Published On: Fri, Sep 13th, 2013

Thieves worse than Ibori Walking Free in Nigeria- Nuhu Ribadu

Chief James Ibori

LAGOS SEPTEMBER 13TH (URHOBOTODAY)-Former Delta state governor, and convicted money launderer, James Ibori, was never Nigeria’s worst plunderer of state wealth. He may only have been less smart. Far worse official thieves are walking free today, and are celebrated as heroes, former head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu, has said.
“There are worse people than James Ibori in Nigeria. Probably, he was not the smartest one among them, but there are some crooks worse than James and I still see them. Some of them are even being celebrated right now in our country,” Mr Ribadu said in a recent interview with Zero Tolerance, a magazine published by the EFCC’s media unit.
Mr. Ibori is serving a 13-year jail sentence in the UK after a Southwark Crown Court 9 in London, on April 17, 2012, found him guilty of stealing and laundering billions of naira of Delta state money.
The former governor, who led Delta state between 1999 and 2007, was first investigated by the EFCC under Mr. Ribadu and later, under Farida Waziri.
Mr. Ribadu’s unceremonious exit from the post was largely blamed on the Ibori case as the former governor was a major backer of the then president, Umaru Yar’adua.
The case soon went cold after Mr. Ribadu’s removal, amid allegations Mr. Ibori was shielded by the government with the support of the EFCC. Mrs Waziri, who took over from Mr. Ribadu, has denied that claim in a separate interview with the same magazine.
She said it was her pursuit of Mr. Ibori that forced him out of the country to the United Arab Emirate, where he was eventually arrested and repatriated to Britain to face charges.
The Ibori case stirred further controversy after former President Olusegun Obasanjo told the same EFCC magazine that Mrs Waziri was appointed on Mr. Ibori’s recommendation. Again, Mrs Waziri denied that claim.
While Mr. Ribadu is widely regarded as the best hand yet to have headed the anti-graft agency, his critics say he was manipulated by Mr. Obasanjo to go after the former president’s political enemies. In his interview, Mr. Obasanjo dismissed that suggestion and spoke highly of him and his achievements, but scathingly faulted Mrs. Waziri.
Mr. Ribadu said there were and still are, smarter criminals who did more damage to the fight against corruption in Nigeria than Mr. Ibori.
He said while he fought corruption passionately and diligently, he never took the effort personal as he strove to do only what was expected of him as a law enforcement officer.
He also said there were people who he investigated and brought to justice who attempted to do more damage to him than the former Delta governor.
“James was not different from all others; and while doing this type of work, they will fight you back. I have seen a lot of fighting back all my life, and that of James was not as bad as the others. His own was very public that is why. There are those that even attempted to kill me who are still out there. This is the type of work that when you do, you must expect a thing like that,” Mr. Ribadu said.
He criticised some judges, while also commending others. He said many criminals in Nigeria escape justice with the connivance of some judges. He said while Mr. Ibori was acquitted of 170 charges by a judge, another Federal High Court Judge “sent him to prison for two and a half months”.
Tafa Balogun arrest
Mr. Ribadu, now a stalwart of the opposition, All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Presidential flag bearer of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in the 2011 election, also explained the circumstances that led to the arrest and prosecution of a former Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun. He said the former IGP “crossed the line”.
“Whoever crosses the line will be dealt with, whether a constable or an IGP, it is the same thing. The solution is not to cross the line,” he said.
He said he arrested the former IGP because he had to execute a mandate honestly, and to do that he had to be blind to the position of an individual because justice is blind.
Mr. Balogun was arrested by operatives of the EFCC on March 28, 2005 and was charged with eight count indictment of corruption. He pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to six months in prison.
He was also ordered to pay a fine of N4 million while N20 billion in cash and some properties were seized by the Federal Government.
Source: Premium Times

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