Her middle name might as well be “controversy”. Like her predecessor, Nuhu Ribadu, whose actions were almost always trailed by controversy, Farida Waziri, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has quickly walked herself into a labyrinth of debates arising from the war against corruption. Only recently, a simmering quarrel broke out between the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, following an initiative by Waziri to co-opt ministries, departments and agencies, MDA, of government into her anti-corruption campaign. Waziri’s office had issued a memo to all government establishments requesting for the reactivation of the anti-corruption transparency committee, ACTC, in the agencies. However, the ICPC quickly kicked against this initiative, noting in an advertisement published in national dailies that “ICPC had already established 300 anti-corruption and transparency monitoring units, ACTUs, in all ministries, departments and agencies”. The ICPC directed MDAs to disregard the EFCC directive and adhere only to its own instructions concerning anti-corruption and transparency monitoring units. The stand of the ICPC is that such a directive would amount to a duplication of efforts.
Not long after, the EFCC boss stumbled into another controversy with the arrest of Terry Waya, a businessman from her home state of Benue. Waya was arrested by the EFCC and released the next day. But Waziri has been accused of moving to arrest Waya only to protect him from serious security examination. It is said that President Umaru Yar’Adua, worried by certain reports about the businessman from a governor in the South-south, had asked the State Security Service, SSS, to invite Waya and interrogate him. Waziri allegedly tried to preempt that action by arresting him. Furthermore, the magazine gathered that when the SSS arrested Waya, certain compromising text messages to the EFCC boss were discovered in his phone.
Before the latest controversy, a few weeks ago, Waziri had raised dust in the media when she reportedly said that the case files on the investigation of former governors being charged with corruption had disappeared from the offices of the EFCC. Femi Babafemi, the commission’s spokesman, has since said that his boss was quoted out of context and that she only said that there were really no case files built against the 31 ex-governors. When the magazine raised the question of how many files on ex-governors were inherited by Waziri, Babafemi explained that, “The chairman of the commission never said at any time that case files on ex-governors were missing”. He said further that in response to a question as to why the commission had not started prosecuting the 31 former governors whose case files the EFCC chairman inherited, Waziri had “explained that contrary to that claim, she did not inherit 31 ready-made case files waiting for arraignment, but that when she assumed office, she met only eight cases on ex-governors in court, completed investigation on three others and took them to court. The rest, she said, were files with scanty information that needed thorough investigation that will make the cases standing the test of time”.
Whatever the truth in that particular context, investigations by the magazine show that the EFCC boss had in the past indeed said that there were no files inherited by her on former governors. In an interview in the July 21 edition of Newswatch magazine, a Nigerian weekly, Waziri was asked what she knew about the 23 cases of former governors that Ribadu said were ready for prosecution before he left office. To this Waziri said, “To the best of my knowledge it is not up to that number at all. The case files that are in court, the numbers are clearly known. The ones out here are very few. But most of the former governors have no case file at all. So I don’t really know, perhaps he was talking about the cases of indicted politicians. But I tell you I did not come across the case files because I appointed somebody to take over the case files of these public persons. There are not many cases pending”. She said further that even the few files that she inherited did not have much in them to initiate an investigation. That, our investigations show, is a bare-faced lie meant to set the stage for an agenda, the ultimate aim of which is to stall investigations into corruption allegations of some former governors.
Some sources revealed to the magazine that several files of cases investigated under Ribadu were handed over to Waziri and her aides when she took over. Scores of case files, including those of many ex-governors were handed over to the new leadership after Ribadu left. Eight of the files were those of ex-governors who had been charged to court. These included the files on former governors Joshua Dariye (Plateau), Jolly Nyame (Taraba), Abubakar Audu (Kogi), Saminu Turaki (Jigawa), Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia), Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti), Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu), James Ibori ( Delta) and Lucky Igbinedion ( Edo).
However, competent sources in the EFCC aver that Waziri had always publicly stated that she did not have files on the former governors so as to protect some of them on whom prima facie cases had been built. In fact, one of the sources posited that following a well-orchestrated plan, the new EFCC boss, in a bid to pursue her agenda, had tried to hang the disappearance of the files on Ibrahim Magu, the man who had coordinated the investigation of most of the former governors. Magu’s residences in Lagos and Abuja were raided in July this year, ostensibly in search of some vital missing files. However, none of the files on the ex-governors was found in his houses. Even then, the superintendent of police was arrested and detained for 17 days before he was placed on suspension by the Nigeria Police Force. Perhaps in an effort to iron out the issue of the alleged missing files, Waziri invited Ribadu for a proper handing over recently. But the former EFCC boss wrote to say that having handed over to Ibrahim Lamorde from whom Waziri took over the leadership of the commission, he “recommended that you (Waziri) first direct such request to Mr. Lamorde, who in any case, is the person expected to hand over to you”.
