- 3 commissioners suspended for improper dressing in Ebonyi
- CBN issues two new merchant bank licences
- Ekiti PDP accuses ACN of attacking members
- Daniel eulogises HID Awolowo at 97
- Jonathan hails Koroma's re-election
- Collapsed man: Edo dep gov threatens Airhiavbere
- Communal clash: Police arrest gang leader, 12 others in Nasarawa
- Corruption: There ‘ll be no sacred cow - Jonathan
- Amosun’s wife tasks students on reading culture
- Flooding: Dangote committee sets N50bn target
- Adamawa LG election conducted peacefully
- 1999 Constitution: Women group calls for amendment to gender-biased provisions
How Ibori, Aondoakaa tarnished Yar’Adua’s govt • The Ribadu, US, UK, police top brass connections
The immediate-past administration under the late Umaru Yar’Adua was believed to have started on a note of credibility. But towards the demise of Yar’Adua and his administration, two prominent Nigerians, by their actions and inactions, helped to derobe the government of its honour. Stephen Gbadamosi delves into how these two men ruined the Yar’Adua-led administration as revealed in the new book authored by Yar’Adua’s media aide, Segun Adeniyi. The messy details are contained in a chapter named; “Corruption and the Ibori Saga,” in the book entitled; Power, Politics and Death.
BARELY two years after he died, it has been revealed that the administration of former President Umaru Yar’Adua was destroyed by its entanglement with the corruption case against former Delta State governor, Mr. James Ibori, aided by the then Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Kaase Aondoakaa.
This revelation, contained in the new book written by the then Special Assistant on Media to the late President Yar’Adua, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, also indicated that the development strained the relationship between the United States of America (USA) and the government of the United Kingdom (UK).
The new book, entitled; Power, Politics and Death, contained information about the underground and conspicuous moves made by Mr. Andoakaa, using state machinery, to shield Ibori from prosecution for crimes he committed while in office as governor, while deceiving the late Yar’Adua into pandering to his plans.
Yar’Adua’s complacency, his Achilles heel
Narrating how the Ibori fraud case consumed the integrity of the late president and that of his administration, Adeniyi explained that trouble started for Yar’Adua when Aondoakaa sought to have all anti-corruption agencies under his ministry’s direct supervision.
“Buoyed by the unprecedented decision to declare his assets in public, Yar’Adua came to office with a reputation of personal integrity. But within only a matter of weeks, that image, which had swirled around him like a halo, would be tainted by the perception that he was leading a government that was protecting the corrupt.
“Unfortunately, the president did not appear to see what most Nigerians, and indeed several of us within the administration, could see very clearly: that the seeming connivance between his attorney general and justice minister, Mr. Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, and the former Delta State governor, Chief James Ibori, was destroying the reputation of the government and also compromising his own personal integrity,” Adeniyi noted.
The former presidential aide said Yar’Adua, at some point, was not unaware of the development that later tarnished the image of his government, but for reasons largely unknown, he had been extremely complacent.
According to him, “the United States’ view was brought home to the president very clearly in August 2008, when the Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, recounted for him an encounter between the deputy chief of mission at the Nigerian embassy in Washington, Ambassador B. G. Wakil, and the United States’ deputy assistant secretary of state, Mr. Todd Moss.
“Wakil, who said he was summoned to the US State Department by Moss, had prepared a detailed report of what transpired at the meeting which, according to him, ‘turned out to be a reading of a riot act from the US to Nigeria, centred on what the US has called an unfair treatment of former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu.’
“Maduekwe’s presentation had disturbed the president, who was equally peeved by the tone of the US intervention on the matter, and quite naturally, believed it was part of the handiwork of Ribadu, given the perception that he was bent on tarnishing the image of his administration. This was the dummy sold consistently by Aondoakaa, who attributed anything negative about the administration, both in local and international media, to Ribadu.
“The message from the United States was clear to the president: They perceived his administration as one shielding the corrupt, even though it was all due to the antics of the AGf who, for all apratical purposes, had become no more than a personal attorney to the former Delta State governor.”
Aondoakaa stalled progress made under Bayo Ojo
In his account, Adeniyi submitted that Aondoakaa’s predecessor, Chief Bayo Ojo, appeared to have been assisting the prosecutors in the US in their bid to nail Ibori, but as soon as the baton of power changed at the ministry, efforts to prosecute the former governor begun to get thwarted.
