Between Malami and Magu (Part I)

Magu and Malami

By Oguntola Niyi

Anyone who knows the genesis of EFCC will not be surprised by the present shenanigans between our Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and suspended Acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu.

Any EFCC Boss that’s not faced with the problem Magu is presently facing at one time or the other while serving in the anti-corruption agency has not achieved anything in that agency. For me, the ordeal that Magu is presently facing is a confirmation of his successes as EFCC Boss. To understand what I mean, I will go into how EFCC was created.

EFCC was founded in 2003 as an agency to lead the battle against money laundering and advanced free fraud scams (419). In 2003, Nigeria was listed on the list of non-cooperating countries of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), thereby making it difficult for Nigerian banks to conclude some international financial transactions.

To solve this problem, the then AGF, Kanu Agabi (S.A.N) came up with the idea of EFCC and he nominated Nuhu Ribadu to be the chairman of the newly created agency. President Obasanjo appointed Ribadu as the first EFCC Chairman, this he did without ever meeting him, he was appointed solely based on the AGF’s recommendation. What this means is that the EFCC is an agency under the Ministry of Justice and the supervision of the AGF and the EFCC Chairman is answerable to the AGF. That ultimately is where the EFCC problem started.

The EFCC act provides that only serving or retired member of any government Security law enforcement agency, not below the rank of an Assistant Commissioner of Police(ACP) or its equivalent can be appointed as EFCC Chairman. Therefore, as at the time Ribadu was appointed EFCC Chairman, he was an ACP.

Just like the NYSC has always been headed by Military Generals because it was created under the Yakubu Gowon military regime, from Ribadu till date, EFCC bosses have always been Police Officers.

Just three weeks after Ribadu was appointed EFCC Boss, he had shut down all the leading foreign letter scam (419) operations in Nigeria. He conducted a well coordinated arrest of a dozens of well known leaders of these groups that basically had factories and home-offices churning out scam letters and FATF finally removed Nigeria from its blacklist. That was how EFCC was born, it became the cynosure of all eyes and Ribadu became Obasanjo’s anti-corruption poster boy, a reason he’s still loved till today.

Ribadu barely started his assignment before EFCC problem itself started, the first problem surprisingly or unsurprisingly (depending on the angle you look at it) came from his boss, the then Inspector General of Police (IGP) Tafa Balogun.

The EFCC act made the IGP a member of the board of EFCC, while the EFCC Chairman is the board Chairman of the agency. This means that during EFCC board meeting, the IGP will sit in a meeting, Chaired by his surbordinate, an ACP, and he would have to seek Ribadu’s permission before he could speak, this, the IGP complained to Obasanjo. He did not only complained, he was pushing for Ribadu’s removal and substitution with a retired IGP.

Ultimately, to correct this structural problem, the EFCC act was ammended to provide that ‘a representative of the IGP’ was to represent the IGP rather than IGP himself. In addition, Ribadu also pushed for the amendment of the act to include power of anti-corruption and miscellaneous offences mandate and he sailed through.

Nuhu Ribadu later revealed that Tafa Balogun wanted him out of the job because Balogun was corrupt and he knew him(Ribadu) as someone that will give him problem. Ribadu vowed to go after Balogun and get him jailed in two years. True to his words, Balogun was out of job by 2005, tried and sentenced to prison. This ultimately proved to anger the police top hierarchy who were loyal to Balogun, even those in the police who did not like Balogun felt the humiliation Balogun(IGP) was made to witness at the hand of Ribadu(ACP) was not good enough for the image of the police, invariably, Ribadu made more enemies for himself with the way he dealt with Balogun. This perhaps explained why almost all EFCC Chairmen have always been at loggerhead with the IGPs, Magu inclusive.

All of these adversities proved to be a preamble of what’s to come for Ribadu as EFCC Chairman. When Yar’Adua took over as President, he appointed Michael Aondoakaa as his AGF and Minister of Justice. Aondoakaa was very uncomfortable with the stubborn, uncompromising and incorruptible Leadership of the Ribadu led EFCC because Aondoakaa was a friend and holding brief for most of the top politicians being investigated and prosecuted by EFCC, notably among them were Former Delta State Governor, James Ibori and Former Rivers State Governor, Peter Odili. Ribadu’s EFCC was prosecuting at least 9 Governors silmutaneously, just immediately after all of them ended their tenure in 2007, they were the first set of Governors to face prosecution.