The failure to hang the issue of missing files punched some holes in Waziri’s agenda, it is alleged, which led to her public declaration that she did not inherit any files on the former states helmsmen. But the EFCC boss cannot claim ignorance of the scores of files handed over by Magu as coordinator of the Joint Presidential Task Force, and others to Umar Sanda who was appointed to take over the position. The task force, which had a separate office from the EFCC corporate headquarters, was set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to throw a searchlight on politically indicted persons and verify their assets and finances. The task force was made up of officials of the EFCC, the Nigeria Police Force, Code of Conduct Bureau, ICPC and the Department of State Security. However, in practice, operatives of the EFCC under Magu’s coordination carried out the bulk of the work of the task force.
Divided into teams, this task force handled the bulk of the investigations of former governors. It would be recalled that it was to the task force offices in Asokoro, Abuja, which many of the former governors reported to when they were invited by the EFCC after their tenure expired in May, last year.
The magazine gathered that Magu and the leaders of at least four other teams not only presented to Sanda handing over notes on their stewardship but also handed over the case files of as many as 24 ex-governors. A breakdown of the files that were handed over shows that eight of them had already been prosecuted before Ribadu left office. Contrary to Waziri’s claims that no files were inherited by her, three of the files have actually been used by the EFCC under her to prosecute some former governors. Indeed, the cases of Boni Haruna (Adamawa), Rasheed Ladoja (Oyo) and Michael Botmang (Plateau), which have, since been charged to court by the EFCC under Waziri, were actually investigated under Ribadu. The new EFCC boss inherited the three cases and prosecuted them based on the case files. But from all indications, there are many more of them, and for Waziri to claim that the case files do not exist, it is believed, could only mean that she has an interest in protecting some of those involved in the cases. For the EFCC is in possession of the case files on many ex-governors including Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto), Ahmed Sani (Zamfara), Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna) and Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano). Others include Adamu Abdullahi (Nasarawa), Peter Odili (Rivers), Adamu Muazu (Bauchi) and George Akume (Benue).
There are other files of interest in the possession of the commission, including those of the investigations of Cornelius Adebayo and Femi Fani-Kayode, who served as ministers of aviation at different times under Obasanjo, and others like Victoria Jonathan, wife of Goodluck Jonathan, the Vice President, and Funsho Kupolokun, former group managing director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
However, the case that is perhaps the most relevant in the context of Waziri’s alleged agenda is that of George Akume. In fact, it is alleged that the whole issue of missing files on ex-governors has been orchestrated solely to frustrate any attempt to bring Akume, who is now a senator, to book on allegations of corruption.
The link between Waziri and Akume is not tenuous. They are both from Benue State, and as reported in a previous edition of the magazine, Waziri had in the past acted on behalf of the former governor when the EFCC commenced investigations on his administration. Then, Waziri had approached Ribadu to appeal that the commission tread softly on the matter. Furthermore, when the EFCC seized Akume’s passport after he left office, it was Waziri who stood in as surety to effect the release of the travel document. Although Waziri has denied playing that role, sources confirm that she did sign for the release of Akume’s passport. Akume’s case file with the EFCC shows that the petition against him was filed by Abubakar Tsav, retired police commissioner, on July 20, 2006. The case was investigated for a long time during Akume’s tenure with the commission inviting several officials of his administration to Abuja. The state government actually went to court seeking a declaration that the EFCC was an illegal body, but the case made no headway. The team that investigated the case included Suleiman Abdul (team leader), M. Okorie, Bashir Abdulahi, Oba Amidu and Tunji Jabbaru, then of the ICPC. The case brought against Akume was that of conspiracy, abuse of office, official corruption, diversion of public funds and money laundering. In its interim report, the investigators stated that a case of corruption had been established against the former governor. In fact, there are indications that investigators made some moves to recover from Akume certain assets alleged to have been funded by stolen state funds, including a hotel and a cement factory, but it could not be ascertained if that move was successful. Sources within the commission say that if Waziri wants to prosecute Akume, she has all that is necessary to commence the process and it is one of the most comprehensive case files handed over to her. Another case that has been long concluded is that of Sani who is accused of conspiracy, fraudulent diversion of public funds and money laundering. In all, Sani is alleged to have pilfered about N4.7 billion of Zamfara State’s funds. The EFCC investigation into Sani’s activities as governor is rather curious and interesting. According to a source, Ribadu had declared at a public sitting of the Senate in 2006 that many governors, specifically including Sani, were corrupt. However, it is said, when it was pointed out to the former EFCC boss that no investigation had been carried out on Sani to justify the label slapped on him as a corrupt person, Ribadu reportedly retorted that no governor could serve for eight years without stealing public funds, and there and then ordered that Sani’s tenure be investigated. And, according to the source, the investigation yielded bountiful results as the former Zamfara State governor was allegedly found to have dipped his hands in the state’s kitty. The magazine learnt that some people within the EFCC are working on the theory that the investigators appointed by Ribadu may have reached the conclusion that will not counter the man’s public stance. What is surprising, however, is why the commission would not put to test the veracity of the report that indicted Sani.
