the Police Service Commission (PSC) reversed itself and reinstated the embattled erstwhile chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, in the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) as an Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG).
Also, the PSC commuted Ribadu's earlier dismissal and demotion to the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) to retirement with effect from December 12, 2008.
According to the PSC, the decision to give the former Czar of the anti-graft agency reprieve was borne out of a review of his case following his appeal, coupled with intense international pressure and a directive by the federal government. Ribadu's rehabilitation might not be unconnected with the rumoured new role he is expected to play in the current political dispensation, as well as the need to right the perceived wrong of his demotion and dismissal from the Force, which many Nigerians believe was politically motivated.
It would be recalled that Ribadu's ordeal commenced with his removal as the boss of the anti-corruption agency and subsequent directive to attend the Senior Executive Course at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos. Also, his earlier elevation to the rank of AIG over and above his seniors raised an eyebrow in the Force that elicited a flurry of petitions and low morale among officers and men in the police.
As a result of the avalanche of petitions and ill feelings it generated, the PSC revisited the promotion exercise and demoted 139 officers including Ribadu, who were alleged to have been wrongly promoted. Thus, he was downgraded to the rank of DCP, his subsisting rank before the elevation to AIG.
Reasons cited by the police authorities then for the action included amongst others, indiscipline, insubordination and Absence from Duty Without Official Leave (AWOL), an action which the police explained was inimical to the enforcement of discipline in view of the disharmony and encouragement of indiscipline it had created among its officers and men. But, after some legal battles with the police authorities, Ribadu went on self-exile citing threats to his life. He was later charged before the Code of Conduct Tribunal for non-declaration of his assets. However, the charges were dropped recently by the government, thus paving the way for a soft landing for Ribadu.
All the same, it is good that reprieve has finally come for Ribadu. His critics alleged that he was selective in the handling of the war on graft. They also said that he was a willing tool in the hands of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, in witch-hunting his political opponents. Despite these criticisms, the fact still remains that Ribadu was fearless and resolute in the anti-corruption crusade. He pursued the war with vigour and zeal in spite of some excesses. His case demonstrates the fact that truly, no condition is permanent.
Some Nigerians may see the current rehabilitation as going back to the Obasanjo era. But one fact that should not be ignored in the entire saga is that Ribadu's removal, demotion and final dismissal from the police were controversial. The way his case was initially handled was untidy. This is probably why the government is rehabilitating him.
However, we think that government could have done this in a more tidy way. As it stands now, this singular action has created a precedent. It is likely that the PSC would contend with many appeals for case reviews in the near future. We say this because Ribadu was demoted alongside scores of officers. What is the fate of these officers? We hope that the government will use this case to revisit all cases of similar nature, and right all past wrongs because what is good for the geese is also good for the gander. Singling out Ribadu for the largesse without considering the 138 others flies in the face of justice. The anomaly should be redressed forthwith.
Let the authorities learn a lesson from the Ribadu saga. Government, in dealing with citizens, should display respect for justice and equity, lest it appears to deliberately undermine its own institutions.