NAS Press Release: THE RIBADU SAGA

The National Association of Seadogs (NAS) condemns the dismissal of the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mr. Nuhu Ribadu from the Police force as unconstitutional and a flagrant abuse of the judicial process. We are all witnesses to the uncanny ways the government has gone about scripting what is now well known as the Ribadu Saga. First, the Attorney-General did all he could to frustrate the prosecution of alleged corrupt politicians by EFCC under Ribadu. Curiously, Mr. Andooaka, the nation’s Chief Law Officer, later became the defender-in-chief or spokesperson or both to these politicians of alleged tainted profile. Subsequently, when Ribadu was forced on a “refresher” course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Kuru, Plateau State, it was obvious to all right thinking persons that the death knell had been pronounced on the war against corruption. But the Inspector General of the Nigeria Police, Mr. Mike Okiro falsely explained it away as a routine exercise designed to improve the lot of Mr. Ribadu and the Police.

Okiro, however, failed to provide a justifiable reason why a police officer, on leave of absence and on a political appointment with the Federal Government as chairman of EFCC, should be recalled and posted arbitrarily without recourse to the President, whose office by virtue of section 3, sub-section 2 of the EFCC Act (2004), is vested with the sole power to remove the EFCC chairman, and indeed any other member of the Commission, from office.
Thereafter, things were propelled into more frenzy and bizarre sub-plots. A few months after his questionable posting, Nuhu Ribadu was demoted from the rank of Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police to Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Police on the grounds that his special promotion by the erstwhile President, Olusegun Obasanjo, was a breach of section 153 of the Police Service Commission Act of 2001.  Mallam Ribadu then went to court to challenge his demotion, a move which the Nigeria Police Force, championed by the Inspector General (IG) of Police, Mike Okiro, did not take lightly.

The Police have continued to maintain that Ribadu, being a serving member of the force, does not have the right under sections 352 and 357 of the Police Act (2004) to take legal action against the police without seeking permission first from the IG.

It may be interesting to note that one of the two fallouts of Ribadu’s supposed infraction was the high drama on Saturday, November 22 at the NIPSS graduation ceremony, where Ribadu and his family were forcefully evicted from the graduation hall, and he was arrested and later released. The other fallout, the Force Disciplinary Committee (FDC), set up by Mr Okiro to determine and recommend the punitive measures to be taken against Ribadu had already concluded its sitting and submitted its recommendations to the IG who then awaited the approval of the Police Service Commission. And going by the leaks, it did not require any clairvoyant skills to predict that Ribadu’s days in the police were numbered. His dismissal therefore became the dénouement of the Ribadu Saga.
However, it must be pointed out that the saga of Nuhu Ribadu is a manifestation of a rotten system, bereft of sound policy grounding, that allows for procedural abuses as that of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo to by-pass constitutional provision of the Police Service Commission with the statutory duty, among others, to promote members of the Nigeria Police Force, to give Ribadu accelerated and special promotion. It should also be pointed out that the PSC was not yet constituted when the President made the promotion.

Undoubtedly, Ribadu had his limitations. Some claim that the commission under his leadership was selective in its war against economic saboteurs. There have also been several accusations that Ribadu, at certain points during the Obasanjo Administration, was a political instrument in the hands of the President and allegedly the hatchet man against Obasanjo’s perceived enemies. Moreover, he did himself and the commission a lot of disservice by the brazen manner he went about his business without recourse to the law in some situations. Nigerians will not forget in a hurry the way the EFCC under his command hounded a handful of members of the state legislature to impeach Governors that were not in the good books of the former president.
 
The consensus however is that the EFCC under Ribadu’s leadership did show strong commitment in tackling endemic financial crimes. He did an excellent job and posed a serious threat to very powerful and dishonest cabal. Not surprisingly, the cabal regrouped and regained power and influence in a regime that consistently pledged to scale up the fight against corruption. It is therefore clear for all to see that the government’s so-called fight against corruption is tainted and deeply flawed. The government, thus, carries a moral burden because it is already perceived, by majority of Nigerians, as a willing tool in the hands of the regrouped recidivists on a revenge mission.

