Anti-Corruption in Nigeria:
Holistically Speaking, Nuhu Ribadu is spot on!
Ladies and Gentlemen, I dare say, as I always argued in the past, that without a credible, systematic and enduring anti-corruption effort in our development effort, we would remain shackled forever. Besides, our citizen-fold will remain in squalor, our cities will continue to fail, hunger and illiteracy will remain a norm, while human rights abuses, as well as electoral and judicial impunity, will reign supreme.
The Arrowhead of Anti-Corruption
Nobody in the recent political history of Nigeria since the re-introduction of democratic governance has given of himself single-handedly to the fight against the institutions of corruption and instruments of corruption in Nigeria like Nuhu Ribadu. In the process, he has been maligned, called a hypocrite, criticized and vilified for his ‘selective prosecution’ of criminals and politically exposed persons who were investigated and found to be corrupt. He has also been honored with Fellowships and Seminal Invitations since he chose to go on exile in both London and Washington DC not as a policeman or as a lawyer, but as a trail blazer in the fight against corruption as the chairman of the EFCC in Nigeria. To say he is controversial is an understatement. He has earned his stripes as a Son of Africa in anti-corruption. It is no surprise that he was invited by a committee of US Congress to testify regarding Aid and development, or that he was awarded an honorary Doctorate Degree at Babcock University. Regarding the latter, Nuhu Ribadu chose the occasion to speak concerning his one passion, the fight against corruption in Nigeria. You may accuse him of a lack of nuance, maybe a lack of finesse, but you cannot fault him for his passion regarding anti-corruption. He had a bully pulpit and he put it to good use for a good cause.
In his remarks at Babcock University, not only did Nuhu Ribadu situate the fight against the societal ills as it affected the common man, he brought it closer home and gave what example everyone had taken judicial notice of. Were we not all public spectators here when the new Attorney General of the Federation (Nigeria) post-2007’s first publicized act was to seek to curb the powers of the EFCC through a memo to President Yar Adua? The enlightened public, especially the legal community, was aghast that the AGF would seek to control the powers of prosecution of one of the few organs of state that was visibly result-oriented and making a difference. Were we not all skeptical when Nuhu Ribadu was sent to Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Kuru immediately after James Ibori was arraigned by EFCC on corruption charges? Did we not witness Nuhu Ribadu who had been doing his job like no policeman in recent past has done being demoted in rank, then prevented from attending his graduation ceremony at NIPSS with the active involvement of the AGF?
A Clash of Titans
Every one knew that the main drivers of the Yar Adua’s legal policy to frustrate and hound Nuhu Ribadu’s war against corruption was the duo of Michael Kaase Aondoakaa (SAN) of whom a Federal High Court ruled not fit to hold any public office, and, James O. Ibori, a man wanted for crimes in London, England. So Nuhu Ribadu is competent to submit that:
‘From Asaba to Markurdi, from Dubai to London, they will run from pillar to post, and try to erect barricades on our path to national salvation, while hiding from justice. They will try to impede or even kill our national hope and aspirations to build a country that will be the pride of all citizens, including the young men and women graduating from this university.’
Both Michael K. Aondoakaa (SAN) and James O. Ibori had their shot at public office and a right to choose what they would want to be remembered for. From Makurdi to Asaba and beyond, even London, we know what these men stand for, and if you take a poll of enlightened Nigerians, you will find a consensus that these men represent for now, the face of institutional corruption in Nigeria’s legal system. Between both men, a Federal High Court Division was created overnight in Asaba; a case which was already before a competent Judge in Kaduna was moved to Asaba and given priority over the plethora of cases before our Federal High Courts; and a record 187 charges were dismissed in one fell swoop in time for the Juris or proxy to write to the London Court trying Ibori’s accomplices in Money-Laundering! Not to mention the office of the AGF writing memos to absolve alleged criminals in foreign lands alleged to have stolen from his jurisdiction, an unheard of novelty!
