When a public figure makes a decision or takes position on contemporary issues, he or she, consciously or unconsciously, is history in the making. Accordingly, any effort made at revisionism on such matters must be resisted, no matter the number of times.
Also, this is not an obituary of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Rather, it is just a recall of what use the financial crime agency had been made in the past, specifically under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, contrary to the pretended purpose for which the EFCC was established in the first place.
Why is the focus on the operations of the EFCC under former President Obasanjo? Even by his notorious standard of being the only former Nigerian leader directly or impliedly constantly running down his contemporaries as if they are in a current struggle for supremacy, Obasanjo’s latest attempt is, to say the least, an act of self-immolation. The history of EFCC is too fresh for Obasanjo to be claiming whatever glory the agency has acquired in its fight against financial crimes and that after he (Obasanjo) left office, the EFCC was rendered politicised. That is a blow below the belt for all his successors, three so far: The late Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari. So far, none of these can be faulted to have misused the EFCC to enhance his selfish political purposes.
Yet, that was what Obasanjo was implying when he claimed that the EFCC was politicised after he left office. What then was the reputation of the crime fighting agency throughout Obasanjo’s eight-year tenure as elected president? All over the world, no open personal use is ever made of EFCC equivalents – like the FBI, Scotland Yard, or Serious Fraud Office – as Obasanjo virtually pocketed and unleashed the EFCC against political opponents or those against whom he had old score to settle. In the process, even violence was not excluded against known political opponents or to coerce favour. Mike Adenuga, the Globacom chief, was violently intimidated in his house, in an attempt to get him furnish Bells University, Otta. Who owns that institution?
Known politicians – e.g. members of State Houses of Asemblies or governors known to oppose third term were arrested by Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC with the option of regaining their freedom only on the condition of impeaching their respective state governors. Some of such legislators had to abandon their states for sanctuaries in other states. Pliable ones among the legislators were cowed into submission and accommodated by the EFCC in hotels from where they were transported to impeach their governors under massive control of heavily armed EFCC operatives. On some occasions, as low as five or six members of some state Houses of Assembly were intimidated to impeach Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye and Rasheed Ladoja of Oyo State. Hence, such illegal purported impeachments were nullified by law courts either because the quorum for impeachment was not formed or that such impeachments took place in hotels, where the EFCC accommodated the legislators, instead of the floor of the House of Assembly concerned, as stipulated in the constitution.
The EFCC was also made to overlook criminal diversion of public funds when the 36 state governors, under intimidation, were made to contribute N10 million each at the launching ceremony of funds for Obasanjo’s library, all against financial regulations. The option was either the donation or the dissenting governor(s) would be impeached.
When the EFCC was formed, it was projected to neutralise the political influence of any state governor opposed to Obasanjo’s third term or any governor suspected of supporting former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s aspiration to the presidency. One of such targeted governors was the late Diprieye Alamieyeseigha, who, in an interview with a newspaper, exposed how Obasanjo invited him to his office and accused him of supporting Atiku instead of displaying military solidarity in support of Obasanjo. The late state governor then threw it back to Obasanjo that nobody (including Obasanjo) ever told him about Obasanjo’s third term. The rest is history. Henceforth, such state governors were intimidated and earmarked to be discredited for not supporting Obasanjo.
On his part, Atiku’s fatal mistake was to have ever compromised to support Obasanjo for second term after initially insisting on earlier agreement that Obasanjo would run for only one term. Obasanjo felt humiliated and ever unforgiving, Obasanjo was hell-bent on politically destroying Atiku.
The EFCC, under Nuhu Ribadu, was the easily available weapon. Ribadu headed a phantom probe panel against Atiku for allegedly depositing the account of Petroleum Training Development Fund (PTDF) in a fixed bank account. Obasanjo picked on that probe report to violate Nigerian constitution by claiming to have removed Vice-President Atiku Abubakar from office. Even if Atiku was to be removed from office, for whatever reason, only the National Assembly has that power under Nigerian constitution. Obasanjo’s notorious impulsiveness and prejudice mislead him to violate the constitution by exercising power not conferred on him (or any Nigerian president for that matter) to remove the vice president.
Atiku Abubakar’s petition to the Senate on Nuhu Ribadu’s probe report on PTDF fund generated disastrous backlash for Obasanjo, as the Senator Ndoma Egba report on handling of PTDF fund exposed that Obasanjo, in fact, paid his lawyer N250 million from PTDF account. Who then mishandled PTDF account? Atiku Abubakar or Obasanjo? The timid Nigerian Senate covered up by merely recommending that, henceforth, Obasanjo should comply with financial regulations on PTDF. Ribadu’s probe panel, under political influence, which reported Atiku Abubakar’s alleged deposit of PTDF fund in a bank, never mentioned Obasanjo’s payment of N250 million from PTDF to his (Obasanjo’s) private lawyer.
