Some top federal government officials are making moves to bring former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-Rufa’i, back to the country, THISDAY has learnt.
Although it is not yet clear in what capacities they would return, it was gathered that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is not averse to working with the two men who were instrumental to the successes recorded by the past administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Ribadu and el-Rufa’i fell out of favour with President Umaru Yar’Adua shortly after he assumed office in 2007 and the two men, who are currently on self-exile, were soon charged before the courts for alleged offences which are believed to be politically motivated.
While Ribadu is standing trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal allegedly for violating the Code of Conduct law by failing to declare his assets, el-Rufa’i is being tried by the EFCC over the sale of government property in Abuja. Both of them have denied the charges.
Jonathan, who assumed the role of Acting President last week, has promised to pursue the anti-graft war more seriously as well as focus on power and electoral reforms.
A top government official said last night that Jonathan was ready to work with credible Nigerians anywhere in the world, hence the decision to reach out to Ribadu and el-Rufa’i.
“It is not just the two people you have mentioned. Jonathan has indicated his preparedness to work with the best Nigeria has to offer no matter where they are based, provided they are credible,” the source said.
Ribadu’s removal as EFCC chairman and subsequent demotion and sack from the police force by Yar’Adua is believed to have dented the anti-corruption efforts of the government, with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton saying last year that the EFCC had “fallen off.”
El-Rufa’i was quoted during the week as saying he was ready to support Jonathan if he showed good leadership qualities – a statement said to have rattled prominent figures of the Northern establishment who believe that a Northerner should be president in 2011 to “complete” the tenure of that section of the country in the event that Yar’Adua is unable to continue in office.
“If Jonathan shows real leadership over the next few months, many of us will campaign for him to be our president, and I think Nigeria and the West African sub-region will be the better for it,” el-Rufa’i told Reuters recently.
He added: “Even with the limited time, Jonathan could make a start on priorities such as the amnesty for rebels in the oil-producing Niger Delta, fixing power supply and roads, as well as electoral reforms.”
Ribadu, on his part, praised the elevation of Jonathan to the position of acting president, adding that the resolution of the National Assembly indicated that things are changing for the better in the country.
The former EFCC chairman said he was ready to return to the country to be part of the process of reconstruction desperately needed in the society.
It was further learnt that the government would not be opposed to dropping the “trumped-up” charges against the two men, in addition to restoring Ribadu’s rank, who was demoted by two ranks from Assistant Inspector General of Police to Deputy Commis-sioner of Police before he was finally dismissed for going AWOL (away without official leave) after failing to report for duty in Edo State.
The police disciplinary committee that recommended his dismissal was headed by Ogbonna Onovo, who is now the Inspector General of Police.
When Ribadu was denied his certificate by the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies for failing to wear his police uniform – which would have meant donning his demoted rank and subsequently challenged the demotion in court at the time – it was Jonathan who ordered NIPSS to release his certificate.
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