EFCC AND IBORI: HOW NOT TO FIGHT CORRUPTION

By Kenneth Uwadi
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EFCC AND IBORI: HOW NOT TO FIGHT CORRUPTION
The assumed fight against corruption within the Nigerian polity is as old as the existence of the country itself. Various regimes have claimed to fight against corruption. Pooh!! The fight against corruption between 1999 and now as we can see is laughable. The systematic and professional fraud at high places make one to wonder who deserve the dubious title of the king of corruption in Nigeria between some public office holders, past and present and 419 fraudsters .

When Former President Obasanjo instituted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission some years back, many Nigerians applauded his effort. But the applause did not last long. The hope of Nigerians then was that all those who had a hand in the looting of the nation's treasury, thus depriving ordinary Nigerians their share of the national cake, would be brought to book, irrespective of their social, economic or political standing. Pooh!! For where? With the present state of things in Nigeria, EFCC has shown its obvious ineffectiveness. EFCC has done enough to convince Nigerians that it is nothing but a figurehead that is being used as a tool to hound and discredit political opponents.

The issue of Ibori and the EFCC should be making every right thinking Nigerian to burn with anger. EFCC has announced to Nigerians that it has declared Ibori wanted once again over alleged official corruption and money laundering. However, Ibori has described his current problem with the EFCC as political harassment that demands a vigorous legal challenge so that Nigeria is not ruled like a fiefdom. Ibori's camp have cried out against the renewed onslaught against him, alleging that it was ordered by Aso Rock to pay Ibori back for remaining in the camp of President Umaru Yar'Adua instead of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.They claimed that Waziri has been told that the only way she would retain her job is to hunt down and imprison Ibori, in a scheme said to be geared towards getting him out of the way ahead of the 2011 elections

Ibori's camp claimed that it is a matter of public record and judicial decisions that the EFCC has at various times on behalf of the Attorney General vigorously investigated every aspect of Ibori's tenure as Governor of Delta State and failed to find any crime committed, inclusive of allegations of conspiracy, official corruption, diversion and misappropriation of public funds, stealing and money laundering for the period of May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007.

They sited a Federal High Court sitting in Asaba, Delta State were Ibori was discharged and acquitted of all 170 charges of corruption brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The case, which had dragged on for two years with the judgment date postponed no less than three times, was rested by the trial judge, Marcel Awokulehin.The judge threw out all the charges against Mr. Ibori on the ground that there was no clear evidence against the former governor.

To my mind it is good news that the Presidency wants to review criminal cases against past public office holders. It is a good thing for the presidency to have the courage and the candour to begin to review criminal cases against past public office holders. However, whatever the case is, what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.It has been widely reported that Mallam Nuhu Ribadu's case, which is pending before the Code of Conduct Tribunal is about to be discontinued. Why ? The Presidency has not publicly told Nigerians whether the charge against Ribadu is being withdrawn on compassionate grounds or because he has reviewed the case and discovered that Ribadu actually declared his assets on assumption of office as EFCC chairman. Who re-looted Tafa Balogun's loot?

Nigerians will also not forget when The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) released the names of 56 Nigerians it alleged collectively removed over N243 billion from the nation's treasury. The names, some of which the EFCC Chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri, referred to as politically revered people in the international community, were contained in a list handed over to the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).The list contained names of well-known politicians, former governors, ministers, permanent secretaries, civil servants, chairmen and members of parastatal agencies, local government chairmen, members of the House of Representatives and senators.

From the list EFCC told Nigerians that Saminu Turaki stole 36 billion naira,Joshua Dariye of Plateau state stole an amount not stated; Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia state stole 5 billion naira; Rasheed Ladoja of Oyo state stole 6 billion naira ; Jolly Nyame of Taraba state stole 180 million naira; Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu state stole 5.3 billion naira; Boni Haruna of Adamawa state stole 93 million naira and Michael Botmang stole 1. 5 billion naira : Nyeson Wike of Rivers State stole 4.7 billion naira ;Iyabo Obasanjo stole 10 million naira ;Babalola Borishade stole 5.6 billion naira ;Femi-Fani-Kayode stole 250 million naira.Why are these men walking the street of Nigeria as free men? Does it mean that EFCC does not have the capacity to bring them to justice?The fact that most of the above named political leaders are walking freely on the streets while Ibori is being made a scapegoat casts serious doubt on the credibility of the present EFCC clamp down as championed by the Jonathan led government .

We will never forget the EFCC report on the looting of Rivers State treasury during the regime of Dr Peter Odili.The EFCC report on the high level looting of Rivers State Nigeria is available to media men. EFCC received and responded to numerous petitions against the ex-executive Governor of River State, Dr. Peter Odili and some officials of his government. After careful investigation, major findings were made pointing to severe implications of fraud, conspiracy, conversion of public funds, foreign exchange malpractice, money laundering, stealing and abuse of oath of office.Why is Peter Odili walking the street of Nigeria as free man? More than 100 million Nigerians will feel good if Kalu, Tinubu, Odili and the rest of them are sent behind bars since EFCC said they are corrupt. Let us also stop being bias as to who we will choose to punch so hard and who we will spare as a no-go-area.

The EFCC told us that they have evidence to prosecute Orji Uzor Kalu and his likes. They named Tinubu along with him. Hence, on the 10th of October 2006, the EFCC undertook what easily went as its single largest crackdown on corruption in Abia State . The crackdown even involved Kalu's mother! Ribadu told the then Senate that Kalu's Abia State topped the list on the corruption table, not just because the state is first in alphabetical order, but indeed. He alleged that corruption in Abia State spanned three generations of the governor, including the former governor's mother and daughter. To elaborate, On Abia State, he said: "Abia is number one not because it is number one alphabetically but because we have one of the biggest established cases of stealing, money laundering, diversion of funds against Governor Kalu," adding that the governor used his mother, daughter, wife and brother to divert billions to build his business empire, including Slok Airlines, Slok Pharmaceuticals, and a newspaper house. This is a very strong statement coming from Nuhu. Yet Orji Uzor Kalu and Tinubu are walking the street of Nigeria as free men.

Where is Dariye? Why is he a free man? Mr President and indeed the Chairman of EFCC have the daunting task of fighting corruption under the arm-bit of the rule of law. For the fight against corruption in Nigeria to succeed, the EFCC must treat all suspects equally. The agency must ensure that in all cases of corruption involving politically exposed persons, justice must not only be done but must be seen to have been done.

-Kenneth Uwadi writes from Mmahu-Egbema, Imo state

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