NAS agrees with all well meaning Nigerians that the reasons proffered by the Police Service Commission for Ribadu’s demotion lacked merit because Ribadu’s promotion was made before the Commission was inaugurated. As an aggrieved citizen, Ribadu has every constitutional right to seek redress of a perceived wrong in the court of law, and his right to sue the police is guaranteed by section 6 of the 1999 Constitution. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is supreme. The cloak of the Police Act under which both the AG and IG hide to unleash assault on the psyche and sensibility of the citizens of Nigeria is subordinate to the Nigerian constitution.


Interestingly, one of the reasons the Police Service Commission has given for the dismissal Ribadu from the Police Force was his failure to appear before the Force Disciplinary Committee (FDC). NAS position is that the Force Disciplinary Committee, which the police expected Ribadu to appear before it and make representation, is without legal foundation because it was set up to adjudicate on a matter that is already in court and therefore its recommendations are null and void.
 
It goes without saying that the judiciary is a key kernel of democracy. Is it not ironic that a government that proclaims the rule of law as its mainstay cannot be patient and allow the courts to be the final arbiter in the Ribadu conundrum, rather than the blind rush to dismiss him? We are, however, optimistic that the same judiciary that gave President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua reprieve at the Supreme Court on the last elections will have the final say in the case of Nuhu Ribadu.

It important to mention that the World Bank recently announced Ribadu as one of the winners of the 2008 Jit Gill Memorial Award for Outstanding Public Service in recognition of his courageous anti-corruption drive in Nigeria, as Head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
It is worthwhile to mention that 13th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Athens, Greece in November 2008 deeply expressed its concern over the fate of Ribadu and the Government of Nigeria and on all governments worldwide to ensure the protection of those speaking out against corruption.
A United Nation project co-ordinator  on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Oliver Stolpe, recently linked Nigeria’s present poor business environment to high level of corruption which is predominately responsible for the  country ranking  121  in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) by Transparency International and 148th position in the World Bank’s ‘Doing business’ report.

The government is certainly aware that past Nigerian leaders who held various public offices in the last four decades looted an estimated $100 billion (about N12. 25 trillion). Ribadu puts the amount looted or wasted at over 380 billion dollars since independence in 1960. This no doubt is a monumental waste.
We wish to declare that this figure, indisputably conceals a much more devastating reality of the damage corruption has caused us as a people. Corruption has robbed our children of their future.  It has deprived our generation of opportunities for development in critical sectors of the economy like Education, Healthcare, Power, Infrastructural development, and at the same time, enthroning core value system that form the bedrock of a just and egalitarian society.

It has been argued by renowned scholars globally that corruption is intrinsically linked to underdevelopment hence we as a people must act collectively to eradicate all traces of corruption in our country. In this regard, it is heartrending that despite the over a trillion Naira received from the Federation Account by immediate past governors of the Niger Delta, unrest, armed insurrection (which now threatens the economy of this country) and abject poverty are still widespread in the region. In fact, one of the states in the region has spent over N80billion on a dubious power project, yet vast parts of the state including its capital is in perpetual darkness. It is worthwhile to state that instances of economically ineffectual projects like this abound all over the country.

Perhaps, Ribadu is a metaphor.  It would be recalled that shortly after the current EFCC boss, Mrs. Farida Waziri, was appointed by this administration in May 2008, no fewer than 12 EFCC experienced top investigators were shown the way out of the Commission. Those who were lucky were later reassigned to the states whose governors they had investigated. We feel this is a major setback for the anti-corruption drive. There are lots of other Ribadus out there who in different capacities have suffered so much for serving the motherland faithfully. The larger implication of the Ribadu witch-hunting is that in future, it would be difficult for his rare courage and candour to be replicated by the younger generation for fear of the same fate befalling them.

For this singular reason, human rights lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), has rejected the National honour of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) conferred on him by the Federal Government. His unequivocal justification for the rejection is that he accused the government of covertly and overtly encouraging corruption and the endless persecution of Ribadu.
NAS calls for immediate reinstatement of Ribadu to the Police force pending the outcome of the matter in court. We also implore the federal government to restrain its officials from further humiliation, molestation and harassment of Mallam Ribadu who at the risk of his life and that of his family had displayed an uncommon courage to combat the scourge of corruption in Nigeria.

Whilst wishing Nigerians the best in the yelutide season, NAS implores Nigerians to be watchful and jealously guard our fledgling democracy.


EMMANUEL BASSEY
PRESIDENT, National Association of Seadogs
December, 2008.

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