Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said the appointment of Mrs. Farida Waziri as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission slowed down the fight against corruption in the country.
Obasanjo, in an exclusive interview he granted Zero Tolerance, a magazine published by the EFCC, said Waziri was a wrong successor to Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the pioneer chairman of the anti-graft agency.
The former President, whose administration established the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other-Related Offences Commission, added that he was aware that convicted former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, played a major role in her appointment.
He said, “I know that the woman they brought in to replace Ribadu was not the right person for that job because I understood that one of those who head-hunted her was Ibori. If Ibori, who is now in a UK (United Kingdom) prison for fraud, head-hunts somebody who will fight corruption in Nigeria, then you can understand what happened.”
To butress his argument that Waziri was a wrong person for the job, he challenged the publication to “go and look at her track record.”
“Go and look at the condition or the qualification; go and look at the type of interaction that anybody holding that job will have with a similar organisation elsewhere; did Waziri have that type. What connection did she have with the FBI, what relationship did she have with Metropolitan Police in London. It’s not a picnic,”Obasanjo added.
Waziri, a retired senior police officer, was appointed head of the EFCC in 2008 after the controversial exit of Ribadu, who was also a former police officer.
Obasanjo commended Ribadu, saying his performance as the EFCC boss helped reduce corruption in Nigeria and improved her rating by the Transparency International.
He said, “When I was there, the EFCC and ICPC worked tirelessly and we moved this country from the corruption perception index being number two from the lowest to number 45 from the lowest. We should have graduated from being number 45 to being number 50 to being number 60, to being number 100. But we are not doing that, rather we have started sliding down.”
The former President flayed the manner Ribadu was removed from office, saying he cautioned the late President Umaru Yar’Adua against his removal.
Obasanjo said if given the opportunity again, “I will reappoint Mallam Ribadu and I will not dismiss him the way he was dismissed from the EFCC.”
He, however, criticised Ribadu for hobnobbing “with people he had declared as corrupt.”
Asked to rate the incumbent EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, on the fight against corruption, Obasanjo, said he did not know how to score him.
But he recalled that Lamorde was directly involved when he requested the anti-graft agency to investigate him.
He said, “I was investigated. I told the EFCC to investigate me. I told the EFCC to carry out clinical investigation and they did.
“They also did same with all people on my farm. One of them was telling me the other day how Lamorde called him three times and took statements from him. The EFCC even made sure they did not submit that report to me; they waited until I left and updated their report after going round the world and saying look this is the report. Nobody should be below board in the fight against corruption.”
The Egba chief also expressed concerns about the perceived corruption in the judiciary, saying it required the efforts of all Nigerians to check the trend.
In a separate interview with Zero Tolerance, Waziri denied that Ibori supported her appointment as the EFCC chairman.
She said, “I never knew him. I never knew James Ibori.
“Let me ask you, if I was in league with Ibori and was not sincerely pursuing him, would he have run, gone out of this country to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates?
“It is all lies of the enemies. By the time I write my book, the truth will prevail. I never knew Ibori; look I believe what is worth doing at all is worth doing well. I don’t believe in half measures. By my training and upbringing, I can never betray my country for anyone.”
Justifying her appointment, Waziri said she secured the first conviction in the history of the EFCC.
“N190bn, one single recovery from one person that went to jail was during Farida Waziri. That is why it is good to have changes in an organisation”, she added.
Waziri faulted the manner she was sacked by the Goodluck Jonathan administration despite committing more than 30 years to serving the nation.
She said she learnt of her removal in November 2011 in the news media and stated that she did not deserve the humiliation since she had not been found wanting for any misdemeanour.
“If you are removed like that, it has a tendency to scare some people. I wasn’t bothered that I left because my philosophy of life is simple, ‘what has a beginning has an end,’’ Waziri said.
Meanwhile, the EFCC has said that it secured 80 convictions in eight months.
The 80 were part of the 368 cases charged to court.
In a statement by its Acting Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren, the commission said it had also recovered N6,583,108,350 ; $19,251,519; 20,520 Euros and £19,000.
“Beyond the recovery, the EFCC intensified the prosecution of politically-exposed persons, failed bank executives, captains of industry, beneficiaries of fraudulent oil subsidy payments and senior civil servants involved in pension fraud.
“A number of cases for which investigations have been concluded, would be charged to courts across the zones where the Commission maintains offices as soon as the courts resume from recess.
“The commission deplored attempts by mischievous elements to distract it by imputing political motives to some of its investigations.”
Culled from The Punch.