September 12, 2006
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is perhaps the best thing to happen in the life of the current administration. Indeed, all those praises that is being heaped on a World Bank VeePee turn Finance Minister for paying the big boys of Paris twelve billion dollars while the people that stole the principal amount are walking around in Nigeria to me smacks of the highest order of stupidity. As far as I am concerned, what we should be doing s looking for where the rogues that stole the four hundred billion dollars Ribadu said the thieves stole from us for the past thirty years, kept these monies and use the recovered funds to pay back the debtors. The twelve billion dollars is better spent on infrastructure and paying local contractors and pensioners instead of feeding a room full of white shylocks.
At the beginning of the life of his administration, President Obasanjo promised wholeheartedly to fight the scourge of corruption in our national life. Personally, I did not take him serious and wondered how a General who cannot even prove the source of his own stupendous wealth and after being installed by the same corrupt people and up until now befriending the worst of them including IBB (who led a delegation that drew OBJ into the presidential race), Tony Anenih (Alias Mr. Fix it!), Bode George (of NPA and Ondo State Military Government Mess) and indeed the one and only big time shrewd rental property owner and corruption in thief , Alhaji Atiku being his own Vice President. Indeed, the President’s cabinet in the first term of this administration was a litany of corrupt ex-cons, crooks, political jobbers and above all government pests otherwise known as Any Government in Power commonly known as AGIP.
Naturally, since the man that swore before the whole nation to fight corruption decided to dine with crooks his first attempt at it was at best lukewarm. Creating the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (commonly known as Anti-Corruption Commission) after a long drawn battle with a corrupt National Assembly that counted a 419 Kingpin (late Rep. Ibekwe) as one of its committee chair and many certificate forgers from Salisu Buhari to Enwenrem on its Leadership, the product of that experiment is to date at best miscarried. The ICPC I can say without any effacement is by far a toothless bulldog; till date it barks without biting. The one significant case it could have prosecuted which was the Dr. Makanjuola case was abruptly dropped thus reinforcing the views of skeptics like me that it is not more than another window dressing by the President to blind us while the looting continues.
However, the end of the first term and the second term gave birth to a newly reinvigorated President. Apparently, free from the burden of politics and after paying his bosses back their dues he decided to hire a partially professional cabinet and clean house. Of course, if you think this was some unselfish act of statesmanship then you must not know the General in the man. Behind these moves have been written everything from vendetta, to self aggrandizement, to a desire to leave a legacy –which I must say is absolutely legitimate, to even pure crass pursuit of power and predominance. Not a man given to fooling around, the threat of the international community came in as a handy tool to force the passing of the EFCC Act that most legislators will perhaps regret as their worst vote till date. But to the rest of Nigeria, it was a great thing but a thing of shame that to do the first serious introspection of a national scourge required an outside push.
In many ways, the EFCC have surpassed all our expectations. Hitherto sacred cows from 419 king pins to bank executives and even politicians have been haunted down. In fact, in Nigeria of today the fear of EFCC is the beginning of wisdom. The success of EFCC is too long to catalogue, and an article that better recites them can be found on this link. Indeed, due to its activity and especially due to the dynamic and purposeful leadership of Chairman Ribadu, a no nonsense policeman reputed for verbal outburst backed with appropriate action, the EFCC have investigated 550 cases, confiscated several landed properties, private jets, oil tankers, exotic automobiles. It has also recovered over $4billion (N560 billion) assets. That is a breathtaking record. But he has not done it without acquiring very well connected and well oiled enemies.
One of such enemies reared its head in the last National Bar Association Convention, when the chairman of the men of the silk decided to call for Ribadu’s resignation based upon accusations of human right violations and disobedience of court order. Perhaps the NBA will do us all a favor first by calling for the resignation of its former president now Attorney General for disobeying the Supreme Court order to return LG Funds to the state of Lagos. Or is this the case of soiled professionals playing to the gallery? I shall leave the details of the distaste of this call to a well articulated article by the Doyen of Common Man advocacy, the Senior Advocate of the Masses and conscience of the Nation, Chief Gani Fawenhinmi. He who must come to the altar of equity must do so with clean hands, and it is a known fact that the hand of the Nigerian Bar Association nor some of its most senior members are not clean when it comes to corruption in Nigeria, providing legal services for rogues and aiding them in hiding their ill gotten wealth in hideous places around the world.
The fact remains that the law is an ass. If the Nigerian Bar Association has a case against Ribadu, it has the capacity to move against him. He is a member of the Bar and if they have a sure fire case let them disbar him and let us see if they will walk out of that conference with their heads held high. The scourge called corruption in Nigeria cannot be fought with kid gloves and unconventional problems require unconventional solutions. Which laws are the NBA talking of when they talk about the rule of law? Is it the same law that protects rogues in state government houses across the land? I will be the first to call Ribadu to order if there is a solid case of violating the fundamental human rights of innocent or conceivably innocent citizens. The last time I heard, the courts in Nigeria have not stopped functioning and may be the NBA should head there. Perhaps they are the problem.
Indeed, the judiciary as constituted in our country is in need of sore reforms. And as a concerned member of the public I personally think that this reform is slowed down by the members of the bar. Many lawyers revel in slowing down court cases for corrupt clients since this assures them of juicy retainer fees which consequently are a disincentive for allowing the wheel of justice move faster. For God sake why is the Ibru Case still in court as we speak? What of the Kudirat Case? Why? Blame our lawyers. In the United States, no lawyer can be appealing a minor judgment while the main case stalemates in the court.
But this devious process of injunction and injunction appeals have been serially applied by lawyers in Nigeria to delay the pendulum of justice to crooks, murderers (imagine the number of dead children that the four hundred billion stolen would have saved) and countless other criminals including militricians. It is time for Nigerians to put a stop to this nonsense- our greatest enemies are the “men of the law” and we must not be blinded by their eye service to the law but must call them to immediate order. Enough is enough. Moreover if the EFCC is perpetrating vendetta, so be it. It is a necessary evil that might as well come back to hunt the perpetrators. It is OBJ’s EFCC today, it will be someone else’s tomorrow- OBJ better be keeping the book right or else the prison reforms he just embarked upon might be the greatest self help he has done himself since he entered government. Insha Allah the fight won’t be lost, and the Greatest shall shame the rogues.