A former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, has expressed concern over what he called an ‘observed ineffectiveness’ of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in recent times.
He said that the anti-graft agency was becoming a toothless bulldog.
The former President made the observation on Saturday while addressing a gathering at his 79th birthday ceremony held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State in south-west Nigeria.
He commended the EFCC under its pioneering chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, insisting that the feats achieved then seemed to be going down.
Mr Obasanjo also expressed satisfaction on the war against insurgency, saying that “the country seems to be gaining the upper hand”.
He further called for more action against the menace.
Also giving his opinion about the anti-graft agency’s performance, the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, had a different view.
Senator Akpabio said that legislation was being made to strengthen the institution.
At the occasion were family members, political associates, serving and former governors, members of the Federal Executive Council and members of the National Assembly.
Some of them described the celebrant as a detribalised Nigerian and an elder statesman.
The event was rounded off with the cutting of the birthday cake as dignitaries joined the former president and his wife at the occasion.
In a bid to fulfill his pledge that recommendations made by the controversial Ribadu Report would be looked into, President Goodluck Jonathan has set up white paper committees to prepare Draft White Papers on the reports of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force and two other reports on the nation’s oil sector.
The others are reports presented by the National Refineries Special Task Force and the Governance and Controls Special Task Force.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Dr Reuben Abati on Thursday announced the appointment of the latest committee to probe the nation’s oil sector.
According to Dr Abati, “the committees are to study the reports, review the issues raised and prepare Draft White Papers for the consideration of the Federal Executive Council within two weeks.”
The white paper committee on the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force report-now known as Ribadu report-will be chaired by the Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu, with the Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, Minister of State for FCT, Chief Jumoke Akinjide, and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed as members.
It will be recalled that President Jonathan, after the rancour between members of the committee during their submission of the report, gave the assurance that despite the rancour , his administration will look into the report and prosecute any one alleged of misappropriation in the nation’s oil sector.
The Chairman of the Petroleum Revenue Task Force, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and a member of his team, Steve Oronsaye traded words at the presentation of the committee’s report to the President with the latter alleging that the report was flawed with unconfirmed figures.
The white paper committee on the report of the Governance and Controls Special Task Force will be chaired by the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ms. Ama Pepple.
Other members of the committee are Minister of State for Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada, Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, and Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mallam Bukar Tijani.
The white paper committee on the report of the National Refineries Special Task Force has Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Architect Mohammed Sada as chairman, and Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Minister of State for Health, Dr. Muhammad Pate and Minister of State for Education, Mr. Ezenwo Nyeson Wike as members.
According to the statement, the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation will provide a secretariat for the committees.
The statement further adds that the President has made the move “in furtherance of his declared commitment to doing all within his powers to ensure greater accountability, probity and transparency in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.”
Despite the controversy trailing the report of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force set up by President Goodluck Jonathan, lawmakers in the House of Representatives, have advised that the recommendations of the report be implemented.
The lawmakers described as unfortunate the face-off between the chairman of the task force, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and some members of the task force over the procedure adopted in coming up with the report.
But they noted however that the face-off is not unusual and advised that the merits of the report should not be overlooked, adding that even in the parliament, such disagreements over reports do occur.
The Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, had claimed that there was a major public disinformation campaign which was calculated to overheat the polity, and incite Nigerians against the President because of the report.
He added that the committee did not achieve the task assigned to it as it failed to adhere to the terms of reference laid for it.
The presidency has commented on the report on Petroleum Revenue Task Force submitted by former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, describing the report as incomplete and incapable of indicting anyone.
At a press conference in Abuja, the President’s Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, blamed Mallam Ribadu for the “politicisation of the report.”
The President’s aide alleged that there was a major public disinformation campaign which according to him, was calculated to overheat the polity, and incite Nigerians against the President because of the report.
Dr Okupe also described Ribadu’s claim of an overture to him to compromise on the report as false.
He added that the committee did not achieve the task assigned to it as it failed to adhere to the terms of reference laid for it.
The Chairman of the Petroleum Revenue Task Force, Nuhu Ribadu and a member of his team, Steve Oronsanye traded words at the presentation of the committee’s report to President Goodluck Jonathan with the latter alleging that the report was flawed with unconfirmed figures.
In his part, Mr Ribadu accused the former Head of Service of not working with the committee during the course of their investigation.
The former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) also accused Mr Oronsanye of accepting an appointed as a member of the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) while the committee was investigating the company and others in the oil sector.
He said: “Steve Oronsanye never participated one day in the deliberations of this committee. Not even a single day. He never”
Mr Ribadu added that: “the first time we saw Steve was at the end of the work when we were talking about recoveries from companies that he jumped in and he got in.”
He defended his position, saying “all the members (of the committee) are here, they can bare witness to what I have said.”
Mr Ribadu said that apart from Mr Oronsanye who accepted an appointed as a of Directors in the NNPC, another member of the committee, Bernard Oti also accepted an appointment as NNPC’s Director of Finance while the committee’s investigation lasted.
Mr Ribadu told the president that “this recommendation is for you to use. It is your work. You thought it wise to bring people from outside to help you look at the industry critically and give an honest opinion.”
