The editorial article written by Mr. Chukwuemeka Jideofor, originally published in yesterday's edition of the Vanguard Newspapers is the most disturbing piece I have yet read anywhere on the issue of the public battle between the Federal Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa and Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commision, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu. Mr. Jideofor's bias was evident from his very first words and, it pains me as a Nigerian to observe how well-educated persons in our society pander to their alliances and/or biases when it comes to dissecting important issues that affect our society, moreso where their jaundiced opinions are expressed on the pages of national newspapers.
As we all know, the issue at stake here is the trial of the former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, whom the EFCC had accused of a range of crimes, including embezzlement and abuse of power while in office as a Governor who enjoyed constitutional immunity from prosecution. In anticipation of the move on the part of the EFCC to arrest and try him at the expiration of his tenure of office, the former Governor had gone to court and successfully secured a time-sensitive ex-parte order that would prevent the anti-corruption agency from arresting him in the future. The order was to expire in two-weeks, said the EFCC Chairman Nuhu Ribadu.
According to Mr. Ribadu, the former Governor's protective court order expired, after which his agency went to court to get an arrest warrant so former Governor Orji Kalu can be tried in court. It was at the point of his arrest and trial that Mr. Kalu cried foul, claiming the EFCC ignored a court order in arresting and trying him - ignoring the issue of the expiration of the same order which Mr. Ribadu has brought to public attention here. In response to Kalu's petitions to the Attorney-General of the Federation via the Presidency, the AGF responded by staging an unnecessarily dramatic and embarrassing take over of the trial after 48 hours passed without a response from the EFCC to inquiries the AG's office made regarding the case files.
The battlelines were therefore drawn between two offices of the Attorney-General and EFCC - offices whose co-operation in the war against corruption cannot be over-emphasized. In analyzing the situation, Mr. Jideofor chose to blame the EFCC throughout his article. He started off by conveniently latching-up to tiny parts of the comments made by retired Justice E. Ayoola, Chairman of EFCC's sister agency, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offenses Commision (ICPC), while he addressed a conference organized by Nigerians in New York earlier in the week. It was in a few statements by Mr. Ayoola where Mr. Jideofo found a convenient watershed for the rest of his biased editorial piece.
According to Jideofor, the retired Justice addressed "the crux of the matter" and "had said it all" by recognizing "that there is a judgment from a court of competent jurisdiction, which the EFCC has been flagrantly flouting. He recognized that it was wrong for the EFCC to proceed with Kalu's trail (sic) in the face of a subsisting court order." Mr. Jideofo went ahead to state that the ICPC Chief is "not against the ACF taking over the case. But he is against the procedure and, the seeming impatience (more like "obvious impatience", if you ask me) of the AGF in not consulting before taking over the case".
And so it happened that ICPC's Justice Ayoola's mind was read from a few simple phrases he uttered at that occassion in New York. Had Mr. Jideofor been patient enough, if only he had looked closer, he would have observed that the man whose comments he latched upon in his mission to hang his EFCC dog had simply agreed with the widely accepted viewpoint that the Attorney-General is constitutionally empowerd to take over any criminal prosecution as the "Chief Law Officer" of the Federation - the comment was simply made to correct any misconception out there about Mr. Ayoola's position on the matter between the AG's office and the EFCC.
That fact was obviously lost on Mr. Jideofor as he capitalized on the learned gentleman's comments to make his case, whereas the EFCC did not contest the powers of the Attorney-General to take over any case. What the EFCC has done so far was to simply defended its name and reputation by asserting again and again that it did not flout any court order with regards the case involving former Governor Kalu.
Chuwkuemeka Jideofor reminded his readers that as a retired Judge, Justice Ayoola is supposed to know the position of the law on the matter. Of course the old man would know, but that does not give Jideofor the right to take words out of Justice Ayoola's mouth and conveniently twist it to suit his (Jideofor's) purpose. Mr. Jideofor would go on to speak at lenght about EFCC's "arrogance" - using that word severally in his biased article, claiming the retired judge alluded to that "arrogance" in his address when he told the EFCC to shed its "toga of arrogance". Where, when, how did the man speak in the manner Jideofor painted it for his reading audience???
Explaining further how "arrogant" the EFCC is, Mr. Jideofor pointed out how the agency had promptly refuted a bogus claim of apology it never made: Jideofor alleged that in refuting the claim, the EFCC was "boasting" that it did not apologize to the Attorney-General's office "over the rude conduct of its lawyers". Boasting? Rude conduct? I have two questions for Mr. Jideofor: One, would he ever accept that he offered an apology where none was given and none was needed? Two, how would he react, were he to be dealt the rude shock of coming to court, only to discover that someone had hijacked his case without the least of professional courtesy extended to him?
Again, Mr. Jideofor capitalized on that issue as another case of "arrogance", stating that "this kind of arrogance that cannot conduce, for the kind of consultation justice Ayoola spoke of". And as read his article, I shook my head for the umpteenth time. If anyone knows Justice Ayoola personally, they should please, please let him know, that when next he opines in public, he should endaevor to be specific to the letter and avoid any ambiguities in his comments. This is because there are people out there who either deliberately or through ommisions misinterprete his views.
I have read Mr. Ayoola's comments and nowhere did he speak of "arrogance" on the part of the EFCC. As far as this issue involving former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu is concerned, no law has been broken by either Nuhu Ribadu and the EFCC, based on what we now know. Unfortunately, the very people who are supposed to educate the rest of the society, by virtue of their education and exposure, continue to conveniently interprete important national issues without getting all the facts. Or isn't it totally ridiculous, that throughout Mr. Jideofor's piece, not ONE mention was made of the fact that EFCC got an arrest warrant or that the order Mr. Kalu got was time-sensitive?
As we Nigerians love to say, "Everyone to his or her own!". God Bless Nigeria.