Kenn Emetulu in his piece of the above title had submitted as follows:
But having being (sic) on self-exile for a year and half, studied at Oxford, mixed with progressive Nigerians worldwide, worked around the globe and seen at close quarters how the anti-corruption work is done in places they are effective, one would think Ribadu would have taken note that the war isn’t won by newspaper pronouncements and that his credibility is bound to be diminished if he’s seen to be waging personal battles or making personal attacks against political opponents, even if they’re people accused of corruption. When all is said and done, he needs to be aware that no court in the country has convicted Ibori of corruption yet. As a public official or someone in the public eye, he needs to take note of this, no matter his personal opinion on the guilt or otherwise of Ibori or Aondoakaa.
With the greatest respect, I read the whole of Ribadu’s speech at Babcock and did not come away with the feeling that he was launching a ‘personal battles’. On the other hand, I believe he laid out what he thought was the approach we ought as a society to tow, while revealing his experience as a crime fighter. Further, he was not at the event as a representative of the government of Goodluck Jonathan, and if there has been a position offered to him (and accepted) as an anti-corruption fighter or Presidential Adviser, it has not been made manifest, so he still remains a private citizen who had once served his country meritoriously against all odds. Regarding his remarks on the persons of Michael Aondoakaa (SAN) and James Ibori, it would be overbearing to suppress his remarks on what he knows about them because ‘no court in the country has convicted Ibori of corruption yet’. Would it be far-fetched to wait on the same courts that Ibori stands accused of using his influence to corrupt? The same Ibori who is a fugitive from the law? The same Ibori whose sister and mistress were only last week convicted and sentenced to serve term for money laundering on his behalf? The same Ibori of whom the lawyers for his accomplices in their allocutus maintained that he had much influence in Nigeria? Wait until Ibori is convicted in Asaba Federal High Court before remarks are made about his alleged corruption? Would this be the Nigerian courts a usually reticent Judge said the following of:
‘I want to make it absolutely clear that Nigeria’s judiciary was usurped. Countries who are signatories to fighting corruption and money laundering must live to the full letter of their commitments. I would therefore apply the full weight of the British law to serve as punishment and deterrent’.
That a court of competent jurisdiction has not convicted Ibori of corruption yet, is an indictment of our legal system- a corru
ption of the system that also needs to be addressed promptly.
Nuhu Ribadu while speaking empirically, further posited
‘However there is merit in the argument that new times call for new strategies and that a sustainable anti-corruption programme in Nigeria must wear a new look. We must invest, through massive resource allocation, a transparent as well as a redoubtable political will, in model government agencies that produce results through an inclusive stakeholder charter of development.’
Extant studies in this area bear him out.
‘Reform strategies should take account of widely differing economic, legal and political contexts. Effective anticorruption reform strategies should take account of widely differing economic, legal and political contexts. Effective anticorruption strategies need to be tailored to the social environment in which corruption occurs.
‘Why some nations experience more political corruption than others is a question of both empirical and normative importance. Corruption constitutes a drag on economic performance (Knack and Keefer 1995; Mauro 1995; Lambsdorff 1999), and also reduces the legitimacy of government in the eyes of the governed (Seligson 2002; Anderson and Tverdova 2003). It thus has major consequences for both economics and politics. When the proceeds of corrupt transactions are directed into electoral contests, as appears to be the case in various advanced democratic nations where political competition is expensive and winning public office highly desirable, corruption is also directly corrosive of democratic accountability.’
Nuhu as an anti-corruption cop had first hand empirical experience both in his personal capacity as well as a Nigerian; he was a competent person to relate his story, more so, as it was a matter of public notice that he was hounded into exile by virtue of his work on behalf of Nigeria. If he identified that the major drivers for now, of corruption be in Makurdi, Asaba or Dubai, he speaks in context, if he mentions them as he knows them, after all institutions are set and run by humans. Without a doubt, James Ibori was one of the controllers of the Institutions of State while Yar Adua was alive. The culture of impunity has been identified as a stage in the democratic process that unless halted may spiral away to pervade all systems. Our young graduates need a future and a hope that theirs will not be a Wasted Generation. I think Nuhu Ribadu, more than any recently, has earned the right to direct the young. That the government entered a nolle prosequi in his alleged trial or that he ought to have insisted on his full trial is a non issue, because he ought not to have been arraigned in the first place if they had possession of the facts of his declaration of assets before them.
Truly speaking, in the reality of our nation today, an anti-corruption programme must get an elevation to be located at the very core of a national security imperative.