The Political Witch-hunt of Farida Waziri and the EFCC

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The controversy about the real rank of the head of the Economic and Financial Crimes commission (EFCC), Farida Waziri, raises fundamental questions about her eligibility to occupy the office has assumed melodramatic proportions amid allegations of political witch-hunting and scores-settling by corrupt politicians who have been using the media to malign the anti-graft agency.  

The Centre for the Rule of Law fired the first salvo when the group wrote to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) seeking clarification about Mrs. Waziri's last rank while she was in the police force. Going by the EFCC Act, the chairman of the commission is expected not to be below the rank of an Assistant Commissioner of Police. understands that Mrs. Waziri 12 others were promoted to the rank of Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) in 1999 by former Inspector-General of Police M.A.K. Smith, according to police documents. The promotion enabled Mrs. Waziri to wear the AIG rank and manage police formations reserved for those in the rank. But the absence of the Police Service Commission (PSC) at the time of promotion affected her confirmation on the substantive rank of AIG.  

The details are contained in police records. According to the Nigeria Police Force Orders of June 30, 1999 issued by the Office of the IGP, 13 senior police officers were elevated to AIG between May 26 and June 4, 1999. The Force Orders was signed by AIG W.O. Kassim, who was then the Head of 'A' Department at the Force Headquarters. Those promoted were   Mr. W.O Kassim ( AIG 'A' w.e.f.4/6/99); Mr. T. Akeredolu (AIG 'B' w.e.f. 4/6/99); Mrs. A.J. Ojomo (AIG 'D' w.e.f.26/5/99); Mrs. F.V.M. Waziri (AIG 'F' w.e.f. 26/5/99); Mr. A.E. Oyakhire (AIG Zone 1 Kano-4/6/99); Mr. M. Alkali (AIG Zone 2 Lagos- 26/5/99); Mr. Musa Yahaya (AIG Zone 3 Yola-4/6/99); Mr. B. Ahmadu (AIG Zone 4 Makurdi-26/5/99); Mr. D. Gololo (AIG Zone 5 Benin-4/6/99); Mr. A. Oyakhire (AIG Zone 6 Calabar-26/5/99); Mr. Ekundayo Aina (AIG Zone 7 Abuja-4/6/99); Mr. S. Oduoye (AIG Zone 8 Lokoj-26/5/99); and Mr. O.O. Onovo (AIG NDLEA-4/6/99).  

A letter to the Police Service Commission on August 5, 2010 by the Force Secretary gave further details on Mrs. Waziri's status before retirement in 2000. The letter said: 'Mrs. Farida Waziri was born on 7th July, 1946 and enlisted into the Police Force with AP NO. 4046 on 28th February 1965. She progressed through the ranks of the Nigeria Police Force, serving in various Commands and Formations and rose through the Rank to Acting Assistant Inspector-General of Police. 'She was posted to head 'F' Department at the Force Headquarters, Abuja on 26th May 1999 and AIG Training on 19th July 1999 respectively. 'The absence of the Police Service Commission during the early stages of democratic rule led to her retirement on 28th February 2000 without being confirmed on the substantive rank of AIG. 'However in view of the fact that she is a fellow of the National War College having successfully attended the managerial course in addition to several other national assignments and postings with clean records, it is expedient that the acting appointment be made substantive and formalised by the commission.'  

In a separate memo NO: PSC/PROM/2010 on the status of Mrs. Waziri, the Police Service Commission made the following observations and comments. 'The Department of Police Promotion had scrutinized the IGP's recommendation and observed the following: 'The officer enlisted into the Force on 28th February, 1965 and rose to the rank of Commissioner of Police with effect from 1st July, 1992. 'The officer was subsequently given Assistant Inspector-General of Police in acting capacity before her retirement in February 2000 without being confirmed due to the absence of Police Service Commission then.  

'The officer was due for promotion to the rank of Assistant Inspector-General of Police before her retirement having spent eight (8) years as Commissioner of Police instead of the stipulated period of four (4) years. 'The ratification should be in recognition of the officer's excellent handling of several national assignments and postings such as the Federal Fraud Unit, X-Squad, IGP's Secretariat Annex, Lagos and, above all, her present office of the Chairman of EFCC. 'In the light of the foregoing observations/comments, the Commission is invited to consider and approve the ratification of Mrs. Farida Waziri (rtd), fwc, to the rank of substantive Assistant Inspector-General of Police with effect from 01/12/1996.  

Another memo by the Police Service Commission of September 13, 2010 said: 'It has been 11 years that these officers were retired but till date the retirement has not been formalised. Consequently, the officers have not been able to process their retirement benefits and, as such, yet to collect their gratuities and pensions. 'Sharing the same fate with the officers is Mrs. Farida Waziri, the present Executive Chairman of EFCC, who was advanced in rank to Acting AIG and posted as AIG Training, FHQ on 19th July 1999. 'As of 28th February 2000 when she was retired, having completed the mandatory 35 years in service, the Police Service Commission was yet to be constituted, as a result her promotion to the substantive rank of AIG was not ratified.'  

There were indications last night that security agencies have started probing those behind the plot to blackmail the EFCC chairman. A source said: 'The matter is being attended to by higher authorities because the issue being raised amounted to nothing. The source said: 'The plot against the EFCC chairman is being looked into by security agencies. Mrs. Waziri herself has raised the alarm and no one will ignore it. 'Already, she has implicated a top government official and some corrupt elements. Her alarm calls for investigation by security agencies.  

A former Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Abubakar Tsav, however, said the allegations against the EFCC chairman were part of a grand conspiracy to shield some corrupt elements from prosecution. He said: 'The allegation by the Centre for The Rule of Law against Mrs. Waziri is a grand conspiracy to shield corrupt politicians from prosecution. 'What they are trying to do is to portray Mrs. Waziri as being dishonest by claiming to be an Assistant Inspector-General of Police. After the blackmail, they will start agitating for her removal.' 'All along, no one complained about Mrs. Waziri's rank, no one complained that she was powerful and no one thought of merging the EFCC with ICPC, until a former Speaker was arraigned for high-profile corruption. 'Many more politicians may be waiting for their turn of drilling by the EFCC.  

In an environment increasingly influenced by the internet, it appears the campaign challenging the legitimacy of Mrs. Waziri's police rank or the legality of her occupying the post of EFCC chair intensified after the anti-graft body so dramatically showcased the arrest of the duo of Dimeji Bankole and his erstwhile deputy, which damaged considerably the public image of the House of Representatives. This simmering dispute, occurring online and in e-mails coursing daily across the internet, seems unlikely to evaporate any time soon. If her detractors and critics succeed in blackmailing and arm-twisting her out of office, the constitutional questions are staggering with far from clear consequences.