n American friend of mine once asked if I pray for those who rule Nigeria, and I replied "No." "Why," she asked, and I said, "I took a look at them, and decided to pray for my country instead." It is no secret that Nigeria has the best police, the best judiciary, and the best politicians money can buy. A few years ago we read in the WikiLeaks document in a private exchange between the US Ambassador in Nigeria and his boss in Washington, how the Yar'adua's government paid $57 million to our Supreme Court to obtain a favourable judgement in the 2007 presidential election case. The document went on to detail how this money was taken from the NNPC account and passed on to one of the ministers, and then to the Justices of the Nigerian Supreme Court. If I had heard this tale at Nwangbeke's palm wine and bushmeat joint at Udi, I would not have believed it. I would have considered it one of those stories told while under the influence of excessive alcohol. But no, this was no ordinary tale; rather they were the direct words of the US Ambassador in a diplomatic cable, a secret communiqué that was made for the private eyes of those in Washington. In that document, the Ambassador went on to detail how after the money was paid, the actual judgement was written by one of the lawyers inside Aso Rock and forwarded to the Supreme Court to be read as their own judgement. The Ambassador even boasted that he had a copy of the judgement before it was released by the Supreme Court. Na waa for Naija! Was my only gasp when I first read this on WikiLeaks.
I don't want to be pretentious here; after all, I don't need WikiLeaks to know the state of affairs or the extent of corruption in the Nigeria Judiciary though I never would have thought that the Supreme Court is no different from any other lower court in Nigeria. Well, I take that back...our Supreme Court do not take pennies like some of the small boys and girls in the lower courts. How can I be surprised? Was it not a Nigerian Court that told Governor James Ibori that he has no case to answer to anybody in Nigeria. When an honest judge rejected Ibori's bribe of $10 million to testify falsely that Ibori was not the man he previously convicted, other judges in Abuja took the money and granted Ibori favourable ruling that allowed him to re-contest for governorship in 2007. Was it not the same Nigeria Courts that told Governor Odili that he has no case to answer to anyone here in Nigeria even after Ribadu had declared him the most corrupt governor in Nigeria? Anyway, I need to calm down for now; this article is not about the judges and the courts. We shall revisit that topic on a later date. But for now, Chukwu mere anyi ebere! (Lord have mercy on us!)
The EFCC was destined to fail from the beginning. The very fact that they were created out of the Nigerian Police meant that some of the usual police practices would prevail. I never thought that Ribadu was a saint, but l sincerely believe that he was a decent man who with the right backing could have potentially sanitized the politics of this country. But, of course, his hands were tied from day one. He only pursued those he had a green light from Aso rock to pursue, and he was also a little too political for such a post. He went public and began to openly talk about Babangida's corruptions and how he was at the time putting together evidence against him. Two weeks later, the man was forced to recant or rather swallow his words. Such public humiliation was not enough for Aso Rock, so they sent Ribadu to the Hill Top mansion at Minna to go and kneel down and apologize to Babangida himself. Who say man no pass man for Naija?
To say that Ribadu was frustrated at the EFCC was an understatement. He found it impossible to go against the wishes of Aso Rock and as a relatively junior police officer I cannot imagine him going against the wishes of the Inspector General of Police in Nigeria. In the end, frustrated and toothless they stripped him of his ranks and dumped him from the EFCC after he thought he could do more harm under Yar'adua. Waziri came in, allied herself with the most corrupt Attorney General Nigeria ever had, filled her pockets and was eased out in due time with very soft landing. Then came the current man, Ibrahim Lamorde, who has now publicly lamented on the impotency of the EFCC. Yes, the EFCC have been successful in catching and successfully prosecuting many of the small time 419 kids, not even any of the kingpins, just the up and coming kids. Surely, any police department could have done that. What about the big boys for whom the EFCC was created in the first place? Well, let's examine the EFCC record against them.
The sad truth is that since 2003 the EFCC has indicted more than thirty governors in Nigeria, but not a single one of them have been found guilty or done any time in prison. Indications are that no sitting governor in Nigeria today considers the EFCC a big problem. They see them as a menace that has to be accommodated. If any governor now wishes to steal 10 billion naira, they will make it 15 billion and keep the extra 5 billion naira to appease the EFCC and if the EFCC refuses to play ball, they will always have the ever-ready Nigerian Judges to parley with, to pay their ransom and afterwards be free to enjoy their loot while their case stalls indefinitely in the courts. Haa! Ego amaka, especially in Naija. Apart from Inspector General Balogun, and Bode George, both of whom were sanctioned by Baba himself, the EFCC cannot tell us which big boy they have successfully indicted and convicted in Nigeria. Even the Balogun and Bode George's cases were really laughing matters when you look at the amount of billions involved and the six months sentence Balogun received. The EFCC is either too corrupt or simply powerless to tackle any of these big boy cases. And when they decide to go ahead full throttle, the courts are there to stop them, and to collect every penny the EFCC has refused to collect. And then to stall these cases until Jesus Christ returns, which may not be in our lifetime.
When Ribadu rejected Ibori's $15 million dollars cash bribe, our judges took his money and granted him justice. I wonder if his lawyers also drafted that judgement, as was done by Aso Rock in the case against Yar'adua. When they rejected Speaker Bankole's money, our judges took the money and granted him a clean slate judgement. When I say that we have the best judges money can buy, I do not mean to belittle our judiciary. I am a respecter of our legal system, yes, I even attended the Nigeria Law School at Victoria Island, commuting from the US to do so in the 2000/2001session. I know without a doubt that there are a few good and incorruptible judges out there in this country though not many. And for the sake of those few, I'll cling on to the expectation of hope that one day things will get better.
For now and until our judiciary is much better, I advocate the abolition of the EFCC as presently constituted. It is a joke. We often see one ex governor or some big boy politician in handcuffs being driven to the courts, but once they make bail, which they all do, it becomes the end of it. What then is the point? Why are we being regularly deceived in this country that something is going on when nothing is happening. The only thing happening now is that the politician is forced to share some of his loots with the EFCC officials and the judges while the rest of us are left holding the bag and our collective resources continued to be drained. If the EFCC must be preserved, then it has to be reconstituted, preferably with lawyers at the helm, a fearless legal advocate like Femi Falana but without partisanship, none police officers, and for a special court to be created exclusively for the EFCC, and above all for them to make a scapegoat of at least one big politician, a governor, a minister, even an ex-president. Otherwise we are just fooling ourselves in this country while the shit keeps hitting the fan. As my friend Dr. Moe Ene would say, "Everything else is embellishment."