Truths, Lies And My EFCC Days By Nuhu Ribadu
I read Mahmud Jega’s Daily Trust column a fortnight ago, with the title “Gra-gra Versus Softly-softly”. It was composed in his characteristic meticulousness which also touched a nerve that concerns all. It also involved me, personally. It involved me because the piece was not only about anti-corruption struggle, something I came to be more identified with in the course of my career, but also because I was mentioned, or referenced to, many times in the piece.
In the piece, Jega repeated several erroneous notions about my work at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). But to be fair to him, those insinuations were far from being his concoctions. They have been held for a long time by a section of Nigerians who were largely misinformed about the modus operandi of the EFCC I headed, or about me as a person. I therefore thought it a duty to correct some of the wrong impressions people have about what we did, for the sake of futurity and the reading public.
I must, however, appreciate many of the positive things about our operations and modest achievements at the EFCC highlighted by Jega. Those were things we achieved largely because of our resolve to form a strong and professional agency, from the outset. Strong institutions are at the base of whatever things to come out of a system. This was a major focus for us. There were deliberate steps at capacity building that would prove extremely advantageous for the work we did in the five years I was there. I use “we” because the work was never a one man job. EFCC was beyond Nuhu Ribadu, or any individual for that matter. It was a team work. The patriotism, esprit de corp and professionalism exhibited by the team were the secrets for our successes.
But as I always insist, success of anti-graft efforts is hinged largely at the leadership level, especially the political leadership. We were lucky to have the cooperation of the leadership at the time. To the credit of President Olusegun Obasanjo, he let us do the work even at a time we were going against some elements that were extremely close to him. It is therefore amusing when I hear people these days charge me of “selective justice”. Well, perhaps those charges could be passed as the example of what Wole Soyinka called “ our collective amnesia”. Take a comprehensive list of high profile people EFCC brought to justice, majority of them were people that could be correctly tagged “Obasanjo boys”. Even though some of them suddenly turn around the moment they found themselves in trouble with the law, as a way of buying public sympathy. Unfortunately, many people don’t strive to stretch the facts to reveal this truth. One largely neglected pillar of our work was the Judiciary and the criminal justice system generally. We had the support of other people in the justice administration chain. Without the will of incorruptible judges and other law enforcement officials, all our modest effort would have come to nought.
However, the main thesis of Jega’s essay, which was also made clear from the title, was that the EFCC I headed was something of a gra-gra agency — a body that is peopled with exuberant officers eager to arrest suspects in order to hit the headlines. This is a flawed assessment of it. It is also something that people come to believe, largely on account of the agency’s portrayal in the media. EFCC was, and is, never about arrests. In fact, arrest was just a fraction of the entire work. But because arrest is what makes the news, the myriad of steps and processes we follow before and after arrest are mostly overlooked.
Every step in administration of a corruption case is carefully outlined and has its rigours and identified procedures. A lot of work would have to be put in from the point of accepting a petition or starting a case, analysing it, identifying the key issues and persons, investigation, sourcing documents, obtaining arrest and search warrants, preparing charges and then arrest. We tried to work on each of the steps in a very meticulous manner. It is a little surprise therefore, that throughout my period there was only one person who took me to court challenging his detention by the EFCC. He also lost the suit. The reason was simple: we followed the law and therefore had to do our homework before we pick anybody. Similarly, to point to the meticulous nature of what we did, it is in record that the EFCC recorded a world record of over 90 percent convictions on all the cases we prosecuted. I don’t think gra-gra would yield these results.
It is also incorrect to say that EFCC didn’t pursue preventive measures as regards corruption. We fully appreciated the fact that the twin strategy of prevention and sanctioning must always go together in law enforcement in general and fighting corruption in particular. The preventive measures of the EFCC were often overshadowed by the news selling headlines about arrests but EFCC took a lot of preventive measures. Major ones include the establishment of the Training and Research Institute that has been carrying out studies on corruption prevention in both public and private sectors. The institute is in the lead in training of detectives, public servants, bankers and so many others in Nigeria today.
The former governor of Ekiti state had his own local issues. He lost out with the elite of the state, his political party, and other stakeholders. His ordeals had nothing to do with the EFCC. In all the cases, it was obvious that the governors lost out with their political parties and therefore the assembly members were more than willing to act on the thorough investigation reports of the EFCC. The reports were the extent of EFCC’s involvement in those impeachments.
As a proviso, I want to state that all the actions we took while at the EFCC were taken with the purest of intentions and based on available facts before us at the time. But it is understandable that in everything we do as humans, we are bound to be misunderstood. However, fear of being misunderstood should not be an excuse for not moving to salvage our country. As citizens, we all have the civic responsibility of playing our part in healing the country of its myriad of maladies and guiding it to the coast of prosperity.
— Ribadu is former EFCC chairman
Do not hesitate to leave your opinion in the comment section below.
To contact Abusidiqu.com for Article Submission and Advertisement or General inquiry, send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org