6 October 2005

Nigeria: Bauchi Govt Withdraws Petition From EFCC

Confusion has trailed the decision of the Bauchi state government to withdraw a petition against its civil servants sent to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). Some of the affected civil servants have vowed to challenge the state government's "malicious decision."

The government had in May this year sent a petition to the anti-financial crime commission accusing some of its workers of embezzling government funds amounting to between N280 million and N300 million.

Upon receipt of the petition EFCC took not less than 29 civil servants into its custody amidst unconfirmed reports that about N23 million was recovered from them.

The state government gave in its letter for the sudden withdrawal of its petition to the EFCC. It rather solicited the EFCC to stop "investigations concerning the officers," and pleaded that the government's action should "not be misinterpreted or sour the cordial relations that exist between the government and the EFCC."

The withdrawal letter, with reference number MOJ/LAW/S/50/V.111/566, was written by Alhaji Ibrahim Babale, the state's Commissioner for Justice. It is captioned "Re: Complaint of criminal breach of trust and theft of various sums of money by some Bauchi state civil servants."

The letter, which was exclusively disclosed to Daily Trust, reads: "Please refer to our letters to you dated 17th and 25th May, 2005, on above subject.

"Sequel to certain developments within the machinery of government in the state, government has decided that we withdraw the complaints against all officers contained in our earlier letter under reference.

"We write to therefore withdraw the complaints against all officers earlier reported to you and urge your commission that all investigations concerning the officers be terminated.

"We sincerely regret any inconvenience this may cause your noble commission and hope it will not prejudice any further or subsequent complain we may file."

However the withdrawal letter has rekindled a bitter memory. Some of the affected civil servants who spoke to our correspondent explained that the government was out to witch hunt and not really to fight corruption.

An affected civil servants who spoke to our correspondent revealed that they will challenge the government's decision "because we consider it as malicious and only aimed at persecuting poor and helpless civil servants." "Although they (government) purport to be granting us immunity from prosecution, the question remains that if you catch a thief you must do something with him. Will you not to prosecute him? Let the truth be told. And the government should stop diverting the public's attention."

Although no government official wants to comment on the sudden decision, a source told our correspondent that Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was said to have questioned the rationale behind the decision. Another source said that the withdrawal was at the behest of the Governor, Alhaji Ahmadu Adamu Mu'azu.

Its would be recalled that in the wake of the government's petition and the arrest of several civil servants by the EFCC, several prominent indigenes of the state mounted pressure on the government to drop the petition.

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