While some Nigerians see the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as a blessing to the nation and a thorn in the flesh of corrupt individuals, a set of Nigerians are indifferent about the EFCC and its activities. A third set of Nigerians on the other hand have simply refused to believe that the agency is doing Nigeria and its citizens any meaningful service. Most of those who spoke to Street Journal are o the opinion that those running the anti-graft agency seem to lack the will and the zeal to bring corrupt people to justice especially where such suspects are power brokers.
Faridah Waziri, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is a woman about whom much has been said, same goes for the organization she leads. Most of the criticisms however bother on the sincerity of the commission in prosecuting the graft war. Findings by Street Journal revealed that Mrs. Waziri’s integrity has always been a subject of discussion both within and outside her agency. Before she got the EFCC top job, she was one of the top negotiators for those in trouble with the EFCC. Street Journal reported years ago that when former Governor George Akume’s passport was seized to prevent him from travelling abroad, it was Mrs. Waziri that stood as surety for him and signed to help him secure the release of the passport.
Street Journal’s findings show that Mrs. Waziri’s credentials point to the fact that she is the right person for the job, having headed the Special Fraud Unit of the Nigerian Police Force. It was also found out that Nuhu Ribadu and Ibrahim Lamorde (both have held the EFCC top job. Lamorde acted as Chairman after Ribadu’s exit) trained under Mrs. Waziri as police officers. Events in Nigeria’s war against corruption have however shown that the Chairman seems to be incapable of handling the situation.
Not a few Nigerians also remember that before the unceremonious exit of Malam Nuhu Ribadu from the EFCC, he told the Senate in 2006 that 31 state Governors had cases to answer with the commission and that they would be made to face the weight of the law after the expiration of their terms of office. Ribadu particularly mentioned the then Governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu who he said fleeced his state of more than N 35 billion. The former EFCC Chairman had told the Senate then that three generations of the Kalu family were involved in the milking of Abia State. Ribadu further told the Senate that Orji Kalu, his mum, his daughter and siblings were all involved in the grand looting of Abia State’s funds.
It will also be recalled that Ribadu claimed before the Senate that the EFCC had a 32 page report indicting Chimaroke Nnamani, the then Governor of Enugu State. Those who were waiting to see the prosecution of Nnamani by the 30th May, 2007 soon grew skeptical as the former Governor became a Senator. Also named by the former EFCC Chairman in his testimony to the senate were former Governors Fayose, Turaki and Igbinedion of Ekiti, Edo and Jigawa States respectively.
When Mrs. Waziri took over, she appeared to hit the ground running. Within two months of her appointment, two former Ministers, two former Governors and a former Chairman of a federal parastatal were arraigned in court. It is however worthy to note that till date, the commission has not been able to secure a conviction against any of the allegedly indicted former Governors. With time however, the zeal with which the war against corruption was being fought reduced drastically. Shortly after, Mrs. Waziri announced that many of the files of the 31 Governors already investigated by her predecessor were missing.
Street Journal’s investigations have revealed that most of the cases prosecuted by the EFCC involve more media fireworks and hype than the real substance of the matter. At the end of the day, people get distracted by the side attractions of cases and the EFCC is seen to be working. Taking James Ibori as a case study, it would be observed that the job done by the anti-graft body was shoddy. First, he was arraigned in Kaduna and before long; he got a ruling that the case should be transferred to Asaba in his home state.
It did not come as a surprise when all the 170 counts against James were quashed by Justice Marcel Awokulehin of the Federal High Court, Asaba. Investigations conducted by Street Journal revealed that the EFCC’s appeal against the ruling was more of a face saving move than anything else. Those who believe that the EFCC Chairman has a special interest in the case may not be wrong. Street Journal reported sometime ago that one of the first moves made by Mrs. Waziri on resumption was to redeploy Bello Yahaya who was the key EFCC officer who investigated Ibori for massive corruption and graft. Street Journal also found out that not only was Bello one of the best hands in the EFCC, he trained with the London Metropolitan Police and he was the designated officer handling cases involving the London Metropolitan Police in Nigeria. He was redeployed to the Nigerian Police Force. That same fate befell Abubakar Madaki, the main man who worked on the Commission’s cases against former Governors Fayose and Rashidi Ladoja. Same for most of those who were termed “Ribadu or Lamorde boys”, incidentally, that move ensured the redeployment of a number of very good hands in the commission. At least 45 officers were sent back to the Nigerian Police Force within months of Mrs. Waziri’s resumption. That was done despite the complaints by the EFCC Chairman that the organization is under-staffed.
It was an open secret that Ibori resisted efforts by officers of the EFCC to arrest him in his Ogharra home town. Street Journal’s findings revealed that Ibori was more or less a sacred cow as far as the EFCC was concerned then. A pointer to that fact was that the agency rolled out its wanted list and surprisingly, James Onanefe Ibori who had evaded arrest in Nigeria and was wanted in the United Kingdom was conspicuously missing from the list as at late 2010. It is also worthy of note that the EFCC failed to apprehend him before he fled to the United Arab Emirates where he was eventually nabbed.