Furthermore, Abuja courts nullified both Nuhu Ribadu’s purported probe report on VP Atiku Abubakar and Obasanjo purported removal of Vice- President Atiku Abubakar from office. In effect, Obasanjo used EFCC for his political end of rubbishing future political aspiration of Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.
Without holding brief for political office holders – especially state governors – who might have abused their office, the fact remains that Obasanjo was selective and deliberate on which governors he would accordingly deal with. The then EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu, documented 32 state governors to be corrupt and liable for trial after office. According to ‘Alpha Omega’ Obasanjo, that would be on his dead body. Obasanjo publicly used a non-existing veto power to overrule Ribadu that instead of 32, only four state governors were corrupt. Obviously among the 32 state governors indicted by Ribadu were mostly those against Obasanjo’s third term. Obasanjo cleared all such governors despite Ribadu’s findings.
Among those picked out by Obasanjo as corrupt were Plateau’s Joshua Dariye, Ekiti’s Ayo Fayose, Delta’s James Ibori and Oyo’s Rasheed Ladoja. Sourcing their predicament to anti-Obasanjo’s sentiments would not justify any abuse of office. But Obasanjo pounced on those four and cleared the remaining 28 without any court trial. And once Obasanjo spoke, it was law, as Ribadu never dared to try those 28 governors. How much else could Obasanjo have politicised the EFCC for his selfish and personal third term purposes?
It was also possible that Obasanjo’s favoured 28 state governors might have been found not guilty in a court of law. That was not for Obasanjo but strictly a court of law to decide. Even if those state governors were arraigned in a court of law, Obasanjo would still have politicised EFCC efforts by directing the Federal Attorney-General to enter a “no contest plea.” That was the case of a Ministry of Defence official, Mr. Makanjuola (Obasanjo’s cousin?) on a N400 million land compensation fraud trial. Obasanjo’s Federal Attorney-General, Kanu Agabi, suddenly entered a “nulli prosecui” to end that trial and the man was set free. Any refund of the money?
An Attorney-General can withdraw a prosecution at any stage. But such a high profile prosecution could only be terminated with the knowledge, consent and prompting of the president. Till today, no reason was offered for ending the trial except the implied abuse of the Attorney-General’s power and politicisation of the EFCC under Obasanjo’s administration.
There was no qualms under Obasanjo’s administration in politicising the EFCC. But double standard? The son of late General Sani Abacha was clamped into jail for alleged financial crime. Even innocent Muhammed Babangida, son of former President Ibrahim Babangida, was harassed by Ribadu’s EFCC under Obasanjo, for alleged ownership of shares in Globacoms telecommunications outfit. It turned out to be false allegation against the poor boy or the EFCC would have arraigned him. On the other hand, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, a serving Commissioner for Health in Ogun State, suddenly turned emergency business consultant under a fake identity. Travelling to Austria to negotiate with a company just awarded a Federal Government contract to refurbish one of our health institutions, Iyabo Obasanjo travelled falsely under her grandmother’s names.
The same EFCC, which harassed the children of President Babangida and the late General Abacha, never touched Iyabo Obasanjo, who, as a serving Commissioner of Health, breached code of conduct by engaging in private business and obtained travelling document under false declaration.
Obviously, Obasanjo and Ribadu’s EFCC never bargained for any “roforofo” fight back by any of the victimised state governors targeted under Obasanjo’s administration for refusing to support third term. In a decisive blow, Plateau’s Joshua Dariye shocked Nigeria’s by revealing that he had to contribute N100 million to Obasanjo’s campaign organisation. The EFCC should accordingly have charged Obasanjo’s Campaign Organisation along as a recipient of proceeds of corruption.
In a recent BBC television on HARD TALK slot, Obasanjo bragged that EFCC’s Ribadu probed him and cleared him of corruption. Whoever expected the EFCC established by Obasanjo to indict him. What Obasanjo did not add in his interview was that the same Ribadu was exposed by Wikileaks confessing to ex-US Ambassador Sanders that Obasanjo was more corrupt than the late Sani Abacha. Worse still, the same Ribadu apologised to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar for the political hatchet job Obasanjo used him (Ribadu) to do against him.
And now for the same ex-President Obasanjo to accuse his successors of politicising the EFCC? As an English man would put it, “the cheek of it.”