Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has described the appointment of Farida Waziri, the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, as a wrong step in Nigeria’s fight against corruption.
Mr. Obasanjo said this in an exclusive interview he granted Zero Tolerance, a magazine produced by the EFCC.
The former president, whose administration established Nigeria’s two main anti-corruption agencies, the EFCC and the ICPC, said he was aware that former Delta State Governor and convicted money launderer, James Ibori, played a major role in Mrs. Waziri’s appointment.
“I know that the woman they brought in to replace Ribadu (Farida Waziri) was not the right person for that job, because I understood that one of those who head-hunted her was James Ibori.”
“If James Ibori, who is now in a U.K. prison for fraud, head-hunt somebody who will fight corruption in Nigeria, then you can understand what happened,” he added.
When questioned further on his stance on the former anti-graft chief, Mr. Obasanjo said Mrs. Waziri was not adequately qualified to head the EFCC.
“Well, go and look at her track record,” he said. “Go and look at the condition or the qualification; go and look at the type of interaction that anybody holding that job will have with a similar organisation elsewhere; did Waziri have that type.”
“What connection did she have with FBI, what relationship did she have with Metropolitan Police in London. It’s not a picnic,” he added.
Ms. Waziri, a retired senior police officer, was appointed head of the EFCC in 2008 after the controversial exit of the pioneer chairman of the commission, Nuhu Ribadu, also a former police officer.
Her tenure, right from the beginning, was dogged by various controversies including her alleged romance with indicted state governors like James Ibori of Delta, Bukola Saraki of Kwara, and George Akume of Benue.
There were also several investigations including by the now rested NEXT Newspapers that revealed how the EFCC, under Ms. Waziri, wrote controversial letters clearing some of the former governors of corruption charges.
Even the international community was so suspicious of the former EFCC boss that former American Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders, threatened to walk out of a meeting with Nigeria’s then Foreign Affairs Minister, Ojo Madueke, if Mrs. Waziri was allowed to be at the meeting.
The former EFCC boss was eventually walked out of the meeting.
“I was investigated”
While making further comments on the EFCC, Mr. Obasanjo also said that in order to clear himself of corruption, he asked the commission, then under Mr. Ribadu, to investigate him.
“I was investigated. I told EFCC to investigate me. I told EFCC to carry out clinical investigation and they did,” he said.
“They also did same with all people on my farm. One of them was telling me the other day how Lamorde called him three times and took statements from him. The EFCC even made sure they did not submit that report to me; they waited until I left and updated their report after going round the world and saying look this is the report.
“Nobody should be below board in the fight against corruption,” he added.
Mr. Obasanjo also commended Mr. Ribadu, saying his performance as EFCC boss helped reduce corruption in Nigeria and improve her rating by Transparency International.
“When I was there, the EFCC and ICPC worked tirelessly and we moved this country from the corruption perception index being number 2 from the lowest to being number 45 from the lowest,” he said.
He queried the manner Mr. Ribadu was removed from office saying he cautioned late President Umaru Yar’Adua against the removal.
Mr. Obasanjo said if given the opportunity again, “I will reappoint Mallam Ribadu and I will not dismiss him the way he was dismissed from the EFCC.”
He, however, accused the former anti-graft boss and former presidential candidate of hobnobbing “with people he had declared as corrupt.”