Testing the Resolve of Anti-Corruption

Issues from the Removal of Nuhu Ribadu

As usual in Nigeria, kites are being flown to see if the real stakeholders, the citizens of Nigeria, sit on the fence and accept the removal of Malam Nuhu Ribadu without making a fuss.  It is obvious that Malam Nuhu Ribadu is getting closer to those who have been robbing and deflating the economy of Nigeria.  Fortunately for those mortgaging the nation and her resources and unfortunately for Nigerians, the removal of Ribadu may not have come too soon.

In a country where sound policies and structures regulate conduct and governance, one should not be unduly concerned about the identity of individuals who head public agencies in Nigeria.  Striving as the country may be, this is not the case with our country.  Nigerians are painfully aware of how our own system works; a system that, sadly, continues to harbor apparatus that empower politically created cabals against its own people.  

As an organization, we are not averse to creating institutions that are system-based, this being a much desired objective of responsible governance.  Indeed, if our systems have been based on sound policies and procedures, such an agency would have been independent of personalities.  But the reality bites – and it hurts.    It would be churlish to assume that EFCC was created around the personality of one man.  That would be doing a disservice to those others who have made that organization one of the truly functional and reputable tools of the war against corruption in the past.  But it is commonly agreed within and outside Nigeria that its inspirational leadership by Ribadu is, perhaps, the single most important reason for its success.  In parlance therefore, the timing of the so called study leave is suspect, distinctly questionable and an inherently retrogressive step in a much desired fight that appeared, at last, to be gaining momentum.    

Serious questions are and will be asked about how this situation came about.  Central to these questions is the nature of the supervision and control of Ribadu’s employment.  Mr. Mike Okiro, Inspector General of the Nigeria Police Force explained that:

"In this particular case, based on seniority, seven police officers have been slated to attend this course at NIPSS and Nuhu Ribadu is number two on the list based on seniority.  That he is going on course does not remove him from being a police officer.  He still remains a police officer.  That does not also stop the anti-graft campaign he is carrying on.  Other police officers who are going on course are not idle.  They have a calling to perform the duty of the police in the country.  Going on course makes them perform better when they come back… So, I don't see any hue and cry that should be raised from Nuhu going on course.  He is a police officer, he must go on course to develop himself and also develop the police."  

This explanation is, at best, nebulous and amorphous.  Ribadu, as is commonly understood, was on leave of absence from the Police.  This was to enable him accept a political office with the Federal Government as chairman of EFCC, an independent federal agency distinctly separate from the Nigeria Police Force.  The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was established by an Act of the National Assembly.  NAS is sure that it will not be long before the strictures of that legal relationship become the subject of closer and more critical examination but our view is that the legal basis for exercising such control is, both flawed and suspect.  To add to this minefield, consider the enabling statute.  EFCC Act (2004), section 3, sub-section 2, Tenure of Office, states inter-alia:

“A member of the Commission may at any time be removed by the President for inability to discharge the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for misconduct or if the President is satisfied that it is not in the interest of the Commission or the interest of the public that the member should continue in office.”

y the afore-mentioned statutory provision, only the President is vested with the power to remove the EFCC Chairman from office, for the reasons so ably explained in the Act.  Has the President reached any of those conclusions?  If so, it seems clear that Nigerians are entitled, if nothing else, to the benefit of a reasoned explanation.  If not, surely something is seriously wrong.  It is an entirely different question if, as seems to be bandied in the public domain, the Inspector General was responsible for the decision that has led to that result. It seems, on a provisional consideration, therefore, that the removal of Ribadu may be outside the purview of the powers of the Inspector General of Police, ab initio.  Furthermore, sub-sections 3 and 4 provide for resignations and occurrence of vacancies.  Would the posting of Malam Ribadu to NIPSS Kuru create vacancy which could have been explored to conveniently remove him? Sub-section 4 of the Act (2004) provides that:

“Where a vacancy occurs in the membership of the commission, it shall be filled by the appointment of a successor to hold office for the remainder of the term of office of his predecessor, so however that the successor shall represent the same interest as his predecessor.”  

The nation has always been compromised by the ruling elite.  NAS fully expects that President Yar ‘Adua should manfully resist the pressure of the considerable number of quite influential but inherently dishonest Nigerians for whom Ribadu, EFCC and its work have represented existential nightmares.  To succumb to this pressure – and one that will be evidently present throughout his presidency – would be tantamount to joining the enemies of Nigeria.  Much of Nigeria’s revenues have been siphoned by a number of miscreants who have abused the privilege of leadership in Nigeria.  There must be a clearly identified, transparent and integrity-driven process for making Nigerians in leadership more accountable than has been the case.  The EFCC, with all its alleged failings, was the one organization that provided this control.   The Nigerian nation will have its required progress significantly curtailed if the economic saboteurs in our midst are not brought to justice.  Ribadu and his team of operatives were, unquestionably, the best that Nigerians have seen in a very long time and as such his redeployment, without the right reasons, we believe, may have effectively truncated the war against corruption.   For this government, his removal creates significantly higher obligations than retaining him because the manner in which EFCC will now be managed will provide the truest and most searching enquiry about this government’s commitment to fighting corruption.

We watch, with interest.

Professor Olatunde Makanju
NAS Capone
National Association of Seadogs, NAS

December 31, 2007

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