Kaduna — The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has finally broken its silence on allegations by its former boss, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, that he lodged $15million bribe money from former Delta State governor, Chief James Ibori, with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The EFCC's boss, Mrs Farida Waziri, stated this in Washington, while on a working tour to the United States. In an interview she granted the Hausa Service of the Voice of America which was monitored in Kaduna on Wednesday, Mrs Farida Waziri confirmed the insinuation saying, "Yes I confirmed that the money is in the Central Bank; yes you know when I came, the case was already in court and I read the allegation in the case file."
Ribadu had in September alleged that Ibori induced him with $15 million to halt charges against the former governor. This allegation spawned a major controversy between the duo.
It would be recalled that Chief James Ibori had in September 2009, debunked Ribadu's bribe money allegation. But the former anti-crime czar said he received and lodged the money with the apex bank. In his self-defence, Ibori clarified that Ribadu had wanted him to influence his appointment as Inspector-General of Police, saying, "Yes, I maintain that I never, repeat never, bribed or attempted to bribe Ribadu, who, always loose with the facts, tried to hoodwink the public by alleging that I was speaking after two years of being investigated.
"Yet, the bribery allegation I reacted to publicly, was the one he made in a witness statement in London as recently as August 26th, 2009. I had to reply to that one publicly because, as Ribadu himself knows, that allegation will not be tested by any trial, as no charge whatsoever, whether related to that bribery allegation or not, has ever been leveled against me in any court of law in the entire United Kingdom.
"His allegation of two years ago, which I have not publicly reacted to, is being tested in court. I am a Christian and will not deny him. Very many times, he tried to get me to assist him in one way or the other, including his desire to become the Inspector General of Police.
"In his approach, he posited that in his estimation and knowledge of Nigerian politics, I was one of those who could help him achieve it. In fact, he promised that if I did, he would not file charges against me and would not prosecute me. I told him to give me time to reflect on it, but it would be stupid of me to have bought into his blackmail; so, I ignored him.
"When he then realized that I was not succumbing to his cheap blackmail, he decided to go ahead with his plan to humiliate me".
Malam Nuhu Ribadu, who also swiftly replied Chief Ibori's outburst, had argued "How could I have been seeking the assistance of a convicted felon for the highest police position in the country? If I wanted to be IG, he would be the last person I will consider to help me. Ibori, just like the others we tried to bring to justice, is desperate and would do anything to escape justice as he has always done.
"Nothing emphasizes Ibori's capacity for falsehood and felony than his claim at the press conference that I 'framed' him for attempting to bribe me with $15 million. As he told the lie, and as I write this, the $15 million remains as an exhibit deposited with the Central Bank of Nigeria. I must state, however, that I am used to these types of allegations and fabrications by those who are struggling under the present circumstances to find a way out of their advertised felonies and crimes against the people.
"It has now become fashionable for all sorts of morally-bankrupt people to try to use me to do one thing or the other. Any close observer of the events in Nigeria in the last decade would agree that what we were able to achieve as founders and operators of the EFCC was of a more fundamental nature, in the context of our urgent national crisis, than becoming IGP.
"But that is a matter for another day. People understand what we tried to do and recognise that the felons must be brought to justice so as to allow millions of our compatriots to enjoy their God-given resources. Ibori claimed that he could trace 'the genesis of his ordeal to his staunch and uncompromising stance on a major electoral promise he made back in 1998 to the people of Delta State that he would champion the cause of redressing the injustice associated with resources derivable from their land.'
"I will only like to ask if it is in keeping with this 'promise' that he became a billionaire overnight 'on behalf' of the suffering masses of Delta State. Finally, Ibori said he remained my 'loyal friend'. I am also still open to his 'friendship', but that will never be at the expense of my loyalty to my fatherland and commitment to transparency and honesty in public office.
"I have a friendly advice for Ibori, though. Instead of wasting the money of Delta State people that he stole to pay lawyers all over the world, isn't it better as a 'Christian' that he claims to be to return his loot to the people of Delta State and have peace with his God? If he fails to do so, at the appropriate time, no matter how much the Iboris of this world run from the law, they would one day be made to atone for their sundry crimes.
"If they are able to bribe their way through in Nigeria and get men and women of questionable character appointed into office to shield themselves from prosecution, they cannot do the same in the United Kingdom and before God. But even in Nigeria, the protection that they enjoy today is temporary. Wait, James, still on our friendship, since I couldn't see you when I visited Lagos recently, why don't you visit me in London to catch up with your other friends".Reacting to the recent verdict meted out to Chief Olabode George and others, Waziri, said "Yes am happy because all that Nuhu Ribadu did were plea bargain and you know it is not in our law. I rejected plea bargain because how can someone loot and use the money to be free. In our following of rule of law we do not agree with it and so this is a big conviction and landmark."
Commenting on her commission's progress, she noted: "We are doing our best and have shut down about 800 websites, and charging people of that character to court, and we had set up a mechanism, Transparency Clearing Desk. Any one that wants to do business in Nigeria should contact us if you give us address we go to Corporate Affairs and find out not for a company to register with the aim of selling fish only to be engaging with road construction.
"Yes I cannot imagine how some one will loot and rush abroad to America to buy posh house, and even when he comes he would not stay there. Do you know how much tax it is accruing? All these funds will develop our country. He will buy house in Dubai, South Africa and deposit money in bank and when he dies no one knows. So stealing will not just be allowed to continue. I think it is a psychological problem and something is wrong", she said.