Ribadu and the $15 million Ibori Bribe-a Diamond in the Trough-
Nigerian newspapers are today awash with the story of how a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has granted an interim order forfeiting to the Federal Government of Nigeria $15million that was lodged with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the then head of the EFCC, in 2007, as an exhibit. The Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole agreed with the counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Jacob (SAN) that the money-
‘If left untouched and unspent in the state it was kept in the strong room since April 2007 may eventually be destroyed and become useless’
However, to this writer, the monetary value of the money is the least important consideration of the story. The real value to the story and the one which should form part of our primary and secondary school curricular if we are genuinely interested in reshaping the moral value of a new Nigeria, lies in the fact that a Nigerian; a police officer for that matter, resisted an offer of being $15m richer- that is over 2.5 billion in today’s Naira!
For those who are unaware of the background to the story, it goes like this. Sometime in 2007, the EFCC under Ribadu was conducting investigation into the various corrupt dealings of James Ibori. James Ibori got wind of this and in his typical reversed-Midas manner, attempted to compromise Ribadu by offering him $15m as bribe so that the EFCC should discontinue the investigation. Ribadu pretended to play along and a date and venue was fixed when the bung would be brought and handed over to Ribadu. They fixed the residence of Andy Uba (around the Presidential Villa!) as the rendezvous for the exchange. As well-chronicled in Wale Adebanwi’s book, ‘Paradise for Maggots-
‘When they met, Ibori brought along a bribe of $15 million cash in two bags. Ribadu then called Ibrahim Lamorde, Ibrahim Magu and five other officers through his mobile phone to come to Uba’s house to pick up the bribe…Lamorde and his team then took the two bags containing the bribe and drove straight to the Central Bank, as directed by Ribadu, to keep the money there as an exhibit- to be used whenever Ibori’s trial would commence’
It is that money that the Court has now directed should be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria. The decision of Justice Kolawole has thereby put a stamp of validity onto the story. If anybody was in doubt that Ribadu contrived the story in order to discredit Ibori, the decision of yesterday should remove such doubt.
The action of Mallam Ribadu in 2007 should be put in proper context. He was then, I believed an Assistant Commissioner of Police and although extremely rich in goodwill, he certainly wasn’t a billionaire. He could therefore find $15m very handy and even could have demanded more. It is staggeringly pleasing to realise therefore that an officer like Ribadu could exist in Nigeria; just like Ogugbuaja existed before him and perhaps thousands still exist all over Nigeria. In a country where as Professor Niyi Osundare recently and correctly pointed out ‘Corruption as attained the status of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’; a country where the president has taken a ‘principled’ stand not to ‘give a damn’ about publicly declaring his assets- it gives hope, even if faint, that perhaps the country may yet be redeemed from the stranglehold of corruption on our national psyche.
The transparency of the action of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu in 2007 in deciding to send the money straight to the CBN to be kept as exhibit should be compared with the action of the erstwhile chairman of the House of Representative Committee on Fuel Subsidy Management, Farouk Lawan over the receipt of $620,000.00 from Femi Otedola, Nigerian businessman. Farouk Lawan has indicated that he decided to collect the money as a ploy to ‘trap’ Femi Otedola. However unlike Ribadu, Lawan’s subsequent actions on the money did not support his assertion. He neither took the money to the CBN nor did he keep it in any of our commercial banks as exhibit. For now the money appears to have ‘disappeared’! Whilst the action of Ribadu in dealing with the $15m allowed for no suspicion (he kept his trusted lieutenants in the loop on the matter), Lawan on the other hand clearly makes himself susceptible to the allegation that he collected the money as an ‘egunje’!
This writer once read an interview granted by Ribadu in which he stated that he was in fact materially poorer when he was kicked out of the EFCC than he was prior to his elevation to the EFCC chair. He stated that because of his busy schedule as the chairman of the EFCC he was unable to take proper care of the cattle farm he had inherited from his parents and by the time of his exit from the EFCC, he had lost over half of his cattle! It is hoped that the time will come, sooner rather than later, when our people will realise the virtues of the Ribadus of our country and demand that any individuals seeking to lead us be appraised based on the Ribadus Moral Scale!
Adebayo Kareem, a Solicitor-Advocate is contactable at email@example.com.