Mr Oronsanye, the former Head of Service, who had urged the President not to accept the report claiming some of the figures in the draft report were “unreconciled figures” and that institutions responsible for the figures, such as the Department of Petroluem Resources (DPR) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) were not consulted.
He also alleged that the report that was presented to the President was rushed and was not presented to the committee before it submitted.
President Jonathan in his remark gave the assurance that despite the rancour between members of the committee, his administration will look into the report and prosecute any one alleged of misappropriation in the nation’s oil sector.
He said the country need to get its oil industry right because, a lot African countries on the shorelines are now discovering crude “and if we do not get our acts together, investors will just take their money to these countries.”
The Ribadu led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force was appointed in February and was given 60 working days to deliver their mandate of enhancing integrity and accountability in the petroleum industry.
The 146-page report produced by the committee was earlier in the week leaked to Reuters News agency, revealing that the nation loses out on $29 billion on cut-price gas deals from the year 2002 to the present.
Meanwhile, the former EFCC boss has been reacting on the leakage of the report to the public before presentation.
Answering questions from reporters after the submission of the reports, he said there is no difference between what has been submitted and what has been in circulation.
He insisted that one cannot fault the possibility of a leakage in a project where so many people are involved.
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Deziani Allison-Madueke, urged Nigerians not to lose focus on the objective behind the reports, saying that there was no misunderstanding between her and the former EFCC chairman and that she did not in any way interfere with the work of the task force.
Mr Ribadu has since posted on his social media platforms that “no matter the pressure, don’t compromise, stand for the truth and with people of integrity.”
Elder statesman and former Information Minister, Edwin Clark, has called for the restructuring of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the sack of its chairman, Ibrahim Larmorde.
Mr Clark at a press conference on Thursday said the anti-graft commission as it is presently headed by Mr Larmorde, cannot champion the anti-corruption war, adding it otherwise championing falsehood.
He said he is disappointed with the way the agency’s handling of the alleged $15 million bribe which was allegedly offered by former Delta state governor, James Ibori to erstwhile head of the agency, Nuhu Ribadu.
Mr Clark for the umpteenth time alleged that the EFCC chairman should be sacked for his role and handling of the case because he (Lamorde) tried to shield Mr Ibori from investigation and prosecution, adding that Mr Ibori has admitted to embezzling the funds in a plea he submitted during his trial in London.
He also accused the agency of changing its testimony on the ownership of the money after it had in 2007 sworn to an affidavit stating that the money was from Mr Ibori.
The EFCC through an oral application by its counsel on Monday, sought the leave of the court to summon the former Minister of Information, for contempt of court but the application was refused by Justice Gabriel Kolawole.
At a resumed hearing to determine the owner of the $15 million alleged bribe offered by the former Delta State governor to the former EFCC chairman, the counsel to the commission, Rotimi Jacobs complained of statements credited to Mr Clark suggesting that the proceedings filed by the EFCC was based on falsehood as such the agency’s boss should be sacked.
A Federal High court in Abuja will on Wednesday 29 August begin hearing to determine the ownership of $15 million alleged bribe money, in a suit filed by the federal government.
At the core of the battle to identify the owner of the money are the federal government, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) against the Delta state government.
The money is alleged to have been offered as bribe by former Delta state governor, James Ibori to the former chairman of EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu to compromise an investigation.
The $15million lodged with the CBN is now being claimed and counter claimed by the federal government and Delta state government.
While the federal government is laying claim to the money that has being kept in CBN’s custody since 2007 on the ground that Mr Ibori denied ownership of the money, the incumbent Delta state government however is asking the court to declare it the bonafide owner of the money, having been allegedly offered by the former governor while in office.
The Delta State government in an affidavit deposed to by one Nkiru Bridget Emakpor, a legal officer in the Ministry of Justice averred that Mr Ibori was the governor of the state from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007, the period the money in dispute was allegedly offered to Mr Ribadu.
On that basis, the state said that the $15 million was the exclusive property of the state and is entitled to collect it as the bona fide owner.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Monday, the trio plaintiffs-the federal government, EFCC and CBN-who jointly instituted the suit, did not appear in court on the ground that they were not served with hearing notice.
The Delta state government, represented by the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Charles Ajuya applied for an adjournment to enable fresh hearing notice served on the applicants in the suit.
Consequently, the trial judge, Justice Gladys Olotu sitting as vacation judge adjourned the case till Wednesday, 29 August and ordered that all the parties in the suit must be served with a hearing notice.
The Delta state government is claiming the ownership of the alleged $15 million following a court order that anybody or group interested in the money should indicate before it would be forfeited to the federal government.
The presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in the 2011 polls and former Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has called for a credible opposition to the ruling Peoples Democractic Party, PDP, in 2015.
He made the call in Kaduna on Saturday, during the 7th annual Ramadan lectures organized by the Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, and Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN.
Ribadu, who is the Chairman, Presidential Task Force Committee on Petroleum, noted that the nation was in dire need of a credible alternative to the PDP.
“Nigeria is in dire need of a credible alternative to PDP. If the parties come together, chances are that they would be able to have a formidable party that will confront PDP and until that is done, hopefully, it will bring relief to Nigerians” He said.