You will recall that between 2018-2019, the court jailed 3 Former Governors; Jolly Nyame of Taraba, Joshua Dariye of Plateau, and Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia, it was Ribadu that started their cases in 2007. James Ibori was also jailed in Dubai… This will give you an overview of how good Ribadu was as EFCC Chairman

Just like Malami is doing, Aondoakaa did everything to frustrate Ribadu’s war against Corruption. He first attempted to take over the prosecutorial power of the EFCC, which would have rendered EFCC a powerless bulldog, Ribadu resisted. He then connived with the politicians being prosecuted to hire lawyers that will frustrate the cases through legal means. Also through the help of Aondoakaa, who was at some point acting like the personal Attorney to Ibori and not Nigeria, Ibori ‘bribed’ Ribadu and his staffs with $15m in cash, for them to clear him of corruption charges, it was so heavy that no single person could carry it alone, Ribadu collected the money and drove it to the CBN where the money was counted and boxed into small container and presented in court against Ibori…

Ibori was facing corruption allegations and prosecution silmutaneously in UK, Dubai and Nigeria. The UK government wrote EFCC, Ribadu supplied them with the all necessary information needed, over 500 pages volume, they wrote the AGF demanding for further information and Nigeria cooperation needed to prosecute Ibori, but he did not reply and there was a follow-up delegation from the British High Commission in Abuja to the AGF, on the need to respond to the letter, Aondoakaa finally replied but exonerated Ibori of complicity in any criminal proceedings. That was how worst Aondoakaa was as AGF. Eventually, Aondoakaa with the help of Yar’Adua got Ribadu removed. How did they do it?

Before Obasanjo left as the President, he had nominated Ribadu for a second term in office, Unfortunately, he had not sent the nomination to the Senate for confirmation, this omission was what ended Ribadu’s EFCC career. The AGF connived with then IGP, Mike Okiro to include Ribadu’s name on the list of officers the police was sending for a course at NIPSS in Kuru, Jos and it was sent to Yar’Adua for approval, Yar’Adua, who also had grudges with Ribadu quickly approved it. The NIPSS course means that Ribadu will be away for a year, he, therefore, MUST hand over EFCC structure to whoever is the second in command as instructed by the IGP. Before all of these processes could be completed, the AGF has nominated Farida Waziri as Ribadu’s replacement, Yar’Adua approved the nomination and send the name to the senate, without waiting for clearance, Yar’Adua announced Waziri as Acting EFCC Chairman. They did not stop there, Ribadu was demoted two ranks from AIG to ACP (he was giving double promotion from ACP to AIG while serving as EFCC Chairman), he was dismissed from the Police Force. He spent 3-year, from late 2007-2010 in exile and only came back to Nigeria when Yar’Adua died….

Aondoakaa had issues with Ribadu because he was prosecuting his friends, Okiro had issues with him for being ‘disrespectful’, Yar’Adua had issues with him for 3 reasons;
1. Ribadu did not support his Presidential candidacy and even tried to institute corruption charges against him (another topic entirely)
2. Ribadu singlehandedly stopped Dr. Peter Odili from being Yar’Adua’s running mate even when Odili was Obasanjo’s & Yar’Adua’s preferred choice.
3. Ribadu was going after those who helped Yar’Adua become the President, especially James Ibori.

So, while Ribadu’s problems started during OBJ’s administration, nothing could happen to him because OBJ gave him full and necessary support, he was so loved by OBJ that he stood up to him and both had heated argument on OBJ’s plan to construct ‘Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library in Abeokuta’, which Ribadu saw as an act of corruption, he even attempted to frustrate the process, yet Obasanjo retained him and backed him. The contrary was his relationship with Yar’Adua…

Aondoakaa was eventually sacked as AGF in February 2010 by GEJ, as acting President. Thereafter, several petitions was written to the Legal Practitioner Disciplinary Committee on his conduct as AGF, Aondoakaa was striped of the rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) for 6-month. He has since then ‘retired’ with shame from legal practices and became a rice farmer.

I took my time to explain this, for people to know the sort of challenges usually faced by EFCC Chairmen and the powerful people they have to contend with. It’s not an easy task in Nigeria investigating and prosecuting Ex-First ladies, present and serving Ministers, former Governors, MDs of government agencies and parastatals, CEO of Banks, Captains of Industry, retired and serving Military Generals etc. Some of these people are as powerful as the President, in their combined form, they are more powerful than the President. When you fight these people, they will fight back, when they fight back, it takes something beyond God’s grace to win the fight, no EFCC Chairman has won it.

This explains while, from Ribadu to Magu, all EFCC Chairmen/Chairperson have ended the same way. Ribadu was sacked by Yar’Adua and replaced by Farida Waziri, Waziri was sacked by Jonathan and replaced by Ibrahim Lamorde, Lamorde was sacked by Buhari and replaced by Magu… Apart from that, all of them have corruption allegations against them, but none of the allegations against any EFCC Boss have been proved beyond reasonable doubt. It’s simply some powerful people at play. THIS IS MY FIRST REASON FOR STANDING WITH MAGU

Let me however say here that, this doesn’t necessarily mean the allegations levelled against all the former and suspended EFCC Bosses are completely untrue. There’s a possibility of having one or two that are true, but many of them are certainly untrue, unfounded, ridiculous, and utter smear campaign. If not anything, the allegations of Disrespect and Insurbodination are always true, but quite natural, when you have compromised and Corrupt AGF and IGP as your bosses, tell me how you can refute their orders without being insubordinate and disrespectful?

To be continued…

Ogbeni Oguntola ‘Niyi Skrtel