Friday, October 12, 2007

Re: This Ribadu Again!

Ribadu Again!

By Ngozi Saromi, culled from This Day Newspaper of October 08, 2007.

Tuesday, 09 October 2007

Dele Momodu, publisher of the Ovation magazine and most lately a columnist of THISDAY newspaper, attempts, through his piece of last Saturday [Anti-Corruption War as a Cliché], to heighten the frantic, well-organised and ongoing smear tactics against the EFCC and the person of its Chief Executive, Nuhu Ribadu.

Incontrovertibly, Momodu's opening claim, unsupported by any shred of argument or justification, that "the anti-corruption war has come to a dead-end" is at best a wish rather than a fact that serves the delusion of bringing cold comfort to the dirtiest section of the Nigerian thieving class whose image this article ultimately hopes to burnish. As a word of caution however, the beneficiaries of this image management enterprise will be well served to stick to reality and continue their desperate shopping run for a better apologist because this is indeed a poor entry.

In the twist of Momodu's untidy logic, however, a number of fixations were thrown up and it would be helpful to unpack them in the interest of readers of this famous newspaper and in the interest of the facts as they exist. Arguing that the EFCC, and in some respect the anticorruption war, is a flash in the pan needlessly designed for protection and victimization, Momodu rehashes, in an unfanciful manner, the discredited claims of those who had worked tirelessly in the past to stop the march of accountability on public officers.

The original chorus, made famous by the likes of the garrulous spokesman of the Action Congress, Lai Muhammad, used to be that the EFCC was selective in its operation, but in fairness to even Lai Muhammad he never crossed the line of reason as to suggest that his patrons and paymasters should be immunized from criminal scrutiny solely on account of their status as public officers. At other times other arguments like ethnic bias, disobedience of court orders, that no one could never produce, and most lately the rule of law have been canvassed in a shifting goal post of excuses to discredit the Commission. Coming late in the day to the discussion therefore, Momodu thinks he has to reinvent the wheel of past arguments without as much as injecting fresh breath to the discourse, and this accounts for many of the blunders in his article. He wonders, for instance, why the EFCC is still necessary in the light of the existence of the ICPC and the Code of Conduct Bureau, coyly dropping the hint that this was to merely satisfy the ambition of some principals of the past administration.

It is part of the text of all kindergarten class today that the EFCC is a response to the demands of the Financial Action Task Force of the G-8 nations that had cut off virtually all lines of credit to Nigeria for presumed violations of the global money laundering provisions that the EFCC would later come to address. For the avoidance of doubt also, it must be said loud and clear that the EFCC was not an executive creation but an international demand and condition upon which Nigeria would be admitted back into the global financial community, and it was specifically the National Assembly that rose up to that challenge. How then can such a recent history become the subject of contention? Is it possible that Mr. Momodu, a senior journalist, was unaware of these basic facts? Indeed, for the records, Nuhu Ribadu never met with the past president until well into the work of the EFCC if that will cure Mr. Momodu's taste for conspiracy theory.

Nothing in his article is however as laughable as when Mr. Momodu's attempt to spell out the functions of the EFCC. Why couldn't he just grab a copy of the Act setting up the Commission [which he can even access freely on the EFCC website] and save himself the embarrassment of peddling gossip? In the wisdom of the National Assembly, and knowing full well that corruption in Nigeria is of an endemic and pervasive nature it thought it wise to respond to it through a multi-agency approach.

Since Mr. Momodu's heart aches and bleeds for the police, and since he thinks the creation of the EFCC was designed to weaken it, has he also never heard of specialized agencies in those foreign land where he lived? Has he heard of the NCIS and the SOCA in Britain where the Metropolitan Police and the Serious Fraud Office also exist? Or in the United States that has an endless chain of specialized enforcement agencies? Perhaps Mr. Momodu should restrict himself to the preoccupation of showbiz and stop meddling in higher challenges.

Not everybody as the desire to support the cause of anti-corruption, and if Mr. Momodu elects for this role, no one should grudge him for that, but let him not sow seeds of disorder or disaffection among partners in the campaign. What is to be made of his claim that the EFCC leadership profile is scripted to bypass the IG of Police and The Attorney General?

