CORRUPTION: Obasanjo’s eight years worse than Abacha’s – Ribadu
Pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu allegedly described corruption under President Olusegun Obasanjo as worse than that of late General Sani Abacha, according to United States cable obtained by Wikileaks.
The report released by Wikileaks stated that a meeting which the former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders had with Mallam Ribadu to discuss his removal from the EFCC, Ribadu told the US ambassador that Obasanjo was good at covering his tracks while admitting that corruption was worse under Obasanjo. Ribadu was quoted as saying that former President Obasanjo knew how to play the game. “Although he created the EFCC and understood its importance for him with the international community, Ribadu explained, that by far and even more than the Abacha days, corruption under Obasanjo’s eight years was far worse.
See extracts of the cable below:
Classified by Ambassador Robin Sanders for Reasons 1.4 (b, c, & d).
1. (S) Summary: Ambassador had 4-hour private discussion with Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Chairman (EFCC) Mallam Nuhu Ribadu on the evening of December 28 at her residence to hear his views on the recent announcement that he will be transferred from the EFCC to the country’s leadership school, the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). Ribadu took the opportunity to cover not only the politics behind this move, but also spent several hours discussing a range of EFCC pending cases that he wanted to share, including his personal views on Yar’Adua, former President Obasanjo, recently indicted former Delta State Governor Ibori, and the illicit enrichment open cases on the Police Inspector General Mike Okiro and Attorney General Aondoakaa.
Mallam Nuhu Ribadu,
It seemed that he wanted someone outside of the EFCC to know the details of active investigations as a possible failsafe given the current negative political climate surrounding his pending transfer.
Ribadu also said he planned to show up to his office on December 31, 2007, as usual and would continue to do so )- unless he was physically blocked — until the effective date of his transfer (February 2008). Ribadu said, without a doubt, yes, the warrant on Ibori was the seminal action that made Yar’Adua support the transfer.
He added that he was worried that Yar’Adua was not strong enough to balance the pressures on him from his inner circle — many he had already blocked from illicit enrichment The Ambassador expressed to him the U.S.’s strong concerns over the tenor of events and how unsettling this is given what appears to be a reversal of Yar’Adua’s strong anti-corruption messages while in Washington. Coming on the heels of the U.S. visit, this action has hurt our initial sense of his commitment on these key democracy pillars. The EFCC Chair was pleased to hear of the international interest in the situation and added that anything is still possible in terms of a reversal as Yar’Adua tends to respond to the last person who speaks with him. He thought pressure from the international community could be useful. Ribadu said if the transfer prevails then his Lagos deputy, Lamorde, would likely be brought up to serve as Acting. He then praised the USG training provided by Treasury’s FinCen, and said whether he was at the EFCC or not, the USG should continue its efforts to help as his team was dedicated and committed. Ribadu said that the EFCC needed a few more concrete tools such as a Crime Center, housing a data base on all criminal activity, and hoped the U.S. would help on this.
Ambassador provided the EFCC Chair with all her contact information, noted she had a pending weekend response call from the President, and told him that he had active supporters who would be following this issue, notwithstanding the Ambassador.
2. (S) Following Yar’Adua’s positive U.S. trip, fairly upbeat sentiments by Nigerians at year’s end on his tenure, and his own end of year national address calling on adherence to transparency, not only do we need to be concerned about this action, but also what appears to be other steps against the EFCC. Even if Ribadu is gone or if ours or other efforts prevail, there are potentially other possible actions on the horizon to reduce the EFCC’s prowess by such as removing others on Ribadu’s team, and merging it with other less focused and effective entities such as the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). Whatever his motives, Yar’Adua has made a major political misstep as his tribunal results loom near. End Summary
Ribadu: Discusses the Run-up to his Transfer:
¶3. (S) The Ambassador had a 4-hour discussion (8pm-midnight) at her residence December 29 with about-to-be transferred Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chair Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. Rumors began on the move late December 27, followed up by an official press announcement by Police Inspector General Mike Okiro December 28. Ribadu was seconded from the police senior leadership in April 2003 to lead the then newly created EFCC by former President Obasanjo. Ribadu is officially being transferred to the country’s National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) in February 2008.
Ribadu told Ambassador that the transfer was not only official, but had been approved by President Yar’Adua. The Ambassador asked Nigeria’s anti-corruption czar if he thought that there could be a reversal of the pending transfer if there was significant outcry. Ribadu said in his dealings to date with the President, that he did not view him as a strong man (said in both the sense of not only his health, but his style and demeanor), and that he is easily swayed by the last person that speaks with him. He added that he did not see Yar’Adua as corrupt and was a nice guy, but said quite frankly that he thought he was weak, as a result of his low key personality, his lack of international exposure, and his lack of a political base. Ribadu said Yar’Adua is very worried about his election being overturned and is getting advice from some whose hands are tarnished with illicit enrichment on how to secure a positive outcome of the pending February or March 2008 tribunal decision.