Investigations conducted by Street Journal have also revealed that the exit of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu from the EFCC had links with the much hyped James Ibori case. In a Wikileaks cable ID: 165088 dated: 2008-08-06T17:28:00, obtained by Street Journal, the then United States Ambassador made startling revelations. The cable read in part “the appointment of Ibori’s former Commissioner of Finance as Principal Secretary to the President, the questioning of Ribadu, Ribadu’s demotion and Magu’s arrest, does not bode well for the Administration’s commitment to fighting corruption. The thread that runs through all of them is former Delta Governor James Ibori, the target of major corruption and money laundering probes by the EFCC and British Metropolitan police. Ibori was believed by many to be the driving force behind Ribadu’s removal from the EFCC and Waziri’s appointment. Antony Goldman, independent energy consultant and former Economist Financial Intelligence Unit Africa Analyst, told Poloff a few weeks ago that, during a recent phone conversation, a cheerful Ibori commented that “Ribadu will be in jail before I ever will be.”
How She Lost Face With The International Community
Street Journal gathered that in the course of a meeting between Mrs. Waziri, former Attorney General, Mike Aondoakaa , Baba Gana Kingibe and some representatives from the United States Embassy, it was put to them that the Yar’Adua administration was paying lip service to the graft war and that the EFCC was slow in prosecuting high profile cases. The appointment of David Edevbie, an associate of James Ibori and an accomplice in Ibori’s UK money laundering case as Principal Secretary to Yar Adua was cited. The AG first denied any knowledge of the appointment; he later argued that Edevbie should be treated as innocent until proven guilty. Not even Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe, the then Secretary to the Federal Government could provide satisfactory explanations. That gave the diplomats inkling that the EFCC was silent on the Ibori case which was a matter of interest to the British Government. It also marked the beginning of the end of the proposed joint initiative being planned by the United States and the British Governments to aid the EFCC.
To further worsen the situation, in response to a statement from the United States embassy that some corrupt former Governors had some influence on the Yar’Adua administration, Mrs. Waziri denied having any knowledge of such. A source in the United States Embassy described the claim as being “remarkably unbelievable”.
The then Foreign Minister too did not help matters, Street Journal gathered that in a meeting with Robin Sanders, the then American Ambassador to Nigeria, Chief Ojo Maduekwe said the U.S Embassy’s statements on the former Governors having an influence on the Yar’dua government “challenged not only Nigeria’s dignity,” but put Nigeria on the level of a “banana republic.” To that, the Ambassador replied that “the EFCC needs to prove that it can deliver before any door can be reopened for personnel training and other aids.”
A Wikileaks cable dated 2008-11-17T06:12:00 also revealed that the EFCC Chairman was limited in her powers. According to the leaked cable, in a phone conversation with the then American Ambassador, Mrs. Waziri disclosed that Aondoakaa has assumed complete control of the Ibori case and other “politically sensitive” cases. She also asked that the Ambassador should help call Aondoakaa and tell him to cooperate with the UK authorities on the Ibori matter.
Street Journal can also authoritatively reveal that the British and American governments used the Ibori case as a litmus test for the EFCC’s efficiency and Nigeria’s sincerity as far as fighting financial crimes are concerned.
In no time, it became clear that the foreign governments who had supported the anti-graft agency had grown tired of Mrs. Waziri’s inability to secure meaningful convictions since she became the Chairman of the EFCC.
Evidence that Faridah Waziri’s rating dropped drastically with the Unite States authorities can be deduced from Ambassador Sanders’ refusal to see the EFCC Chairman or have any discussion with her. The Ambassador had been invited to lunch by Nigeria’s then Foreign Minister, Ojo Maduekwe on the 15th March, 2009. The aim was apparently to facilitate a meeting between the Ambassador and Mrs. Waziri. The Ambassador however declined to stay, saying she had instructions from Washington not to have any discussion with the EFCC Chairman.
Former Speaker, Dimeji Bankole too was one of those who spoke against the EFCC and Waziri. In a leaked cable, Bankole had told Ambassador Sanders that the EFCC was “not worth one penny”. He had predicted then that the case against Ibori would end up being quashed. He named Aoandoakaa as the facilitator and gave Ibori’s closeness to the late President Yar’Adua as reason.
Street Journal later found out that the United States has lost the little confidence it had in the EFCC boss, her independence, her transparency, and in her ability to lead Nigeria’s anti-corruption fight.
Sanders once said that the U.S. government had deliberately truncated the funding of some programmes in the EFCC.
How Faridah got the job
Long before now, Street Journal had revealed that Mrs. Waziri was sponsored by a strong cabal that comprised of former Governors who had issues with the agency. Names of George Akume, James Ibori and Bikola Saraki came up as those who nominated Waziri for the job. While they suggested the name, Andy Uba and Mike Aondoakaa were saddled with the responsibility of convincing the late President Yar’Adua that Mrs. Waziri was capable of handling the job.
