Abuja — Former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu has asserted that he investigated former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his vice, Atiku Abubakar, during his tenure as head of the nation's most visible anti-corruption agency.
Ribadu, who spoke, yesterday, at a special Visitors' Forum, organised by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, in Abuja, also countered insinuations that he was selective in his pursuit of notable politicians for economic and financial crimes.
He said his commission demonstrated fairness and courage in the face of monumental pressure, even going as far as investigating the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and his vice, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar for corruption.
According to him, "I invited the Metropolitan Police and the FBI to investigate former President Obasanjo and his vice. We needed to show our transparency and objectivity in pursuing investigations against public officials, and you cannot fool these international agencies.
"They needed to see that we were forthright and committed in our avowed fight against corruption in the country, and they were satisfied with our commitment. They were very confident in us and gave us a lot of support."
We were not selective
He said there was no basis to accusations that he was selective, adding that a lot of the governors and politicians they charged to court were members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and many of them were rather close to the President.
He also said it was during his tenure as head of the commission that a former PDP Board of Trustee chairman, Chief Bode George, was investigated, but that he escaped the country before they could arrest him.
He said: "We did the investigation and would have arrested him but he escaped the country. He only returned a few weeks after I was removed and was arrested by my predecessor and charged to court. Everyone who was involved in the case knew we did all the hard investigative work, and it is nonsensical when people say that we were selective about who we arrest and prosecute."
We went through challenges
Ribadu stressed that in his capacity as the pioneer head of the EFCC, he faced similar challenges as the leadership of NERC to bring about a change in the way Nigerians do things.
He noted: "Although, ours was a strictly law enforcement environment with its peculiar challenges, we still faced similar issue which the management of NERC is presently battling with in its effort to reform the sector and ensure justice and fairness to all Nigerians."
Fuel subsidy scandal, failure of regulators
Ribadu, who currently chairs the Special Petroleum Revenue Task Force of the Federal Government, also stressed that failure of the regulatory agencies in the energy industry to perform their tasks is to blame for the fuel subsidy mess the country is currently embroiled in.
According to him, "the regulatory agencies in the sector are directly responsible, because it is government money. When such money goes out, it has to go through somebody, who is a government employee that has responsibility to protect it and make sure that we get value for every dime spent. It must be with his own conspiracy that money goes out for products or services not provided.
"Therefore, one can easily come to the conclusion that it is a failure of the regulators and those with that responsibility, and we would like to see justice done for those who allowed the nation's money to go out in that manner."
The former anti-corruption czar pointed out that "if the PPPRA (Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency) had done its job, the whole subsidy mess would not have happened. If I were to handle this subsidy thing, I will just go after the PPPRA, especially those who were at the helm of affairs when all these mess took place. In one week, I will bring out every single person who took one penny. I will not bother myself with anybody else, I will just get them (PPPRA) because nobody would make a penny out of the subsidy regime without the direct complicity of the PPPRA."
He asserted that the report from his Task Force does not have anything to do with the fuel subsidy management but with the revenue profile of the energy industry, and ways the country could maximize revenue potentials from its vast hydro-carbon resources.
No reliable, effective electricity
The former Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, presidential candidate further said it was shame that after so many years, Nigeria could not boast of reliable and effective electricity, adding: "It is a failure and a shame that something as simple as electricity we cannot provide for Nigerians, in spite of billions of dollars earned from oil every year."
Ribadu asserted: "Today, NERC is at the forefront of the march to reform the power sector, and a lot of Nigerians are looking up to them to deliver, and with the calibre of people I see here and the structures they have put in place, I have every confidence that we are finally on the path to true electricity sector reform."
"I think that given the reform process and that programmes that we have today in the country, NERC is at the centre of it as a regulator. If they manage it very well, if they carry on with the reform programme and processes that are in place, chances are that we will succeed. And succeed we must because electricity is so critical to the economy and well-being of the nation.
"Poor electricity supply is behind most of the problems we are facing as a country - it has direct relationship with the poor state of the economy, rising cost of living and our inability to produce the things we need as a country," Ribadu added.
According to him, most developed and developing countries have long solved the problem of electricity generation, even as he stressed that effective and reliable power industry is at the heart of every economic growth index.
He noted that the state of the nation's power supply over the years has been "embarrassing, almost humiliating, considering that many countries in Africa with even less resources have done better. It is a shame to observe that Egypt, in spite of all their challenges in the past few years, still generates over 70,000MW of power, and South Africa generates more than 40,000MW of electricity, while Nigeria still struggles to produce a mere 4,000MW of power."