He explained that the genesis of the crisis was a week after Aondoakaa assumed office as AGF, when 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.”
Adeniyi explained further that the memo, which also sought to curtail duplicity in the works of the EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offence Commission (ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal, had, however, been seen by the press before the president could see it.
He said the leak was attributed to Ribadu as he had called to tell him that Ibori called him (Ribadu) on the telephone, bragging that he would soon humble him (Ribadu), adding that Ribadu claimed that Ibori was working hand-in-glove with the AGF.
“This was not a charge I could take lightly. When I met the president on the issue, he dismissed the allegations. He said he had read the media report in question and showed me the memo from the AGF, which he had yet to treat. ‘If your friend (meaning Ribadu) thinks he can intimidate me, he must be joking,’ he said, his tone a mix of anger and jest. But I got the message,” Adeniyi narrated, adding that Yar’Adua had insisted that he wanted a professional EFCC which would do less
talking than working.
Ex-AGF bent on whittling down EFCC’s power
Adeniyi disclosed that Aondoakaa did not make any pretentions about the fact that he wanted to curtail the EFCC’s power to prosecute, though he was only a few days in office, adding that many lawyers, however, thought the position was not tenable.
This development he said, prompted former President Yar’Adua to request a copy of a Supreme Court ruling said to have laid the matter to rest, adding that the State House counsel, Jaqlal Arabi, had explained the judgment to the former president, saying though the AGF had the power of oversight over anti-graft bodies, he had no exclusive power to initiate prosecution.
According to the former presidential aide, the development brought about the first reversal of policy by the administration as the president assembled leaders of the anti-graft agencies, Arabi and the Honourary Adviser on Legal Matters, Dr. Wale Babalakin to a meeting where he rescinded the decision that the anti-graft bodies needed AGF’s permission to prosecute.
He said the development rather put a war of attrition between Ribadu and Aondoakaa, adding that it became obvious that at Yar’Adua’s ascension to power in May 2007, the British government had concluded that Ibori, whom Andoakaa was perceived to be shielding, would stand trial in the United Kingdom.
“From the representations made to the office of the AGF and the Foreign Ministry, there was no mincing words about the fact that they wanted Ibori extradited to face criminal charges. The complication, however, was that all the alleged infractions for which they wanted to nail Ibori were committed in Nigeria with evidence obtained from the EFCC.
“On August 30, 2007, the office of the Director, United Kingdom Fraud Prosecution Service, sent a 31-page letter to the AGF. It was signed by the Crown Prosecutor, David M. Williams. In seeking Aondoakaa’s assistance on what was code-named Operation Taureen on James Onanefe Ibori, Christine Ibori-Ibie, Adebimpe Pogoson and Udoamaka Okoronkwo, the prosecutor thanked the office of the AGF for ‘the response which they provided in response to my earlier request dated 23 August, 2006.’
“The implication of this was that Aondoakaa’s predecessor, Chief Bayo Ojo, SAN, had been assisting with regard to the investigation, which the prosecutor said was meant not only for criminal proceedings, but to enforce a confiscation order on the numerous properties of Ibori in the United Kingdom and several other countries across the globe.
“At the end of the letter, the prosecutor sought the assistance of the AGF to ensure that Detective Constable Peter Clark and Detective John McDonald of the Metropolitan Police at Wellington House, Buckingham Palace Road SW1, be permitted to liaise with the competent Nigerian authorities with regard to investigation of Ibori.
“Aondoakaa neither replied this letter nor acted on it. Not even when there was a follow-up delegation from the British High Commission in Abuja to remind him of his obligation. His plan would soon unfold; he seemed to have already set in motion the machinery to frustrate the trial in London. It started with an apparently contrived letter dated August 4, 2007, from one Mr. Speechly Bircham, LP, which was aimed at eliciting a response that would aid the defeat of the prosecutor’s case. Within 48 hours after the letter was written in London, a reply was already back to the United Kingdom from the office of the AGF.
“In a carefully worded letter, Aondoakaa admitted that Ibori was indeed investigated in connection with his acts in office as Delta State governor, but that there was no record that he had been charged to court in Nigeria in respect of any offence. Invariably, the AGF exonerated Ibori of complicity in any criminal proceedings in Nigeria,” Adeniyi explained further.
The author reminded Nigerians that when the said letter became public knowledge, Aondoakaa denied vehemently that it ever emanated from his office, adding that when the media later published the letter, the AGF had given the excuse that it was an innocent clarification in response to a request from Ibori’s lawyers.
