WHY FARIDA WAZIRI WAS FIRED
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday unceremoniously relieved the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC], Mrs Farida Waziri, of her appointment, amid allegations of unethical conduct and procedural blunders in her prosecution of the anti-corruption war.
But beyond her alleged sundry 'sins', intense pressure from formidable political interests cutting across party lines especially at the National Assembly and the Governors' Forum, were said to have influenced the decision of President Jonathan, who announced the development as he jetted out of the country on a three-day official visit to France.
Presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, said in a statement that Waziri's removal was with immediate effect, and named the commission's Director of Operations, Ibrahim Lamorde, as acting chairman and chief executive officer. Lamorde, a deputy commissioner of police [DCP], is holding brief as helmsman of the commission for a second time, having acted in that capacity at the exit of the pioneer chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
Expectedly, the announcement of her sack from office came as a shock to many Nigerians and foreign observers since she was yet to complete her five-year tenure. Waziri was appointed by the late President Musa Yar'Adua on May 18, 2008, and confirmed by the Senate on May 27, 2008.
However, her removal did not come as a surprise to some officials of the anti-graft agency who spoke to Daily Sun on condition of anonymity. Impeccable sources hinted that the move had been in the offing against the backdrop of heightened pressure mounted on the presidency by an influential click of National Assembly members and other top political chieftains since last year.
'We at the EFCC are not surprised about her removal. This is because there had been intense lobby especially from the House of Representatives and some highly influential politicians to get her out of office. The ex-Speaker Dimeji Bankole case actually gave her a lot of trouble and at a point, she was in a dilemma. About two weeks ago, a very powerful member of the House told me that we should wait and see what would happen soon. In fact, he was very definite on his timing, and said Waziri would be removed. So, there had been expectation that she would be removed, but the time was what we didn't know', a senior official of the agency said yesterday.
Daily Sun checks revealed that Waziri might have been in the bad books of most members of the National Assembly over some of her actions and utterances which were construed as a fall-out of her acclaimed closeness to President Jonathan, and the manner of Bankole's arrest was said to have further irked the federal lawmakers.
While receiving a petition written by a group of lawmakers in the Sixth Assembly led by Hon. Dino Melaye, against ex-Speaker Bankole over an alleged N10 billion loan scam, Waziri dismissed the federal legislature as an embodiment of corruption. 'For the National Assembly, the House of Representatives in particular, I have been worried, I think most Nigerians have been very concerned, because there have been scandals upon scandals in that House. And that is the bastion of democracy and the hope for the common man', she had remarked.
Evidently, the manner of her removal gave credence to claims of a long-drawn plot to shove her out of the plum job, even as checks revealed that she might have also been betrayed by some of her erstwhile close subordinates who allegedly fell apart with her over the handling of some sensitive and 'juicy' cases believed to be the source of allegations of unethical conduct levelled against her.
Sources hinted that prior to the political pressure for her ouster, the presidency had been uncomfortable with serial reports of rising corruption among some operatives of the commission under her watch, a situation that was further compounded by reports of the discovery of a sum of N250 million from an operative at the Lagos office of the agency, among others.
It was further gathered that a bribe of N120 million allegedly offered by a suspect to pave way for his escape from prosecution, allegedly ignited a row between Waziri and leader of the team of investigators -a senior police officer who hails from the North-eastern part of the country, now re-deployed from the EFCC.
It could neither be ascertained whether the incidents which lingered for some time at the realm of speculations within and outside the EFCC formed part of the intelligence reports in possession of President Jonathan, nor was there a confirmation of formal security reports against her by the State Security Service (SSS), or other security agencies.
However, Waziri's barely three-year sojourn at the commission started on a controversial note, when she engaged the then Director of Operations, DCP Tunde Ogunshakin, in a battle of wits over inexplicable differences . The cross-fire ended dramatically, with Ogunshakin's removal on allegations of his involvement in examination fraud at the University of Abuja where he was undergoing a Law programme, but the university authorities later cleared him of complicity in the act.
While the drama lasted, the police chief also fired back at Waziri, accusing her of engaging in unethical conducts and creating a special team which she assigned certain cases supervised directly by her, contrary to the prevalent structure on ground before her appointment. Ogunshakin had expressed suspicion and displeasure over other emerging trends at the EFCC. With Ogunshakin out, another DCP, Stephen Otitoju, was drafted as his replacement. He did not also hold the office for long, though reasons for his removal could not be ascertained as at press time.
Waziri's relationship with a certain Victor Uwajeh also cast her in very bad light. She first denied knowing Uwajeh, who claimed he was being used against her, until the man produced pictures showing him with Farida at a party. The agency also attracted sneer to the government's anti-corruption crusade. For instance, United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was lacerating in her assessment of the EFCC under Waziri.
The same also encouraged the London Metropolitan Police to announce a severance of ties with the EFCC over the handling of the case involving former governor of Delta State, James Onanefe Ibori. Other partners like the UK Serious Fraud Office also gave the agency a wide berth.
The shoddy handling of the Ibori case and the failure to challenge his acquittal by the High Court, Asaba also had negative impact some of EFCC's efficiency. Furthermore, the anti-graft agency under Waziri was accused of having a penchant to arrest suspects before investigating allegations against them. It is the loss of credibility that was responsible for the doubts that trailed the recent arraignment of some governors by the EFCC.
Another likely reason for the removal of Waziri was her alleged inability to track funding for the operation of the dreaded Boko Haram sect The Presidency, it was learnt, had told the former anti-corruption boss to get the sponsors of Boko Haram in order to unveil those behind the dreaded sect.
The EFCC also allegedly failed to also track illegal money transfers as well as money laundering activities perpetrated through Nigerian banks. But perhaps, the most challenging of Waziri's administrative and operational battles, was her face-off with the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adokie, which eventually culminated into covert mudslinging, as various groups suspected to be sponsored by both parties sprang up with allegations and counter-allegations that impinged on the integrity of the two personalities.
The battle line was drawn when the AGF moved to assert his supervisory authority over the EFCC, particularly with regards to the arrest and prosecution of suspects, an action which was met with stiff resistance from Waziri, before the presidency intervened following the embarrassing dimension the matter had assumed.
Daily Sun however, recalled that before President Jonathan's intervention, Waziri had been splashed with sundry allegations bordering on corruption, just as she was accused of a false claim to the rank of an Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) as against the rank of commissioner of police on which she allegedly retired.
Shortly thereafter, a self-acclaimed group of anti-corruption whistle blower, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), stormed the offices of the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission [ICPC], with a request to probe Adoke over a sum of 26 million US Dollars which he allegedly collected as bribe to withdraw corruption charges against 10 multi-national companies under investigation over the Siemens and Halliburton bribery scam. The development, Daily Sun learnt, highly embarrassed President Jonathan, and he promptly summoned Waziri for caution.
Meanwhile, suspense and anxiety pervaded the EFCC headquarters in Abuja yesterday, as personnel kept sealed lips on the development.