FORMER Justice Minister and Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), has pointed out anomalies in the purported removal of Malam Nuhu Ribadu as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In a protest letter to President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Agabi described the timing of the action on Ribadu as wrong, though Nuhu Ribadu, like any human being, he admitted, is not indispensable.
In a tone dripping with emotion, Agabi. who is known to have recommended Ribadu for the EFCC job, said that if the action was not reviewed, Nigeria could become a laughing stock in the international community and its anti-corruption crusade condemned.
The former minister, during whose tenure Ribadu was appointed, told President Yar’Adua that he received the news of the Federal Government’s action with sadness, lamenting that Ribadu’s transfer from the anti-graft body could spell doom for the nation.
He told the President not to waste the goodwill he enjoys from Nigerians over his much publicized zero tolerance for corruption.
Agabi said that God favoured President Yar’Adua for the office because of his sterling qualities and urged him not to squander that mandate.
He remarked that Nigeria would survive Ribadu, adding that the government has the right to send him on course, except that it came at a time speculations were rife in the media about the plan.
In the letter made available to The Guardian yesterday, Agabi wrote: “I congratulated you shortly after your election as President of our great nation. I do so again. I will never cease to thank God by whose grace you have become our leader. And I will never cease to thank you whose life of merit and sacrifice God has rewarded by your elevation to this highest of all offices.
“God has blessed you eminently, but may He bless you a thousand times even more as you labour to lift our country out of this valley of shame and corruption. By His grace, you will shield us from all the evils that now menace us on every side.
“I was sad, and so I think, were many Nigerians, when it was first rumoured that the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission would have to leave office for nine months to attend a course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). I have great respect for that institution and I have often wished that I had the opportunity and the privilege to benefit from the courses offered there. And I have no doubt whatsoever that the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will come away from that course a much better man than he is now. At the same time, I am firmly convinced that to move him away now will give the impression to well meaning Nigerians and foreigners that your government is indifferent to the fight against corruption. The more reckless of our critics will even say that we now support corruption.
“We had hoped and we continue to hope that you are the President whose every thought, word and deed will pave for the nation, indeed the African continent and the black race a new path of righteousness without which we will continue to be stigmatised by the rest of the world as a backward, corrupt and primitive people.
“What you are called upon to decide now, therefore, is not just the fate of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission but the fate of our country, our continent and the black race. That is not to say that the Chairman of the Commission is indispensable. No, he is not. The country will survive him. And so will the Commission. I dare say that there are many Nigerians who can do as well or even better than he is doing. It is the timing that we are worried about. It comes shortly after justifiable suspicion that some attempts have been made to remove him from office and at a time when our newspapers are rife with comments casting aspersions on our sincerity.
“To move the Chairman of the EFCC away now will undermine the good work that you are doing. So effective have you been in the short time that you have been in office that even your mere silence achieves results. It will also undermine the good work that the Inspector General of Police is doing to rebuild the Police Force after the reputation of that institution was damaged by the fate that befell the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has championed so eloquently and so consistently. Saddest of all, those whose activities led to the establishment of the Commission will see this as a triumph and a victory for themselves.”
Agabi continued: “I concede that mistakes have been made in our fight against corruption. So it is all over the world. Corruption can never be fought perfectly. If ever we are able to attain that level it will be at a time when there is no more corruption to be fought. So I am of the respectful view that whatever mistakes that are being made or have been made in our fight against corruption should be corrected while the fight goes on. As Williams Shakespeare said; ‘men, rather their broken swords, use than their bare hands.’ Let us not throw away single weapon that we have. Let us make the best use that we can of it. Let us correct ourselves and move forward.”
In conclusion, he wrote: “I write this letter to you with a prayer to God that you will see fit to grant my request made in good faith in what I perceive to be the interest of our country. I appeal to you to stay action on the move to send the Chairman of the EFCC on a course of studies. There will always be time for that. The love and respect which I bear you do not permit that I should be silent at this time. At the same time, I approach this matter with a prayer for forgiveness in case you should think that I ought not to have written as I have done.
It is a privilege, my beloved President to write to you but I shall feel even more highly honoured if you give some thought to my appeal. Amen,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole has said that the House would look into the law on the appointment of the chairman of the EFCC and other directors to ensure that it follows due process.
He stated this yesterday at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos on his return from Kenya while reacting to the Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro’s action of sending Ribadu on course to the NIPSS, Kuru, Jos.
Dimeji, however, frowned at the furore the issue had caused, stressing that “it is normal for superior officers to ask junior officers to go on course” but noted that the House would definitely look into the method used in carrying out such decisions and ensure that it follows due process.
His words: “The House will look into the laws concerning the appointment of the EFCC chairman and other directors there and if the law was followed no problems. But if the rule of law was not followed, then we will ask questions.”
– The Guardian