By Elor Nkereuwem:

Nuhu Ribadu, the former chief of Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has accepted an offer from Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, to be his special adviser on anti-corruption, good governance and sundry matters.

Nuhu Ribadu

Nuhu Ribadu, the former chief of Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Presidency sources said at the weekend that Mr. Ribadu is expected to resume “in a matter of weeks” in Abuja. As part of his remit, Mr. Ribadu will be the presidential anchorman supervising the broad anti-corruption platform of the country which includes his former agency, the EFCC; the ICPC; the Code of Conduct Bureau and other related agencies.

He’s back

Mr. Ribadu confirmed this in a telephone interview with NEXT at the weekend.

“Frankly I don’t want to be drawn into any political discussion,” he said. “But let me say it is true that I have been contacted. I also think it is only honest to say that Acting President Jonathan appears to have a keen understanding of the cogent priorities facing our nation which is currently teetering on the brink of disaster. It is probably right to also say he is taking the right steps on those critical priorities. For this reason, I believe it is the moral duty of Nigerians to support all efforts to save our country.”

Mr. Ribadu is, at the moment, winding up a plum fellowship at the Centre for Global Development (CGD), a think tank in Washington D.C. dedicated to international issues of development. During his fellowship at the CGD, he was the lead person for the centre on anti-corruption, institutional reform, and African law enforcement policy. During this same period, he undertook special missions to advise many African countries who were just setting up anti-corruption and financial intelligence agencies.

Among the notable institutions that he consulted for were the World Bank and the United Nations (UN).

Mr. Ribadu also consulted for a host of western authorities including the United States government and the European Union (EU).

Presidency sources in Abuja said they expect Mr. Ribadu to meet with Mr. Jonathan, who will be visiting Washington at the invitation of the US president, Barack Obama, next week.

Ribadu’s troubles

The former anti-corruption czar, for the past two years, had been in a running battle with the Umaru Yar’Adua led government, culminating in Mr. Ribadu’s exile and the decision to take up fellowship offers, first at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and then CDG in the US.

Last year, Mr. Ribadu admitted the decision to leave Nigeria was for self preservation. “I had to leave the country on January 3 this year (2009) after a relentless persecution which climaxed in two assassination attempts,” he said in November.

At the height of his troubles with Nigeria’s ailing president, Umaru Yar’Adua, who has not been seen since he took an emergency medical vacation five months ago, the former EFCC boss was dramatically charged to court with the alleged failure to properly declare his assets during his tenure as the EFCC chairman.

Mr. Ribadu was said to have failed to produce an asset declaration form, which is a crime for all senior public officers who do not do so, according to the Nigerian constitution. The Fifth Schedule of the 1999 constitution mandates all public office holders to declare all their assets.

Mr. Ribadu however consistently refutes the charges and said that he had not defaulted in the asset declaration procedure. According to him, his asset declaration forms were “submitted on assumption of office in March 2003 and (on) my exit from office in December 2008. I assert that there is no substance to this case; that my assets were (not) declared. How could I have been confirmed for my position in 2003 if I did not submit an asset declaration form to the Senate, as all officers needing senate confirmation are obligated to do?”

Insisting that the forms are in the safe custody of the Code of Conduct Bureau, Mr. Ribadu further urged the Code of Conduct Tribunal to call for the documents. “Is it also not in the power of the Tribunal to simply order the Code of Conduct Bureau to produce certified true copies of my asset declaration if this is what truly concerns the Tribunal?” he asked.

In the clear

Last week however, the federal government indicated its desire to withdraw its case against Mr. Ribadu at the Code of Conduct Tribunal last week, admitting that it had no case against the former EFCC boss.

Mr. Ribadu’s fight with the government is seen to have come to an end as the former anti-graft boss prepares to return home after months of exile abroad.

The former anti-corruption czar is looking forward to it. “It is important for us to know that the nation has lost a huge ground in the past two years (and) it would take the collective effort of all patriotic Nigerians to work for the restoration of their country. I certainly look forward to coming back soon,” Mr. Ribadu said.

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