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How 4 anti-graft chiefs ended up in corruption charges

By all indications, it appears the chairmanship seat of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), like the anglerfish, has a certain allure that ends…

By all indications, it appears the chairmanship seat of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), like the anglerfish, has a certain allure that ends up proving costly for those who occupy it.

None of the four persons who have chaired the agency since its establishment in 2003 has exited with grace or with an unsoiled reputation.

All of them have ended up, one way or another, in the belly of what they had gone to fight – corruption.

The current fate of Ibrahim Magu, the suspended acting chairman of the EFCC over allegations of corruption, has thrown the plight of his predecessors into limelight.

Since the agency was established by the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, perhaps no person has defined the office more than its pioneer chairman, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, a mid-level police officer, who suddenly found himself empowered to pursue some of the biggest names in the country for corrupt practices and financial crimes.

In no time, Ribadu became one of the most-talked- about names in the country, bringing down powerful political figures and striking fear into Obasanjo’s opponents. So powerful did the EFCC and Ribadu become that he ended up shaping the political landscape of the country.

Under his watch, so many political dreams were shelved, others were permanently grounded.

However, Ribadu soon ended up in the jaws of the anglerfish and was forced out of office.

To end his tenure as chairman of the EFCC, Ribadu was ordered to undertake a year-long training. A year later, he was unceremoniously dismissed from the force. Subsequently, he fled into exile for two years.

In 2011, he joined the presidential campaign, but he was a political lightweight. Even his party, the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), was happy to fly his banner while working for PDP’s Goodluck Jonathan.

He was replaced by Mrs Farida Waziri, a retired police officer. Before her confirmation in the Senate, she had to deny allegations that she stood as surety for former Benue governor, George Akume, when he was accused of graft.

She rode that storm, and in line with Yar’adua’s understated personality, ran the office without the flamboyance her predecessor had brought to the role.

She soon alleged that the loot Ribadu recovered from Mr Balogun had gone missing, and claimed that the files detailing the recovery disappeared. True or not, it was a classic line from the police textbook of how to kill a case.

Her greatest accomplishment in office might be the successful prosecution of Obasanjo’s political ally, Bode George, for fraud. She claimed, in her biography, that the late President Yar’adua had warned her a couple of times that she was acquiring powerful enemies. When Yar’adua passed away, Mrs Waziri was left exposed.

The allegations that swirled around her like a whirlwind soon closed in on her.

Her methods were considered questionable. She entered plea bargains with her suspects and provided soft landings for them.

President Jonathan, who had succeeded Yar’ardua, put on his newly acquired iron shoes and kicked Mrs Waziri to the kerb.

She alleged that her sack was a result of attempts to probe oil racketeers and her refusal to contribute funds to Jonathan’s 2011 campaign.

The former president denied this allegation, saying Mrs Waziri was sacked for the sake of “national interest” and other reasons that could not be disclosed because they were “state secrets.”

Whatever the case, by November 2011, Mrs Waziri had her date with the anglerfish in Nigeria’s murky waters.

Mrs Waziri was replaced with Ibrahim Lamorde, who acted as EFCC boss between January and May 2008, after Ribadu’s ouster. Early in 2012, the Senate confirmed his nomination as Jonathan’s new anti-graft man. Lamorde was seen as the muscle, some said the brain behind Ribadu’s EFCC, and expected him to take a tough stance against corruption.

Whatever was the case, he too fell in line with the president and the anti-corruption fight under him wilted in his four-year reign.

Amidst allegations of financial impropriety, failure to account for recovered loot amounting to trillions of naira, including the Tafa Balogun booty, no one expected him to survive Buhari’s axe.

Though he denied the allegations, Lamorde too was duly booted out and the Senate reportedly asked for a warrant for his arrest to be issued following his failure to turn up for their probe. Somehow, he managed to escape prosecution on these allegations.

With Lamorde’s successor, Ibrahim Magu facing allegations of financial impropriety, which has led to his suspension from office, it would seem that Nigeria’s ‘chief thief catchers’ have all succumbed to the light of the anglerfish.

The reality is that being EFCC’s boss comes with enormous powers and responsibilities.

It also comes with mammoth temptations and incredibly powerful enemies. In these circumstances, a popular Hausa adage that if you don’t know how to catch a thief, the thief will know how to catch you comes into play.

The new person to take over from Magu would do well to remember this and beware of the light of the anglerfish before he too joins his predecessors in the dark belly of Nigeria’s corruption monster.

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