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Farida Waziri Speaks Out; On Ribadu, Ogunshakin, Igbinedion, Ibori & Others

Source: huhuonline.com

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairperson, Farida Waziri, has, in a surprisingly scathing indictment, revealed that her predecessor, Nuhu Ribadu veered terribly off the course of his mandate as anti-corruption Czar, saying he

employed “Gestapo tactics” and relished cheap publicity and public grand-standing at the expense of candor and competence.” How many convictions did he have during his time? Three convictions based on plea bargaining! You know plea bargaining is not part of the Nigerian law. My style is about promoting the rule of law, while prosecuting all alleged offenders to the fullest extent of the law. My style is not about grandstanding. And indeed the President had told me at the outset, upon my appointment, that he does not want the EFCC to use Gestapo methods.” Among the most explosive revelations in a media chat on the sidelines of her working visit to New York, USA, she expressed strong reservations on the strategy of plea bargaining which she described as illegal and unconstitutional. She discounted claims that her agency gave former Edo State governor, Lucky Igbinedion, a slap on the wrist.

Said Farida: “When Lucky Igbinedion's lawyers came to discuss with the EFCC's lawyers about plea bargaining, and told us that Lucky Igbinedion wanted to return some of the looted funds, we agreed. But a shocker awaited us at the law court. Instead of the court delivering the sentence that we had all agreed, the judge turned around and very shockingly, merely fined Lucky Igbinedion about N3.5 billion. And the man simply went to his car and brought out the money from the boot of his car, and paid the fine there and then. It was very painful to me. Newspapers went to town with the story, saying Lucky Igbinedion had gotten away with only a slap on the wrist, after plundering the resources of Edo State, and that he had been aided and abetted by the EFCC. But this was not the case. This was not true.”

Farida charges that Nuhu Ribadu violated due process and the rule of law by arresting people “in dramatic and theatrical fashion before finding evidence against them. You cannot judge me on the standards of Nuhu Ribadu. We know that some Nigerians may like to see high drama in the prosecution of many of our high profile alleged offenders. They want to see people in handcuffs, being dragged on the floor. They want to see alleged offenders foaming at the corners of their mouth, screaming blue murder, while they are dragged on the floor! But it is a matter of style. Our style is different. My style is perfect and it conforms to international standards.”

Farida asserts that on the cases of former governors - James Ibori, Peter Odili, Bola Tinubu, and Victor Attah - the EFCC has not cleared any one of them. “The EFCC is not a court. It is an investigative agency. My job is to investigate, compile a case therein that can stand the test of time, draft charges, take to the court, monitor trials, ensure that witnesses attend court as regularly as the court adjoins and sits, ensure exhibits are taken and tendered. It is only a court of competent jurisdiction that can clear anybody. I didn't clear anybody. “

Farida's tone was harsh and unequivocal, accusing Nuhu Ribadu for masterminding a vicious campaign of blackmail and calumny against her nomination as EFCC chairperson. “When the President selected my CV, these people whom I had worked with in the past, launched a vicious campaign of calumny against me. It was total war. Nuhu himself was mad as hell. It was probably his assumption that the EFCC was made for him. It seemed to me that his attitude to a possible successor, after his removal from office, was 'how dare anyone take over his position? Nuhu and the others now started propaganda, using their connections in the media, to malign me and to paint me black.”

Farida lost some of her colleagues when she was faced with the hard choice of building a cohesive anti-corruption agency while fighting for her own personal survival. “I did not get along with Tunde Ogunshakin. If not because of the action I took to ask some staff to go, I would not have survived on the job myself. I found out that classified documents involving the cases of (former Oyo State governor Christopher Alao) Akala and (former Oyo State governor Chief Rashidi) Ladoja were being secretly sent out of the EFCC by some of those people. Since they wouldn't work with me and were in fact sabotaging me, I had to let them go. ”

She categorically refuted claims of presidential interference into the operations of the EFCC. “Mr. President is an honest God fearing person. He is a very quiet person. He is a man of very few words. He says what he means, and means what he says. If perhaps he were interfering with our work, I would rather not talk about it than lie to you. He tells me to go ruthlessly in the prosecution of my work. He is completely above board, and he has told me several times, 'we cannot continue like this as a nation. We must crack down on corruption.”

Decrying the lethargic snail-like pace of the Nigerian justice system, Farida recommends that a special court be set up to try cases of high-level corruption because the wheels of the current system run too slow. “I have complained to the Nigerian Bar Association about this, because once we take a case to court and they see the charges and proof of evidence, and they conclude that their client has a very bad case and is headed to jail, the lawyers ensure that the case goes nowhere. They do everything to slow the process or derail it, they attack the jurisdiction of the court, they ask for stay of execution. And finally, there is interlocutory injunction left, right and center, and so on and so forth.”

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