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Our Position on Nuhu Ribadu

by CFN

Only the unintelligent optimist would have failed to observe subtle moves since the inception of the Mr. Umaru Yar'Adua administration to weaken anti-corruption efforts in Nigeria. It cannot, therefore, be stunning to hear that the last bold move to remove the remaining block in the immensely strong Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) - the plot to send its Chairman, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, to a useless training program that has helped to breed the most corrupt administrators in the country - has been hatched. It is a shame, a repugnant outcome for a government that ought to be very humble before Nigerians. It is a distraction we unambigously reject.

It is not the first time that Mr. Ribadu would be rumored to be on the way out as the nation's anti-corruption czar. However, it is the first time any government official would have the guts to stand before Nigerians and say so. Within a month of Mr. Yar'Adua's "coronation," fillers in the media had indicated his relunctance to follow through on ridding the nation of top flight thieves running the governments at all levels. Names of supposed inheritors of the EFCC were given by newspaper correspondents, and it was thought Ribadu's tenure was in jeopardy.

The Citizens for Nigeria was one of the civic organizations that mounted opposition to the move, and the Yar'Adua administration, perhaps not as bold and confident at the time, immediately yielded by insisting the war on corruption was on course and publicly declaring support for Mr. Ribadu. Within a week, about five known corrupt governors were in the EFCC's kitty. A go-ahead by the Presidency was all it took to fight corruption seriously.

Hopes raised for a few days were immediately dashed when the President contradicted his avowed commitment to fighting corruption by meeting quietly with some of the same governors that the EFCC had just questioned. The behavior of Mr. Yar'Adua's streetwalking Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, and the refusal of the administration to dispose of the Minister, provided the most convincing evidence that the war on corruption was about over.

Mr. Aondoakaa, former counsel to some of the most frightening looters, sits over the administration's attempt to bring these looters to book. He has since led the official bid to whittle down the corruption war, only reversing himself when faced with public opposition. The Attorney General showed so much apathy to investigating cases of corruption that, for a while, it seemed the British Police had taken over the functions of the EFCC, as it took up cases that the Nigerian government palpably ignored.

Fighting against internal opposition, the EFCC, led by Mr. Ribadu, continued to wade through stormy waters, bringing new cases against persons like Mr. James Ibori, perhaps the most corrupt governor in Nigeria's history, who coincidentally bankrolled the election of President Yar'Adua together with his peers using stolen public funds.

It is not too difficult to see why the Yar'Adua administration refuses to tackle corruption head on. It is not difficult to see that the President is surrounded by past and present corrupt individuals. It is not difficult to see nothing has changed in Nigeria.

What is so difficult and painful to accept is that a glimmer of hope for change that heralded the swearing-in of President Yar'Adua is quickly fading.

A few weeks ago, the CFN had concluded in an internal review that the war on corruption was being dismantled piece by piece in such a way that the ordinary Nigerian would not suspect. That plan has now come full circle. If the EFCC Chairman is sent to a clearly wasteful and useless training while very important cases are pending before the courts and many more are being finalized, there is no intention anymore to prosecute the looters. His successor will be a willing tool in the hand of the administration to fake the anti-corruption effort.

We join other well-meaning Nigerians to demand that Ribadu must be left to continue with the good job he has done. Removing him at this time will set the current administration in direct opposition to the wishes of the greatest majority of Nigerians, who are tired of embedded corruption that has stifled national development.

If Ribadu is removed, then President Umaru Yar'Adua must prepare himself for a big fight against the people, who never elected him anyway!

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