Facts are stubborn things but the truth is that under the law as it is today the Executive Chairman of the EFCC is not answerable to the IG Police or the AGF. Indeed they both of them serve on the EFCC board of which the EFCC Chairman heads. If he feels bad about this he can head to the NASS but not try to demonize Nuhu Ribadu. It may then be difficult to really address Mr. Momodu's palpable anxieties since, like many of his type, debates like this reinforce the tenacity of doubt within sections of the political class regarding the degree of rigour the battle against corruption necessitates.

For this reason therefore it comes as no surprise that Momodu's article deploys much tirade against Nuhu Ribadu's qualification for his job without an iota of evidence as to what the Chairman justifiably brings to the table. It is indeed a mark of the debasement of argument that a man who has put in about a quarter of century in legal practice as a tough prosecutor; who was actually called to the bar before the AGF; whose many classmates and even juniors are now serving senior judicial officers at the federal and state judiciary is still considered young for his job! Yet we are not talking here of an obscure person but the same Ribadu who by world standards is top of his professional class. Ribadu, as those who have the records know, is no pretender to the home of studious honour? From the same Nigeria Police where he comes from, he was three times winner of the Inspector General of Police Merit Award and was winner of the Accountant-General of the Federation Award for 1999.

Now this may interest Momodu: here is one man whose merited placement earns an honoured and velvet role in the police as one of its most illustrious officers. Ironically, this is the same person Momodu dreadfully sought to denigrate. There may be many but to be sure Ribadu's own place is assured among the ambassadors on the bus from the police who have done much for the restoration of our national image profile but this is the same man Momodu just wants to hang apparently to please some hidden and not too hidden masters. But Momodu must simply slur Ribadu, so he dredges the shallow pool of gossip by dropping the hint that Ribadu was an Assistant Commissioner of Police when he got his EFCC job and that he has risen today to become an AIG. What a revelation! Just so that we all know, the current IGP, Mike Okiro, was Commissioner of Police when Ribadu was Assistant Commissioner.

The same Okiro had a frog jump from Commissioner of Police to Deputy Inspector general of Police yet no tongues wagged. Ribadu was even Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police when the last IGP, Sunday Ehindero, was a Commissioner of Police. So what is so dramatic here? Is this just a tendentious mission of disinformation? The EFCC has come to represent a modest instrument in the national image recovery project in this land either the like of Momodu understands that or not and that process has been under the leadership of Nuhu Ribadu. It is in homage to such fact that a thoughtful section of Nigeria's civil society advanced a contrastive vision to Momodu's posturing vision in a THISDAY advert a couple of weeks ago when they warned that: "While the nation has achieved some recent phenomenal growth in portfolio investment, it must not be forgotten that this has come in the wake of the confidence people have in the fight against corruption; and that tampering with the anti-corruption war portends grave consequences for the recovery of our economy and risk damaging, afresh, the fragile reputation we are in process of rebuilding."

These are people who know full well where we were as a nation, where we are today, and where we can be tomorrow. They know that just four years ago, Nigeria rated miserably as the second most corrupt nation in the world on a nine-year back to back run on the Transparency International ratings. They know that the Financial Action Task Force had delisted Nigeria as a non-cooperating entity with all the implications of that decision for our national economic development. They also knew that the Wolfberg consensus among the world's 12 biggest bank put Nigeria on an international credit blacklist which in essence meant that no self-respecting person could/should do business with Nigeria. These men and women had also taken time to reflect on the education sector, the state of infrastructure in each of our 36 states and the 774 local councils in the country. They have taken an honest look at the many failed national projects like the refineries, the ambitious River Basin projects of the eighties, the Nigerian Airways, the National Shipping Lines, the motor manufacturing sectors, and so many endless aborted hopes.

Above all they have reflected on the challenge that a society like Nigeria which has the challenge of using its powerful voice to present the perspectives of how global justice can be effectively advanced in the developing world has suddenly become a pariah nation, what with a debilitating debt overhang. Here is a nation where enormous resources go hand in hand with the harsh presence of astonishing deprivation and staggering inequality.

