As earlier reported by Saharareporters, it is now official. The Presidency today announced that all cases of corruption initiated by the EFCC and ICPC will have to be prosecuted by the office of Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
This was the outcome of series of meetings by the ex-governors led by Chief James Ibori with Umar Musa Yar'adua as reported by Saharareporters yesterday. Yar'adua is said to have assured Ibori of the decapitation of the EFCC as a "birthday gift", meanwhile Chief Ibori celebrated his birthday on Saturday. All the ex-governors were said to have jubilated over the decision of the federal government to take away prosecution powers from the EFCC and ICPC.
"It is victory for their investments in the Yar'adua presidency" billowed a grossly disappointed Nigerian, Chris Eneh.
Though the Presidency said the latest action was not intended to shield anyone, it runs counter to the past policy of the Federal government when the Attorney General and Minister of Justice would travel to the UK to depose to affidavits in support of the Metropolitan Police in London in their prosecution of former governors. It was the case with DSP Alamieyeseigha and Joseph Dariye.
Chief Ibori and his ex-governors were busy celebrating the decision by Yar'adua in Edo State where a burial ceremony of another person was turned into his impromptu birthday bash last Saturday.
Our earlier story:
New Plan Afoot to Defang the EFCC
A number of former governors facing imminent prosecution for stealing billions of naira have come up with a plan to effectively emasculate the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Last week, some of the ex-governors held marathon meetings with Umar Musa Yar'Adua to put pressure on him to rein in the EFCC.
Saharareporters learnt that the move to gut the EFCC was spearheaded by former Delta State governor, Mr. James Ibori, and Kwara State governor, Bukola Saraki. Last week, the London Metropolitan Police received a nod from a British court to freeze Ibori's assets estimated at more than £20 million.
Upset that the EFCC had instigated the freezing of his ill-acquired assets, an irate Ibori pulled what he considers a joker during his meeting with Yar’Adua. Known to have ploughed N10 billion naira into Yar'Adua’s presidential campaign, Ibori warned that he reserved the option—if put under EFCC arrest—to open up about a few secrets. For one, he threatened to reveal how he was blackmailed by Obasanjo to fund the Yar'Adua campaign. According to our source, Ibori reminded Yar’Adua that Obasanjo had promised to spare him further investigation by the EFCC if he agreed to invest N10 billion in Yar’Adua’s presidential bid. He expressed dismay that Yar’Adua had allowed the EFCC to violate the terms of the deal.
Apart from being the main financier of Yar’Adua’s campaign, Ibori had also provided aircraft for use by Yar'Adua and members of his campaign organization. Jets from Wings Aviation Airline, owned by Ibori, were used to ferry Yar’Adua and his operatives to PDP campaign rallies across Nigeria.
Our source said Yar'Adua was aware of Obasanjo’s offer of protection to Ibori, but decided to demur after receiving disturbing security reports. One security report warned that a military coup was in the offing using as justification the pervasive corruption of ex-President Obasanjo and former state governors.
After reviewing the report with his security advisors, Yar’Adua invited EFCC Chairman Nuhu Ribadu and reportedly told him he was free to proceed with the prosecution of corrupt officials, especially ex-governors. Armed with the marching orders, the EFCC moved to begin the prosecution of the first batch of ex-governors.
Last week, the Army and the Navy retired a number of top military personnel last week. Both service arms denied that the retirements had anything to do with a coup plot.
Yar’Adua’s decision to allow the arrests of ex-governors was also influenced by another security report indicating that some former governors met recently with former Vice President Abubakar Atiku in Monaco, France. Atiku and some former governors were in Monaco to attend the wedding of Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese businessman. The Chagourys were close allies of former Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha. Ibori and former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, were among the guests at the multi-million dollar wedding extravaganza in Monaco.
The security report suggested that the ex-governors had talks with Atiku on how to move against Yar’Adua.
The former governors’ campaign to stifle EFCC may have come up with a strategic plan reportedly endorsed by Yar'Adua. Both Yar’Adua and the ex-governors recognize that Ribadu’s removal from the EFCC would prove highly controversial and hard to justify. Instead, they are working on a plan to limit the commission’s powers to “investigations only.” Under the plan, anyone found culpable of corruption would then be referred to the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice for prosecution. It would be up to the Attorney General to decide whether to proceed with prosecution—or back down.
The former governors are said to be in cahoots with the current Attorney General, Michael Aondokaa, who is a known ally of Atiku. Last week, Aondokaa addressed a widely reported press conference where he promised to rein in the excesses of the EFCC.
Last week, Ibori admitted to a Lagos newspaper that the London Metropolitan Police had obtained an order to freeze his assets. Seeking to play down the embarrassing setback, he described it as a "restraining order" that prohibits him from “interacting” with his assets in the UK, US and Canada.
Barring a stop order from Yar’Adua, the EFCC is on the cusp of closing in on the former Delta State governor. One source told Saharareporters that Ibori stole the most from his state treasury of all the former governors.