Tobi Soniyi and Tosin Komolafe in Abuja
The pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Malam Nuhu Ribadu, wednesday in Abuja urged the commission to go after senior lawyers who made money from the Halliburton scandal.
Ribadu, who spoke in Abuja, at a National Stakeholders Workshop on the Recovery and Management of Recovered Assets Workshop organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption and the Commonwealth Secretariat, said the commission under him worked assiduously to investigate the Halliburton scandal and uravelled a lot of things.
He passionately appealed to the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, not to allow those who profited from the investigation to go scot-free.
Ribadu, who said he had paid dearly for fighting corruption said he had no regret and was ready to lose his life fighting the scourge.
“I am paying dearly for fighting corruption. But I am not bothered. I am ready to pay with my blood,” he added.
He said: “Halliburton later became cash crow that was milked by senior lawyers to make money. We worked hard and suffered so much to investigate Halliburton. Magu must go after them. Don’t leave it to God. Go after them.”
He said Nigeria was blessed to have a leader who was committed to fighting corruption and appealed to all citizens to support President Muhammadu Buhari and stop politicising the fight against corruption.
Ribadu said the time has come for the country to call a national conference on corruption involving all arms of government, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary as well as state governments.
He said: “Every arm of government should know and agree to its role and will know what is expected of each arm of government and the states. This will enable the fight against corruption to be driven and owned by all of us.
”Buhari provides us with a good opportunity to deal with corruption. We must develop a national strategy to fight corruption. It will specify the areas for each arms of government. What is expected of each arm. Bring executive, legislature and judiciary together. Develop new laws and amend existing laws. We must bring all federating states into it.”
Ribadu said experience had taught him that the fight against corruption would be better fought if all anti-corruption agencies were put under one room.
He said sometimes, anti-corruption agencies sometimes worked at cross purposes and engaged in a blame game because they were not under one controlling body.
He also said his removal as the Chairman of EFCC in 2007 truncated the well laid out plan and agenda to tame corruption in the country.
The ex-EFCC boss who compared his removal to turning back the clock said the decision to sack him was a tragedy.
The former EFCC boss said: “It was a tragedy that we were kicked out of the EFCC in 2007. We had a plan that was working. It was a tragedy.”
According to him, assets recovery requires professional and dedicated personnel.
He also denied the allegations that he and other leaders of the commission sold recovered assets to themselves and cronies.
Ribadu, who repeatedly made reference to Almighty Allah to substantiate his claim that he did not convert seized assets to personal use, said the allegations were ridiculously and aimed at fighting back at those who waged war against corruption.
“I want to appeal to Nigerians to give the current government’s fight against corruption a chance and shun the undue politicisation of issues. There is no other way to prosecute anticorruption than what we are witnessing presently. The effort has yielded appreciable result going by the unprecedented recoveries and the high profile cases being handled. The government and those in charge of the process deserve commendation and our collective support.
“This war is about the survival of our country and the right environment has to be created for the malfeasance to be cleaned and the right foundations and tools set for greater Nigeria. Unfortunately, emotions are often put forward before national interest thereby rubbishing what is otherwise noble and patriotic undertaking. Some of us that have done this work and those presently doing it have been unduly vilified for nothing other than daring to confront the corruption monster. We need to change our attitude, if we are to make enduring headway in this all-important battle.
“For me, this period is an important episode for this work, being a time that we have the most vital tool needed in this war, namely political will. I see in the present leadership, specifically the president, the will to allow the war to be fought without interference and the eagerness to support it in whatever way possible. These two points are important prerequisite in winning the anti-corruption war.
“We are also lucky to have a set of people that are very passionate and committed to be in charge of the process. Added to this, we have a plethora of practitioners, intellectuals, activists and the media that are keen and supportive of the campaign. We have to seize this opportunity by setting a very serious, strategic and focused direction to secure the future of this work and address the major impediments once and for all. The situation today is almost similar to the condition that existed when I chaired the EFCC which enabled us to modestly.”