By Ochereome Nnanna
A POLYGRAPH machine is often called a â€œlie-detectorâ€. In most countries with advanced legal traditions, you cannot obtain conviction against an accused person based on a failed polygraph test.
However, if a failure occurs, it forms a prima facie basis for detectives to dig deeper for the cast-iron proof that will stand up in court. Polygraph tests monitor the physiological changes in a personâ€™s body, and a failure simply means that the subject is being deceptive in the answers he supplies.
On Sunday, September 6th 2009, Gani Fawehinmi, fiery Lagos lawyer and pioneer human rights activist succumbed to death after a long battle with cancer. The nation mourned, and people from all segments of society thronged his Ikeja home to pay their last respects.
Everything was going as expected until the evening of Thursday, September 10th 2009 when a strange figure came calling. It was the tall and lanky frame of controversial former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who strode down the path to Fawehinmiâ€™s home with his diminutive lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana, firmly by his side.
Many feared for Ribaduâ€™s safety, because he is wanted by the Police for going into self-exile while instead of reporting himself to stand trial before the Code of Conduct Bureau.
He was being tried in absentia at the Bureau. One would have expected that as soon as he entered the territorial precincts of Nigeria, the law enforcement agents would whisk him off to detention for formal arraignment. The louse that the security agencies were searching for in thick forest of their hair was now perching insolently on their forehead!
Surprisingly, Ribadu took his time and made his condolence obsequies more elaborate than those of others. He wept for the man who died fighting his battles at the hands of the Yarâ€™ Adua regime. He signed the condolence register. He granted an interview to reporters. Then, he requested to be taken to the morgue where the remains of Fawehinmi were being kept.
There he offered a prayer for Godâ€™s mercies and Fawehinmiâ€™s admittance to paradise. Later he was taken away in a waiting car â€œin the direction of the Ikeja airportâ€ as one report put it.
Nobody knows if he flew out, sneaked across the border NADECO style or simply dropped out of sight. Many Nigerians were relieved that Ribadu was allowed to come and go. But they were also surprised. Was this not a man who was portrayed by the authorities as a fugitive from the law?
Curious media reporters approached the Police authorities in Lagos to know why Ribadu was allowed to come and go at will. A Police source was reported to have said the job of arresting Ribadu belonged to the SSS. Then, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo came touring the Lagos Police Command last week, and as expected, reporters asked him why Ribadu was not touched. He gave an answer which amounts to failure of a polygraph test. I quote him from NEXT Newspaperâ€™s version of the encounter:
â€œUntil I see those photographs, I wonâ€™t believe he came in. I donâ€™t know who took his photo when he arrived and if anyone has those photos, please let me see them. Until then, I donâ€™t want to join issuesâ€. The following day, the media showed him more than enough, but till date he keeps his mum.
First, the Police said apprehending Ribadu was SSS work. Now, its super-boss said he did not believe he came. Was it possible Onovo did not know? If he did not know, it shows the kind of police boss he is and Force he leads. Ribadu did not come disguised as a woman, as former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha did to escape the London Police in 2006. He did not come in the dead of the night.
If policemen were not posted to the Fawehinmi home to secure it when the crowds started coming for their condolence visit, it shows the kind of police we have.
Ribadu knew nobody would touch him on a condolence visit to Gani Fawehinmiâ€™s family. He knew the problem it would create for a government that is battling with perceptions of incompetence, non-performance and loose regard for corruption.
He came with a moral banner with which he forced his enemies to hide their heads in the sand. Ribadu is in London courts spilling his guts about certain powerful individuals, former governors who allegedly stole large sums of money and used part of it to bankroll Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s presidential campaigns and thus purchased permanent immunity.
When Ribaduâ€™s EFCC dragged them to courts all over Nigeria, some of them swore to his face to get even. Soon, Ribaduâ€™s freefall began. His EFCC was emasculated and Attorney General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa, took effective charge of it, putting his lackey, Farida Waziri, in Ribaduâ€™s place to fight corruption at the regimeâ€™s pace.
Onovo is an experienced policeman. He knows the game going on and he does not want to burn his own fingers. So he decided to sell us a dummy; typical police dummy. The worry now is that we may have difficulty trusting him to police us with credibility.
You have to win public confidence before you can win its cooperation. We also worry because of 2011. A police chief who can sell a dummy to the public so easily may not be depended upon to supervise a credible election!