That much has been confirmed by the whistle blowing website, Wikkileaks in one of its leaked cables on Nigeria. The cable ID: 154266 dated: 2008-05-16T13:03:00 reads in part “Critics allege Waziri’s appointment was orchestrated by former Delta Governor James Ibori, current Kwara Governor Bukola Saraki, former Abia Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, former Rivers Governor Peter Odili, former Jigawa Governor Taminu Turaki and Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa. (COMMENT: Ibori, Kalu, Odili and Turaki are all under investigation and/or charged with corruption. It is widely believed that Ibori was a large contributor to President Yar’Adua’s campaign and there have been multiple allegations from many sources that Ibori has been applying pressure through Attorney General Aondoakaa to drop the investigation and charges against him.”
Dr. Bukola Saraki’s influence in the EFCC was further confirmed when Abdulkadir Lanre Jimoh, his former Chief Security Officer was deployed to the EFCC. Street Journal also found out that the former Kwara Governor personally asked that Jimoh should be allowed to head the “Governance Team”.
Why She Has Not Been Removed
The EFCC Act (2004) grants the Chairman a four-year term of office, unless he or she is removed by the President for inability to discharge his office, incompetence, or “if the President is satisfied that it is not in the interest of the Commission or the public” that the Chairman should remain in office.
Since the approval is also subject to the approval of the Senate, the removal process might be a bit cumbersome.
The Many Cases That Gave The EFCC a Bad Image
Apart from the case of the 31 former Governors whose case files were declared missing, a number of cases have done severe damage to the reputation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori was accused of converting billions of Naira belonging to his state for personal use. He however got all the 170 counts against him quashed by the court.
His neighbor, Lucky Igbinedion too has been given a clean bill of health by the court. Street Journal found out that the EFCC did a shoddy job while prosecuting Igbinedion. He eventually had his way after parting with an inconsequential percentage of his loot. Igbinedion was accused of embezzling about N4.4 billion during his time as governor of Edo State. The EFCC had earlier filed a 191-count charge bordering on corruption, money laundering and embezzlement. The anti-graft agency later turned around to file an amended 24-count charge.
The EFCC eventually agreed to a plea bargain. It reduced the charges to a one-count charge of refusal to make a declaration of interest in a bank account operated with a new generation bank in the declaration of assets form of the EFCC. Igbinedion pleaded guilty to the charge as arranged. He was fined N3.5 million and made to forfeit three properties.
Shortly after the verdict, the EFCC, in a statement disclosed that it was not satisfied with the outcome. Its attempt to drag Igbinedion back to the court has failed in view of the plea bargain earlier entered into and the verdict that followed it.
Mrs. Waziri’s critics have been asking questions bordering on why the EFCC decided to amend a 191 count charge and eventually reduced it to just one charge. How did they arrive at the assumption that the charge that could nail Igbinedion was non-declaration of assets? Why did the agency run to court without doing its background work properly?
The Halliburton and Siemens cases too did a lot of damage to Nigeria’s anti-corruption image. Most of those named in the scams are walking freely in the country. Some of them even hold positions of authority. In spite of all the noise that was made over the Halliburton scandal, not one of those named in it ever saw the inside of a court room.
One of those indicted in the Siemens bribery scandal is Dr. Haliru Bello Mohammed, a former Minister and the current Acting Chairman of the PDP. He was interrogated alongside Cornelius Adebayo and Jubril Aminu but till today, nothing has come out of it.
Investigations have also revealed that the much celebrated Bode George case was almost scuttled. If not that Justice Olubunmi Oyewole in his wisdom ruled that the former NPA boss should be made to face the music.
Why convictions are difficult
Street Journal has found out that the EFCC has not recorded any conviction against any former Governor or Minister since inception. Investigations have shown that the reason behind this is that most times, the commission does shoddy jobs when building up cases against individuals who have been alleged to be corrupt.
For instance, after agreeing to a plea bargain and former Governor Igbinedion forfeited some properties, the EFCC rushed back to court seeking a sentence. Of course the judge ruled against the anti-graft agency.
In the on going Dimeji Bankole case too, after filing a 17 count charge, the EFCC went ahead to file another 17 counts joining the former Deputy Speaker, Bayero Nafada as a party. Such legal moves have been seen as indications that the EFCC at times acts first and thinks later. As Bankole’s lawyer put it, “they are filing charges by installments and that is a sign of lack of seriousness”.
It is also being alleged that the EFCC is failing in its responsibilities because the Chairman has links with corrupt individuals hence the difficulty in bringing them to book.
Ultimately, the EFCC and its Chairman will be judged on the ability to secure meaningful convictions and create strong deterrents to corruption and Nigerians are yet to see these happen neither do many of them believe Faridah Waziri will make them happen.