Adeniyi further disclosed that it was the same letter that Ibori’s lawyer relied on in arguing his case and that it was on that basis that the Southwark Crown Court lifted a restraining order placed on his assets in October 2007, adding that Aondoakaa celebrated the verdict as a vindication of his position.
He noted that at about this time, Aondoakaa got to know that Ribadu was not confirmed for a second term as EFCC chairman, a development Ibori would cash in on.
“Like Mrs. Ifueko Okauru, Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Ribadu had been reappointed for a second term of four years by Obasanjo, but while Okauru’s name was sent to the Senate for confirmation, as required by Section 11 of the FIRS (Establishment) Act 2007, Ribadu’s name was not sent to comply with Section 2 of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004. Given that Ribadu, like everyone in his position, needed to be confirmed by the Senate, this was an omission that would be his Axhiles’ heel,”he disclosed.
The police chiefs’ connection
Adeniyi revealed that also interwoven with these intrigues was the no-love-lost situation between Ribadu and some senior officers in the police.
He said, “first, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, came into the picture by including Ribadu’s name on the list of officers the police was sending for a course at NIPSS in Kuru, Jos. I was in Ilorin on Christmas holiday with my family when Ribadu called to inform me of the directive, which he said he would disregard.
“As he fumed, I pleaded with him to calm down. I had to cut short my holiday and return to Abuja. I believed that such a move would have serious backlash and make my job very difficult. I met the president, and he confirmed that he had the memo but had yet to decide on what he would do, though I could see that he didn’t pay much attention to my advice on the issue, perhaps, because he knew that on Ribadu, my intervention could not possibly be impartial. He needed to see Okiro to know why he wanted Ribadu sent to NIPSS, he explained.
“That, in effect, meant he had not taken a decision on the issue. I took this message back to Ribadu, pleading with him not to say anything publicly on the matter as the Chief of Staff, Major GeneralAbdullahi Mohammed (rtd.), had wadded in.
“This dragged on for another week, giving General Mohammed and me some more time to try and ensure that the president did not sanction the idea of NIPSS. But unknown to us, it was already a done deal.”
He explained that this was given away by a memo from Okiro to the president on January 7, 2008 confirming that the president had, indeed, given his approval earlier as it (the memo) began with ‘consequent upon Your Excellency’s approval of my letter dated 24 December, 2007, on the nomination of senior police officers as participants for the Senior Executive Course 30/2008, the affected officers will be warned to hand over to their next in command by 11 January, 2008. This is to enable them (to) prepare adequately for the course which commences on 4 February, 2008.’
Adeniyi said his mission to save the situation for President Yar’Adua also took him to the IGP to convince him to drop the decision to send Ribadu to NIPSS, but that it was of no effect.
“Okiro, like many in the top hierarchy of the police, had his grouses against Ribadu, who was said to have been very disrespectful, indeed contemptuous, of him when Mr. Sunday Ehindero (to whom Ribadu was close) was inspector general of police. Many senior police officers were also unhappy about Ribadu’s ‘irregular promotion’ and the way he seemed to disparage the institution of which he was a member just because he was heading the EFCC.
“Even those who did not like the disgraced IGP, Mr. Tafa Balogun, felt that the humiliation he was made to suffer at the hands of the EFCC was not good for the image of the police. So, invariably, Ribadu had several powerful foes to contend with, and some of them were baying for blood,” he explained.
The former presidential aide, however, said he believed that Yar’Adua himself might not be ignorant of all that was going on.
He noted that, “I believe that the president was not altogether ignorant about the unfolding intrigues and that he may have given his tacit approval in the bid to get rid of Ribadu,” while also suggesting that the former president might have some grouse against Ribadu during the time he wielded so much power under the Obasanjo-led Presidency.
“So, the NIPSS idea was very convenient. Even while Lamorde, EFCC director of operations, was asked to act, a replacement was soon foisted on the commission in a manner that made nonsense of the president’s avowed commitment to the rule of law. But the AGF would rationalize it. Almost as soon as he sent the name of Farida Waziri to the Senate, and without waiting for her clearance, she was announced as acting chairman and made to resume. This irked the Senate members, who ordinarily should have confirmed her appointment. Some feeble protests were made, but the president got away with it. Nonetheless, the EFCC’s tragic saga continued,” Adeniyi noted.Share