Another interesting case is that of Makarfi, former governor of Kaduna State and now a senator, who had several petitions against him, many of them filed by one Mohammed Bashir Saidu. Makarfi is accused of money laundering in the purchase of tractors, buses and rural electrification projects, diversion of public funds and abuse of office. Several billions of naira was allegedly involved.
Also, in an investigation, which commenced in July 2006, the EFCC probed the tenure of Shekarau who allegedly siphoned N2.4 billion of Kano State’s funds. In a petition filed at the EFCC by Bello Gwarzo, a senator, and Rufai Hanga, Shekarau was accused of conspiracy, official corruption and money laundering.
According to sources, many of the investigations had already been concluded before the tenure of the ex-governors expired. For example the cases against Sani, Akume and Makarfi were said to have been concluded long before they left office. They said further that for those that had not been concluded, the investigations had gone far and only required some more work for them to be taken to court. But Babafemi wonders why many of the cases were not charged to court if indeed investigations had been concluded on them. “if indeed 31 case files were ready as claimed, then between May 29, 2007 when these ex-governors lost immunity and June 2008 when Mrs. Waziri came on board, they should have been charged to court as against the eight people taken to court,” he quipped. However, a source explained that after the former governors left office, many of them had to be invited to answer questions because they could not be interrogated while in office as they enjoyed immunity. The source explained further that while many were not readily available, thereby delaying work on the cases, their eventual interrogation led to further investigations which also led to the invitation of others for questioning. All these delayed several of the cases.
As things stand now, there are fears that, considering the recent posture of the EFCC boss, nothing might be heard further on the cases inherited by the new leadership at the EFCC. But for some in the commission, a more worrying situation concerns what is seen as an attempt to undo the cases already being prosecuted in court against the former governors. According to sources, there has been no interest shown in going ahead with the cases. In fact, several steps have allegedly been taken to ensure the stalling of the continuation of the cases. For example, it has been pointed out that many of the investigating officers who handled the investigation of the former governors who have been taken to court and who have been serving as prosecution witnesses in the cases have all been removed from the cases, relieved of their positions in the EFCC and have been transferred to remote places across the country by the Police. Apart from Magu, the commission’s former chief investigator who was transferred to Ekiti State, there is also the case of Bello, the officer who handled the cases against Ibori and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, former governor of Bayelsa State, who was first posted to Rivers State and later to Osun State. Ibrahim Danjuma, an experienced investigator who was head of investigations at the EFCC headquarters has also been transferred to the Police headquarters. Getting these officers to stand as witnesses in the cases in court against ex-governors would now be difficult.
Another worrying aspect of the unfolding drama is the ease with which the former governors facing prosecution have gained freedom from detention. Many of them have been released from detention following applications based on purported ill health. Under Ribadu, when such applications were made and the medical reports were tendered in court, the commission sought second opinion from independent medical sources and when concessions had to be made, it chose the hospital where an accused person was treated. For example, when an application was brought before the court trying Alamieyeseigha, the EFCC subjected the medical report presented to the court to scrutiny and got a second opinion from the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan. And even when it eventually agreed that the former Bayelsa State governor be flown abroad, it arranged by itself the hospital in Dubai where he was taken for treatment. However, now whenever medical reports are tendered and an accused person pleads for release on the basis of ill health, such applications are neither opposed nor a second opinion sought on the state of health of the accused person. Some former governors who have been granted reprieve based on pleas of ill health are found in major capital cities around the country enjoying themselves, even personally driving around in exotic vehicles.
Tsav: Petitioned EFCC on Akume
Akume: Shielded from trial?
Alamieyeseigha: Prosecuted by the EFCC
Ribadu: Handed over to Lamorde
Waya: Protected from prosecution?
Waziri: Provoking controversies
Kalu, Ibori, Igbinedion and Nyame: Investigated by EFCC
Lamorde: Took over from Rebadu
Makarfi, Sani and Shekarau: Investigated but not prosecuted
Yar’Adua: Called for Waya’s interrogation
Magu: Removed from the ex-governors’ case