The Frankenstein posture of the EFCC and the undue hubris of its Chairman Mal. Nuhu Ribadu have continued to befuddle many Nigerians. Only a few days ago, a local BBC Hausa service listener called to know more about the man Nuhu Ribadu. In response, Ribadu narrated his background history, talked of the law degree he received from ABU Zaria, eighteen months of police training and about eleven years of police duties, much of it in Alagbon Close Ikoyi, under Zakari Biu, one of late General Abatcha's notorious henchmen. To his credit Ribadu claimed he never knew the president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo before his appointment, and that he is carrying out his duties sincerely with the fear of God.
Many Nigerians are puzzled with the disconcerting atmosphere created by Ribadu and the EFCC not for anything but for their utter disregard for the rule of law and due process in carrying out their duties. The recent duffing up and chaining of Tafa Balogun, the former Inspector General of Police, left many Nigerians horror struck and generated condemnation from all sides of the Nigerian spectrum, as it was seen as a deliberate act
of cruelty, and carried out with the sole objective of humiliating the accused. One of the nations respected retired Insector Generals, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie was quoted by the Independent Newspaper of Wednesday, the 12'th of April 2005 to have said that " it was bad and it was done in bad faith"
But it will be interesting to know that the Tafa Balogun saga was not the first time Ribadu and the EFCC will be indulging in excesses and extra judicial and inhuman treatment and humiliation of Nigerians. Discerning observers have often noted that since its establishment about two years ago, the activities of the commission are driven by rumours, fabrications and sentiment, which many see as amounting to witch hunting of the presidents political foes, or search for guinea pigs to justify the governments newfound cause in fighting corruption.
Ribadu's first major action in office was the arrest and deportation of the Vaswani brothers, the owners of the Stallion Group that have investments in excess of twenty billion naira in the country and staff strength in excess of ten thousand Nigerians. This action, executed without any conviction or recourse to the laws of the country, was interpreted by many as being instigated by the business rivals of the Vaswani's, who may have manipulated the EFCC to act in a way that did not even grant them fair trial.To date no legal or convincing explanation has been provided by Ribadu and the EFCC. Amazingly a government that claims its economic policy is anchored on the attraction of Direct Foreign Investment, in search of which the president has been junketing across the globe all the time, carried out this action of deporting investors without cause or reason.
Another major case of inhumanity was the arrest and detention of Maurice Ibekwe, a two term member of the House of Representatives on allegation of defrauding a German citizen of some amount of money twelve years ago in 1992. The EFCC objected to his bail as his failed while in detention, even though the offence was baillable and doctors from the National Hospital had confirmed the seriousness of the sickness afflicting the man. Inspite of this, Ribadu still objected to the bail, and the man died in detention. Late Maurice Ibekwe was said to belong to the group opposed to the President in the House of Representatives.
But the most bizarre case of tyranny and disregard for the law is the revelation by Nuhu Ribadu himself that he has in his custody over seven hundred accused men and women. This is clearly against the constitution, which frowns at detaining accused for more than twenty-four hours. Likewise even as EFCC has not obtained a single conviction as yet, it has confiscated properties and monies in excess of seven hundred million dollars or about ninety five billion naira. This was confirmed recently by Emmanuel Akomaye, the Director General of the commission. Like the arbitrary arrests and detentions, these seizures of properties and monies are also illegal as one of the detainees Chief Emmanuel Nwude who contested the seizure of his properties was granted his prayers by the courts, and the EFCC ordered to release all the seized properties while cautioning the EfCC to desist from flaunting the constitution.
Nuhu Ribadu has acquired this bete noir image because of viciousness and impunity in using force on Nigerians and the open encouragement he receives from the Presidency, that takes pleasure and benefits from this culture of impunity because of the media support these actions are generating. Nuhu Ribadu, a middle ranking officer who has neither the experience nor sophistication to understand the complex nature of administration, politics, the law and society has been on the defensive since his appointment two years ago, always raving and swearing in Gods name trying to justify his appointment and actions. So far, all these have done little in assuaging peoples misgivings. Inspite of the efforts of his spin doctors and publicists, many Nigerians still remain deeply cynical.
Ribadu's recent churlish and infantile tantrums on the eligibility of Ibrahim Babangida to participate in political activities in the country and his inferences to the phantom case of fifty three missing suitcases during Muhammad Buhari's regime of the early eighties are all seen as a demo, meant to stir up public debate to justify action by fiat using the EFCC.
Even though Ribadu claims that he was appointed to the chaimanship of the commission without his knowledge, his mentors Waziri Mohammed and Aliko Dangote two of the oligarchs in the corridors of power, know exactly why they sponsored him. The suffocating monopoly of these two men on commodity trading and the import business and the open complicity of the EFCC and the Customs in their activities is an open secret in the country.
The Presidency has also found him useful because of his recklessness and insolence to Nigerians. Through these actions, a forbidding atmosphere has been established in the country in total disregard to the rule of law, with arrests and detentions without genuine reasons, in addition to threats, intimidation and smear campaign using the media.
For critical observers of Nigeria's contemporary history, Nuhu Ribadu's activities gives a sense of de javu, as all previous tyrannical dictators had henchmen picked from the middle ranks of the police or the army and vested them with too much authority. Such political appointments, often done with less regard to the bureaucracy or the larger society that they hardly understand, creates allegiance in such neophytes to only their masters who vest them with such absolute power. And the powers are almost always beyond their normal rank or comprehension. With this newfound leverage, they become power drunk and intoxicated and embark on antagonizing and maltreating, humiliating and terrorizing citizens with impunity, the perceived targets and enemies of their bosses, the mighty rulers of the land. Often these high handedness and abuse of the citizens liberties and freedoms are done more to ingratiate their masters sense of ego, and overzealous effort to show that they deserve the appointment and trust, exclusively given to them. The exploits of such men as Zakari Biu, Hamza al Mustapha, Col. Omenka are all fresh in peoples memories.
There is so much poverty and frustration in the country today more than at any other time in our history, inspite of the six years of oil boom from1999 to 2005. And since the Obasanjo government says that corruption is responsible for this unprecedented poverty, will like to see it eradicated from the polity. But the insincerity in the in the fight against this cankerworm as presently carried on by Nuhu Ribadu and the EFCC and characterised by arbitrary arrests, scapegoatism, open disregard for the rule of law, trial by media and name calling do not help our nascent democracy or the country's image.
For now, with the heightened tempo in the commissions activities and its recent threats on most political leaders, Nigerians are eagerly waiting to see what will follow this sabre rattling.
Moses K. Gadol