Mallam Nuhu Ribadu
By Chineme Okafor â€¨ â€¨
Former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has disclosed that the commission had foretold the imminent collapse of Nigeria’s financial sector as early as 2004 when it uncovered instances of breach of corporate governance practices by some chief executive officers of some banks.
He, however, noted that the inability of regulatory agencies in the banking sector to consolidate on the efforts to cleanse the sector contributed to the downturn in the country’s financial system, adding: “Sadly, the regulators decided to go to bed with the same people that were ripping the banking sector apart with their irregular activities.”
Ribadu, who spoke widely on issues of failure of regulatory agencies in Nigeria at the July edition of “Distinguished Guest Conference” which was organised by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in Abuja, stated that the EFCC under his watch had quietly initiated reform measures in the banking sector before the commencement of the ongoing reform process which was initiated by the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido.
He explained that the commission had on discovery of the fraudulent practices by CEOs of banks, conducted detailed investigations which led to the arrest and prosecution of a couple of them, notably, the former Managing Director of Bank of the North, Mohammed Bulama under whose watch the bank had a debt portfolio of N54billion.
Bulama, who had turned around the fortune of the bank upon his appointment in 1996, was decorated with the nation award, Officer Of the Order Of the Niger (OON) before the EFCC arrested and charged him for diverting more than N500 million of the bank’s deposits for personal use.
Ribadu, in his presentation, decried the current posture of most regulatory agencies in Nigeria, which he alleged have been captured by various interests.
He specifically faulted the failure of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to combat high-profile corrupt practices in Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sector, adding that the agency was complicit in the mismanagement of the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF).
“EFCC actually started the reform in the banking sector, although, quietly. Then Bank of the North had a debt of about N54 billion and we convicted the CEO, we went further to convict about 14 CEOs afterwards when we convinced (former) President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“But sadly, and I must say, the regulator decided to go to bed with this same people that were ripping the banking sector apart from their irregular activities,” he said.
While counselling NERC on the right course to fulfilling its regulatory mandate in Nigeria’s emerging power sector, Ribadu said: “While at the EFCC, we worked because we refused to be compromised and penalised people who sought to compromise us, so NERC must have the capacity to penalise errant behaviour in the sector if it wants to get it right.”