The EFCC czar then commented that despite his overall problems with the judiciary as judges were always being bribed, it had held up democracy more than some of the other government branches. The judiciary and judges here are very corruptible and this corruption has played a role in some of the tribunal cases to date, he commented. Nigeria needs something in its constitution to put a check and balance on the judiciary.
¶4. (S) The Ambassador then asked whether the warrant on the former Delta State Governor Ibori was the trigger on his ouster now, given that pressure to remove him was not new. Ribadu said without a doubt yes. He added that Ibori had promised to help Yar,Adua several weeks ago (prior to the latter’s Washington trip) with the tribunal if he got the EFCC Chair off his back. Yar’Adua had resisted to date, but as his tribunal results loom near in early February or March 2008, the President has a sense that the verdict could go either way (ref a). He is very unsettled about his prospects, Ribadu noted. Without direct reference to the Foreign Minister, who mentioned this issue in a December 28 telecon, the Ambassador asked Ribadu what his relationship had been with the President up to this point (ref C). Ribadu then described in detail his last meetings with both the President and separately with Ibori.
¶5. (S) The EFCC chief noted that the President had always wanted him to cool down a bit as he thought he could do things more quietly. But despite this, he was always able to reach the President and they never had cross words. However, he added he felt that the support he would need to bring in some of the bigger political fish was not there )primarily because the President does not have his own political soldiers within the PDP, the media, or among Nigeria’s novo rich power brokers, nor his own thugs or the overall clout of former President Obasanjo. Ribadu said that Ibori had also tried to bribe him to drop the investigation, coming to him with a box that contained $ 15 million (USD) in cash as an offering to leave him alone.
Ribadu laughing said, can you imagine $15 million in cash in a box; this will be used against him in the trial. We have it locked up as evidence. He added that they have thus far found only $300 million (USD) that Ibori has stolen, but knows that he stole much more, estimating that during his eight years in office he took roughly 60 per cent of the Delta State treasury for his own use, including buying three planes and ownership in several public and private corporations.
¶6. (S) Turning back to President Yar,Adua, the Ambassador asked who the bad apples around Yar,Adua were and was there anyone in his inner circle that he would deem not only credible but also incorruptible.
Continuing, the Ambassador asked if there are any good guys in the Villa? He said the only person who was truly respectable, honest and trying always to do the right thing was the President’s Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Abdullahi Mohammed, but he likes to stay away from both policy and politics.
Pending Investigations: A Who’s Who of Criminal Activity
7. (S) Ribadu, seeming to be in an environment where he felt comfortable and relaxed, told the Ambassador he wanted to share some more of what is really going on. He began with a list of pending investigations. At the top of the list were both Attorney General (AG) Aondoakaa and Police Inspector General Mike Okiro. Of note, the EFCC chairman said that, we came very close to catching Okiro in the act in a parked car receiving several million dollars from Ibori in cash,
but he added, we were not able to close the deal as we could not catch the actual handover, and my investigators feared getting any closer to the cars. On the AG, Ribadu continued, we have a dossier on him and his illegal money dealings, including getting money from Ibori, but we need to catch him, and we will. In addition, Ribadu said the EFCC has criminal investigations open on 100 Nigeria individuals (mostly government officials from the Obasanjo era) and is following roughly 200 Nigerian criminal organizations. This is why my next step is to create a Crime Center, which would have a data base that all law enforcement agencies could access. The EFCC Chief stated that the USG had played an enormous role in the capacity building, expertise and integrity of the EFCC, as the U.S. set the best example on these issues. He knew that his team was dedicated, honest and committed as they all want to see a better Nigeria and improve Nigeria,s image around the world. &Whether I am at the EFCC or not, whatever the U.S. can do to continue to improve the Commission’s capacity would be welcomed,8 he commented. Ambassador said she would discuss not only the Crime Center idea he had with her team and Washington, but also ensure that Treasury was aware of the importance of continuing overall technical assistance when possible to the EFCC. She added though, if his transfer prevailed despite her efforts and others, we would be as active as possible to encourage any new EFCC leadership to continue on the same path.
On Obasanjo and his daughter Iyabo:
¶8. (S) Ambassador asked about Obasanjo and his daughter, National Assembly Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, who is currently being investigated over contracts to an Austrian company. Ribadu said that the EFCC had called her in on December 27 and questioned her for hours. They also had documents on the transactions and questioned the head of the Austrian company. In the end, he added, we determined that there was no illicit enrichment of state funds, but a business deal gone badly between two parties, where promises were made and not kept, and one party getting mad at the other. On former president Obasanjo, the Commissioner said, he really knew how to play the game. Although he created the EFCC and understood its importance for him with the international community, Ribadu explained, that by far even more than the Abacha days where he was the sole thief, corruption under Obasanjo’s eight years was far worse. However, he added, Oba was a political machine and knew how to play the game for the international community, cover his tracks and for good or bad got it as regards to what the EFCC’s role was and should be.”