by Alexander O. Onukwe
In Power, Politics and Death, written by Olusegun Adeniyi, the spokesman of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, there is an account of the relationship between then Attorney General of the Federation, Mike Aondoakaa and the EFCC Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu.
According to Adeniyi, “the whole saga began one week after Aonodoakaa assumed office as AGF, whereupon he wrote a memo to remind the president of the relevant sections of the constitution and section 43 of the EFCC Act 2004, which he argued empowered him to regulate the operations of the EFCC. He requested that all agencies involved in criminal prosecution should be made to report and initiate proceedings only with his consent and approval as the attorney general of the federation”.
Ten years after that, it appears there is now a recurrence of the AGF-EFCC Chairman battle in Buhari’s administration. AGF Abubakar Malami and Ibrahim Magu of the anti-graft body are presently on a no-eye-to-eye basis, even as the Minister of Information hints at a summon of both men to President Buhari for a resolution.
On Tuesday August 29, Malami announced the establishment of an investigative unit in the Ministry of Justice which will henceforth coordinate and form part of any investigation that will be carried out by any of the agencies under the supervision of the Ministry. The approach may not be exactly the same with what AGF Aondoakaa planned to do ten years ago, but there is definitely, in Malami’s new move, the subject of making the EFCC to “report and initiate proceedings only with his consent”.
Aondoakaa’s reason for seeking control of the EFCC was under the pretext of “the need to ensure better coordination among the country’s law enforcement agencies and avoid situations where multiple criminal prosecutions were undertaken by the EFCC, ICPC and the Code of Conduct Tribunal in respect of the same alleged offences”, according to Adeniyi’s records. In Malami’s case, his investigative unit will supposedly bring in the legal expertise required by the agencies to be able to successfully prosecute cases.
However, Aondoakaa was not a very popular man back in those days, not because the reasons quoted above were not reasonable but because the larger motive for wanting to bring Ribadu under control was due to the former AGF’s alliance with James Ibori. Mr Ibori was in the black books of the EFCC and it looked like Ribadu was offering all the cooperation required by the British prosecutors to be able to make a case against Ibori. Adeniyi recorded, in substantial details, the extent to which the former AGF went to protect the former Delta State Governor, who in turn was bent on humbling Mr RIbadu, a development that could only be described as a scandal as far as justice and anti-corruption is concerned.
It is not yet clear if the present AGF is motivated by any interest to protect a third party in his move to gain a foothold on the EFCC’s operations. What is clear though is that the friction between the Ministry and the anti-graft body is about ten years old, and that episode could have some lessons in store for us.
Ah, yes, Magu was one of the favorites of and loyalists to Nuhu Ribadu ten years ago.