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Farida still looks unconvincing

By Ochereome Nnanna
THE more you look at the czarina at the head of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Mrs Farida Waziri, the less reassured you are that she is tackling corruption with all the might at her disposal.

May be the fault is not hers but rather that of those who expect the EFCC Chairman (whoever he or she is) to be another Nuhu Ribadu.

Well, how can you expect to have another Nuhu Ribadu as Chairman of the EFCC after the way the President dealt with him shortly after assuming power? Ribadu was pro-active and did not wait around until former President Obasanjo kicked him in the backside before he went after his targets.

Yes, he was also a willing tool in Obasanjo’s fight against his political enemies, for which he was roundly belted by many critics. But at the end of the day, he still managed to have a large following both at home and abroad, and through his efforts, Nigeria was noticed as a country that was doing something positive about her endemic corruption.

Perhaps, Ribadu’s greatest undoing was that he rushed in where the angels feared to tread. He also went after those who packaged and financed Yar’ Adua campaigns for the Presidency. Otherwise, what other earthly explanation could be offered for the nasty manner in which he was treated for serving his country diligently?

It was not just Ribadu that was squeezed and thrown into the dustbin like a dirty rag. The Commission itself, whose mystique Ribadu had firmly established, was hollowed out and recreated to “look before it leaps”.

Perhaps Waziri, being an experienced top police officer, is tiptoeing about her assignment knowing what “undue exuberance” can fetch one in the end. Perhaps she is learning from what happened to her predecessor that it pays to wait for orders and to follow them to the letter.

Is it not amazing that Mrs Farida Waziri and her EFCC were here in Nigeria and at work while the huge “un-performing” debts they have recovered from Nigeria’s super-rich bank borrowers piled up? How did the EFCC, which many people had already started forgetting it existed, suddenly come back boldly into the centre stage, rough-handling the high and mighty in a fashion reminiscent of the Ribadu days?

It is not as if the EFCC Act was amended on Friday, August 14th 2009 when the Governor of the Central Bank, Malam Lamido Sanusi, announced the sack of the chiefs of the five banks. The law was always there, and so were the alleged offences. What made the difference? What woke Farida and her team from slumber into their current dramatic and incendiary debt recovery acts?

Sanusi himself disclosed to a group of senior editors when he met us at the Eko Hotel and Suites the day after he sacked the bank chiefs how it all happened. He told us that when he and his team at the CBN saw what was happening in the banks and the danger it portends for the financial system, he decided to inform the President about the need to act.

According to him, when he finished explaining his intended actions to President Yar’ Adua, the nation’s CEO immediately summoned by telephone the heads of the relevant security agencies (which of course included Mrs Waziri) and instructed them to give Sanusi all the cooperation he needed to clean up the system and bring the erring parties to book.

Waziri’s approach to her job reminds me of former Inspector of Police, Tafa Balogun. He was fond of doing the normal police routine work until former President Obasanjo issued instructions for him to go after something. Then he would kit up in his full mobile police gear and make himself look as fierce as possible, making sure that the television cameras followed every move made by he and his “boys”.

You would remember this was how he went about the Okija invasion. While Tafa Balogun served Obasanjo with barefaced loyalty, he was also serving his pocket with equal unalloyed dedication.

Perhaps, waiting for presidential orders is the way the Nigerian Police is trained to work. That is probably why the police method can never arrest crime and corruption in Nigeria.

I am worried for Sanusi Lamido, though. Quite a few commentators have observed that he is a Ribadu reincarnate. You will notice a number of similarities between him and Ribadu. Both are in their forties. Both are Fulani. Both are lanky and gangling like a cane in stature. Both are articulate and engaging media performers.

Both are fearless and willing to jump into the eyes of anyone. We hear that one of those forced to cough out an “un-performing loan” is a relation of President Yar’ Adua’s. We wait to see if Sanusi will also hew at Yar’ Adua’s family bank if indeed it is also in need of life support. He is treading on mighty toes, and he does not seem about to stop. Or will he?

We hope what happened to Ribadu will not happen to him. If it does, Madam Waziri, the experienced police officer and acolyte of Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa, the sly and worldly-wise presidential lawyer, will chuckle with amusement at overzealous “small boys”.


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