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AN ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S SATANIC VERSES

By NBF News
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It's a classic case of 'two fighting,'(as we called it in elementary school), and all sorts of weapons are being deployed. Mudslinging, muckraking, blackmail, everything. Let's hope it does not become a shooting war soon.  But as the two elephants fight, the grass suffers.

Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, and chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs Farida Waziri, are engaged in what Yoruba people call roforofo fight.  The type you do in mud, and it splashes on the combatants, and even the onlookers.  When the lobster walks on mud, it splashes it up for everybody.  That is the kind of fight going on in the country's anti-corruption arena.

The more things seem to change here, the more they remain the same.  Do you remember a gambit the then Attorney-General, Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, came up with in the dying days of Nuhu Ribadu's tenure as EFCC boss?  He wanted the anti-crime agency to first clear any investigated case with his office, before such proceeds to trial.  And there was no small ruckus in the land then.  Oh, Aondoakaa wants to kill the anti-corruption war.  He wants to use his office to protect corrupt people.  He wants to slow down the pace of the battle. When the heat became too much, Aondoakaa beat a hasty retreat. Eventually, however, Ribadu lost his office.

Now, under another administration, and with another EFCC boss, the bad coin has rolled out again.  Mohammed Adoke has worn the same gloves Aondoakaa discarded, and fisticuffs are flying.  According to the man, Farida Waziri is too powerful, and he needs to cut her down a size or two.  He has now come up with his own version of the Satanic Verses, through a gazette entitled 'Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Enforcement) Regulations 2010 No 61, Vol 97,' which would compel the EFCC to be in the pocket of the Attorney-General/Minister of Justice, who is the supervising official for the agency.  Under the new law, Waziri cannot prosecute any case that has significant international dimension, involves money or assets of value exceeding N50 million, and so on, without first referring the case to the minister. What a gag!

In an interview with Sunday Trust, published this week, Adoke said Waziri was too powerful, and 'it gives room for abuse.' So he wants to withdraw the powers to himself.  But when Waziri is divested of those powers, and they become domiciled in Adoke, who then says the latter won't abuse the powers?  His explanation: 'What I expect of those critics, the majority of them intellectually dishonest, is that if they believe that that power is unjustified, the right thing a decent person must do, rather than subject the dignity of this office to question, should have been to go to the National Assembly to seek an amendment to withdraw those powers.  Until those powers are withdrawn, I would exercise them and I would not abuse them.'

I would exercise them and I would not abuse them. True? Rather hollow, it sounds to me. What makes Adoke qualified to exercise the powers, and disqualifies Waziri, or any other potential EFCC boss? It is the same messianic pretensions we've always had to battle in this country. A veritable holier-than-thou. If you ask me, I'll say the way Adoke has gone after putting the EFCC and the ICPC in his pocket since his second coming a few weeks ago, gives cause for a lot of suspicion.  First, he flew a kite on merging the two agencies, even at a time when we should be talking of giving more bite to the corruption war. I think Adoke is wittingly or unwittingly heading in one direction: to make corruption truly official in this country. And that would vindicate the late Shehu Musa, who had said that in Nigeria, 'it is not only that the officials are corrupt, but that corruption is official.'

Already, we hear of many high profile corruption cases, which have become either stuck, or have been withdrawn from court, allegedly by the office of the Attorney-General.  I would exercise them (the powers) and would not abuse them.  Really? Not in a country where corruption is official.  All that would happen behind the scenes is that the EFCC would investigate potentially explosive cases, seek authority from the A-G to prosecute, and the latter would simply say no, if it is something that could embarrass the government.  Case closed.  And who gets the blame of non-performance?  The EFCC.  What a country!

Curiously, all those who screamed blue murder when Aondoakaa made the same attempt to hijack the EFCC under Ribadu have now gone resoundingly quiet.  They maintain thunderous silence, while the office of the Attorney-General attempts to lynch and pulverize the anti-crime agencies.  Even more saddening is that some of the vociferous campaigners of the past are now in the Waziri-must-go vanguard.  This simply shows that their positions are never based on any ideological commitment, but rather on personal considerations.  Pity.

The lobster is truly stirring up the mud. After three years in office, Adoke's agents are suddenly querying the last rank of Waziri before she left the police force.  Contrary to what the office of the EFCC chairman requires, they say she retired as a Commissioner of Police, since her promotion as Assistant Inspector General (AIG) was never confirmed.  Short memories.  They forget that Nuhu Ribadu assumed that same office as an Assistant Commissioner of Police, and got leapfrogged to AIG in a matter of years. So, was he qualified according to the law when he assumed the office?  What amnesia.

Adoke too is getting his just desserts.  A group, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), has petitioned President Goodluck Jonathan, to issue a directive that the Attorney-General be investigated for alleged $26 million bribery in the Siemens and Halliburton bribery scandal settlement deals.  Truly, when you fight in roforofo, you never can tell how far the splash would go.

While the needless fight goes on, the anti-corruption war suffers.  The EFCC is distracted, the chairman is harassed, Adoke himself is beleaguered, and the country gets pillaged.  And oh, corrupt people sit back and have the laugh of their lives, gloating that they have succeeded in throwing confusion into the 'enemy' camp.

I think Adoke is fighting superfluous and useless battles.  Like ace columnist, Sonala Olumhense wrote recently, 'the desire of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to see the EFCC and ICPC brought under his moustache will end all our anti-corruption pretensions.'  I agree. The song from Adoke can only be the nunc dimities of the anti-corruption war, the final nail on the coffin. In fairness to Farida Waziri, she has been calm and sedate, quietly recording successes that are unheralded, simply because her style is different from that of the swashbuckling leadership of the past. What she needs is to be further strengthened, and not emasculated. Adoke can only prove himself to be an enemy of the country if he continues on the inglorious path he's treading.

President Jonathan recently vowed to probe Federal ministries, departments and agencies from 2007, yet his A-G is out to castrate the EFCC. Is the outcome of the promised probe not then already determined?  Truly, in Nigeria, not only are officials corrupt, but corruption is also official.