As more facts have emerged over why Aso Rock eased Mallam Nuhu Ribadu out of his former job at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), there are indications that sending him on a course at Kuru was actually a safe landing for him. This is even as the Villa was agog with the story on Friday that there were moves to doctor documents to cover contracts of over N50 million at the EFCC headquarters. The contracts were said to have been used to acquire arms for EFCC operatives, but was not presented for due process test. Contracts of over a million Naira must be presented to the Federal Executive council meeting, but instead, the contracts were farmed out in smaller amounts.
This may be final cause for Ribadu’s redeployment. Presidency sources said the course option was adopted within the past few days instead of some harsher ones that were being considered. The Police Force was not ready to receive him now as his unprecedented three promotions in three years which alienated him from much of the officer corps. Also, the President had actually made up his mind that he would not work with him, even before the May 29th inauguration.
Before Yar’Adua’s emergence as the ruling party’s official flag bearer, he had reportedly sought a meeting with the EFCC chairman but was rebuffed. Though all that changed after he won the party’s primaries and eventually the disputed election, Yar’Adua never forgave Ribadu for the slight. He was one of those penciled down for replacement when Yar’Adua was sworn-in as President but somehow survived the purge as former President Obasanjo came to his rescue.
The source said President Umaru Yar’Adua had decided to change all the heads of the security outfits in the coming year, removing Ribadu from the EFCC was urgent to him as it was widely felt that Ribadu was too attached to the Obasanjo Administration and too politicized to fit into the Unity Government that was being planned. Sources said that the Unity Government idea came from the security services, especially the State Security Service (SSS), and in the memo to Yar’Adua proposing it, changing people’s perception of the SSS, EFCC and even the Independent National Electoral Commission as the President’s instruments of coercion as they were under Obasanjo was stressed. Yar’Adua bought the idea, and that explains why he started electoral reforms early in the day.
About Ribadu, the source said that Yar’Adua told him that he had to go, for he had over-politicized his office for Obasanjo’s sake, but that he would seek out a good posting for him. Yar’Adua actually made moves, as has been reported in the media to get Ribadu a United Nation’s job. Apart from the listed issues, there is the case of Ribadu’s file. The source said: “what to do about Ribadu’s file became a dilemma for President Yar’Adua. Almost on weekly basis, petitions about him kept pouring in. The more the President looked into petitions, the more he became convinced that there was the need to ease him out and get another person to lead the anti-corruption fight”.
It was gathered that one of the petitions that sealed Ribadu’s fate was the well-publicized one that came from the former Plateau State Governor, Joshua Dariye. Even now, despite explanations from him and the British authorities, the Federal Government is still unconvinced and is proceeding with its investigations into the weighty allegations over the missing money and who benefited. Issues of landed properties, using names of under-aged children, friends, relations and companies, when his friend Mallam Nasir el’Rufai headed Abuja administration, were also included.
Other allegations boarder on under-selling of confiscated properties to relations and cronies of EFCC officials, seizure of properties for personal use, and outright blackmail and extortion by operatives, whose lifestyles is said to be too flamboyant for anti-corruption agency staff. In fact the President was said to have been shocked when he learnt that EFCC had raised a team of undercover agents to acquire information regarding ownership of landed property in Abuja ; and that the information so acquired was routinely being used to blackmail people.
One of the last things that forced the President’s hand against Ribadu was the report he got of EFCC’s attempt to set up the Attorney – General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Michael Aondoakaa. According to the plan, the AGF was to be roped into a drug scandal by the EFCC using ex-National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) staff now working for EFCC.
When this came the same week with another damaging report that Ribadu was plotting with Dr. Andy Uba, and others close to the last administration to divide the Presidency, prop up Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to replace his boss if the election petition tribunal eventually annuls the last presidential election, he decided he had had enough of Ribadu. This, said a close aide to Yar’Adua, made the President to issue a statement recently that he was not about to abandon his mandate. It was a reply to Uba (who was angry that Yar’Adua had ordered the re-opening of the double assassination of Igwe and his wife in Onitsha in 2002) and the group backing the Vice President.
After this what remains was to work out the details; that was where Okiro was brought in. The Police I.G. refused to re-absorb Ribadu right away, arguing that any action he took would be misconstrued by Ribadu’s friends in the media. The government has since been worried that the EFCC boss was engineering the media, NGOs, and even some officials of certain political parties to be churning out anti-Yar’Adua press statements.
The source said that Ribadu, while still a Commissioner of Police, bought the Mambilla Street, Aso Drive, residence of Okiro, who was a Deputy Inspector General of Police, for N300 million. The Times of Nigeria was unable to independently verify this assertion.
Now, there are indications that the Presidency will pass on the petitions to Ribadu’s successor for thorough investigation. Aso Rock wants to know why Ribadu refused to act when the money laundering case, using the Presidential jet, was reported against Uba. So too with the bribery allegation scandal against daughter of the former President, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, reported to the EFCC in 2006. Other allegations and petitions are already being dusted up by Aondoakaa for legal actions, and the legal fire works will begin within the next few weeks.