Here is also where an amazing number of children are ill-nourished, ill-cared, illiterate and needlessly ill, with thousands perishing every week from diseases that can be completely eliminated. The reality that describes this absurdity is not as abstract as people like Momodu would like it to be, the name of the game is called Corruption. Practised orchestras of opulence like Momodu may not worry about the sources of people's wealth but the days are gone when the opportunity of leadership is converted as an excuse for theft. In this our same country a leader mismanaged $12.6 billion of public wealth and there is still no accountability till date.

To many of our compatriots, it sure looks like ancient history but yesterday is just the day before, so let's try to put it all in perspective. Today, Nigeria has been removed from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list of non-cooperating countries and has been accepted into membership of the Egmont group of Financial Intelligence Units through which she enjoys global cooperation on a broad number of issues that impact on our economic development. The capital market which was modestly capitalized as N2.9 Billion in 1999 is today an admirable resource of N67Billion. Nigeria now has a Fitch Sovereign Rating of BB-- similar to that of emerging markets and is now more attractive to foreign investors. Today the national financial corridor has been reconfigured to yield a robust mechanism vigorous and appropriate to pull our economy to greater, safer heights.

Did all these developments just happen? Nigeria's strong commitment to improve governance by vigorously tackling corruption has been serially cited as a pre-eminent factor in this whole process. All these may be a tall order for Momodu's appreciation. Lacking in a fact-based assessment of the capabilities, operations, and principles of the EFCC, his preference seems to be that the EFCC abandons its statutory roles for the sanctification of blemished Nigerians especially those in high places.

Are we out of the wood yet with all the efforts of the EFCC? The answer is an understandable NO. Beyond the jaundiced and parochial minds of Ribadu or EFCC haters, the answer may well be in the active and relentless work of a plural and cooperating agencies working for a better Nigeria. The Police will always be in a pre-eminent relevance on these matters but it is stupid naiveté to ignore that other specialized agencies will not be needed to deal efficiently with peculiar patterns of cases, like narcotics, immigrant crimes, customs and excise crimes, terrorist financing, financial and economic crimes, cyber crimes, governance crimes etc. No where in the world is it ever found that all forms of crimes are invested in the enforcement response of one huge police operation.

But beyond the challenge of multiple enforcement agencies coming to do their work diligently, citizens must also respond in collaboration and support to move the work forward. Institutions like the media that have laboured for decades for the restoration of a national ethical paradigm surely finds in what the EFCC a unity of purpose does and contrary to the construction of people like Momodu; the EFCC has not for a second tried to induce the media to its purpose. The goodwill has been overwhelming from both the media and the civil society and this is not for nothing since our goals are in tandem on this point of national salvation. No civil society, human rights lawyers, including the leading lights like Gani Fawehinmi, Wole Soyinka and Femi Falana that have worked with us ever demanded or ever received a kobo. The truth is that on no other issue has the media aligned perfectly with the patterns and feelings of the people of this country like on the anti-corruption war.

Whatever anyone says on this there is a loud consensus among Nigerians on the necessity of the war and on the need to bring accountability to bear on breaches. This is what the EFCC has doggedly sought to enforce and promote, and this is what the media have accurately mirrored in its public spirited work. If the likes of Momodu wish to deny this reality what other evidence do they need that they are out of step with reality and with the times? Unfortunately the EFCC is not in the business of singing loud ovation to corruption. Momodu who lived and ran businesses in Ghana for about half a decade without proper legal registration, and without paying taxes in clear abuse of the hospitality of a friendly nation, and who sought to abuse the security of that most hospitable nation recently by invading its sovereign borders by importing armed Nigerian policemen as his body guard certainly has no fitting conception for the notions of crime and punishment. The mistake he will make however is to imagine that those records are unavailable.

Ribadu-bashing is however understandable in an age of tense wrestle between the forces of illness and progress. It is in the nature of corruption to fight back. As those who fight corruption know too well, if you fight corruption, it will respond with virulence and ruthlessness. It has the resources, the will, and the inclination. It certainly also has enough pipers and echo chambers but in the final analysis the point must remain in our minds that it is the soul and future of a nation that is at stake here not the name of Ribadu or the institution of the EFCC and we all take position in relation to how we want our nation to grow or decay.

