As the world celebrates the International Anti-Corruption Day, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, ex anti graft czar, has unanimously emerged the winner of the first ever Civil Society Anti-Corruption Defender Award. Mrs Zara Ribadu will receive the Award today on behalf of her husband at a ceremony in Lagos to be chaired by His Excellency, Dr. Arie van der WielNetherlands Ambassador to Nigeria.

Professor Wole Soyinka will give the keynote address, and present the award to Ribadu’s wife.

In a joint statement dated 9 December 2009, by the Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism; Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP); Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC); Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), and Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), which made up the award jury named Ribadu as “our own equivalent of Amnesty International’s Prisoner of Conscience and individual at risk.”

According to a statement to be read at the ceremony on behalf of the award jury by Tayo Oyetibo, (SAN), and member of the board of SERAP, “This is an exceptional gathering for an even more exceptional man. Today the world celebrates the International Anti-Corruption Day, and we consider it a special day to celebrate the courage and commitment of a man who despite obvious personal risks, decided to say ‘enough is enough’, and to give his all to the fight against corruption in Nigeria.”

The groups also called “on the Nigerian authorities in particular the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr. Michael Aondoakaa (SAN) to immediately withdraw all politically motivated charges against Mr Ribadu, and stop using his Constitutional authority and the machinery of the state to harass, intimidate and victimize him. The Nigerian authorities must publicly guarantee Mr Ribadu’s safety and security; and grant him full citizenship rights.”

According to the groups, “Mr Ribadu was chosen for the Civil Society Anti-Corruption Defender Award for leading a courageous anti-corruption drive in Nigeria as a former Head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and because of the persecution, harassment and intimidation he has endured and suffered and continues to suffer in the hands of the Nigerian authorities solely on the ground of his anti-corruption work. It is fair to say that today no other individual has been so persecuted, harassed and intimidated.”

“Mr Ribadu embodies the highest ideals of public service but rather than honouring him for his commitment and courageous anti-corruption work and achievements, the Nigerian authorities have consistently used the machinery of the state to persecute and punish him solely on the ground of his anti-corruption work,” the groups added.

The groups also said that, “As Chair of EFCC, Mr Ribadu provided outstanding leadership in fighting corruption at all levels of Nigerian life. He tracked down high and low-level officials. Mr Ribadu recorded over 300 criminal convictions in 4 years, which included governors; ministers; members of parliament; bankers, and former Inspector General of Police. He has recovered over $5 billion stolen public funds.”

“Mr Ribadu has endured many sacrifices since he was forced out of the EFCC, including two assassination attempts on his life, and his unlawful sack from the police. Persecuted at home, separated from his family; and lonely abroad, Mr Ribadu is now paying the price for his commitment and his work as anti-corruption defender. But he remains a source of tremendous inspiration for all anti-corruption and human rights defenders in our country. Mr Ribadu is indeed our own equivalent of Amnesty International’s Prisoner of Conscience and individual at risk. As such, he deserves recognition and better protection,” the group further added.

The groups also said that “Every government has the duty to bring to justice those responsible for crimes. But when people are subjected to unjust punishment and unfair trials, justice cannot be served. The unjust punishment Mr Ribadu has received over the years demonstrates the Yar’Adua government’s lack of respect for the rule of law and shows that the government is not genuinely committed to the fight against corruption. It is no surprise that Nigeria has performed very poorly in the Transparency International 2009 Corruption Perception Index, ranking 130th of the 180 countries surveyed.”

“This award is intended as an inspirational tool to recognise the courage, tenacity and contributions of outstanding leaderships who have championed reforms for better governance against formidable odds and risks. The award aims at encouraging anti-corruption and human rights defenders who are at risk and therefore in need of immediate protection. This award will be annually granted to recognize the important contribution of individuals and NGOs, working at great risk to expose and eliminate grand corruption,” the groups added.

Born November 11,1960, Ribadu graduated from the Nigerian Law School and was called to the bar in 1984, before joining the Nigeria Police, where he rose to become head of the Legal and Prosecution department, Police Headquarters, Abuja. His 18-year service in the Nigeria Police culminated in his appointment as the pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo government, in 2003.

Ribadu has been recipient of several awards, as a police officer, prosecutor and Chairman, EFCC. He received triple Inspector General of Police Awards in 1997, 1998 and 2000 and the Special Commendation of the Accountant General of the Federation for successfully prosecuting some corrupt public servants, in 1999. Notable Nigerian newspapers including Thisday, The Sun, Leadership, Nigerian Tribune and NewAge, declared him Man of the Year in 2004 and 2005, in recognition of his outstanding achievements as a committed crusader against corruption and other related crimes.  On April 15, 2008, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank) selected Ribadu for the Jit Memorial Award for Outstanding Public Service.

Adetokunbo Mumuni
SERAP Executive Director

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