• Ms. Saromi is a Special Assistant to the Executive Chairman of the EFCC.

Dear Ngozi Saromi,

I read a printed copy of your rejoinder, "This Ribadu Again" addressed to the publisher of the Ovation international magazine, Dele Momodu, to dismiss his questionable insinuations against Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, the Chief Executive of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the This Day newspaper of Nigeria on October 8, 2007.

You have proved to be a very competent Special Assistant as shown by your well researched and well composed article. And I am republishing it on my Nigerian Times Blog and Nigerian Times International Forum, because of your honesty and transparency on the issues raised by Mr. Dele Momodu.

May I know why the EFCC cannot expose and prosecute the case of the former head of state who misappropriated $12.6 Billion of public funds and has gone without accounting for the crime?

Why the former head of state, retired General Ibrahim Badamasi Babaginda, cannot be charged for corruption by the EFCC?
Or are you ignorant of the fact that he misappropriated public funds when he ruled Nigeria for over 9 years?
Or IBB is one of the untouchables and sacred cows, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu does not have the balls to confront and prosecute?
Who is fooling whom, in this case?

What happened to the case of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and partners in crime?

What of the crimes of bribery and corruption in the allocations of oil blocks in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria?

What of the financial crimes in the importation of cement and other goods at the Nigerian ports?

What of the case of the misappropriation of public funds by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the allocation of contracts for the last April elections in Nigeria?

What has happened to the case of the ex-governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, who has been accused by Mr. Asari Dokubo, leader of the Niger Delta People Volunteer Force (NDPVF), of misappropriating public funds and was giving N100 million (one hundred million naira) monthly to the group of Niger Delta militants he was sponsoring between May 29, 1999 and May 29, 2007. Even Ateke Tom, leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante (NDV), said that Dr. Peter Odili is still owing him over N300 million (three hundred million naira) for helping Dr. Peter Odili and their notorious ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) to rig and win the elections in 1999 and 2003.

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu knew what happened during the last April elections and the financial crimes committed by the PDP and other political parties. But what is the EFCC doing to arrest these criminals who have gone ahead to misappropriate public funds at the National Assembly in Abuja and in their respective local government areas and states?
Who is fooling whom, in this case?

Both Asari Dokubo and Ateke Tom are the prosecution witnesses you need for the public trial of Dr. Peter Odili, the ex-governor of Rivers State and Chief. James Ibori, the ex-governor of Delta State.
Lest, we forget, that the other ex-governors are not innocent saints. The smart and clever smooth operators only used their cronies and proxies to misappropriate public funds under the auspices of various tourist projects and public projects. But can the wolves cover their tracks even when hiding in sheep's clothing?

Have you investigated the case of financial crimes committed by the public officers withhoding the pensions of thousands of ex-service officers and public officers in Nigeria?

You mentioned that Mr. Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, Prof. Wole Soyinka and Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, have worked with the EFCC gratis and that means their integrity is not in doubt. Therefore, you can assign them the patriotic responsibility of the judicial investigation and prosecution of the notable ex-public officers I have identified above, for their misappropriation of public funds when they were in office.

I will hold the EFCC accountable if the ex-governors and former head of state escape from public trial for their corrupt practices.

You said:
Here is a nation where enormous resources go hand in hand with the harsh presence of astonishing deprivation and staggering inequality. Here is also where an amazing number of children are ill-nourished, ill-cared, illiterate and needlessly ill, with thousands perishing every week from diseases that can be completely eliminated

Then, those found guilty of causing the deprivations of the poor masses must pay for their crimes against their poor victims in every state of Nigeria.

These evil and wicked looters of our national treasury have misappropriated the revenue allocations meant for sustainable human development and general welfare of the majority of Nigerians and spent their ill-gottten wealth on their self-gratification and aggrandizement.

The sooner we prosecute all corrupt public officers and their criminal accomplices, the better, healthier, safer and wealthier Nigeria would be.

God save Nigeria.

By Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima
The Publisher/Editor
Nigerian Times International Online Media Network
The largest Nigerian news media online

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