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And they were duly impressed. Equating corruption with terrorism, Ribadu, a scholarly 46-year-old, described corruption as the cause of “the horrible, horrible history of failure of leadership and failure of governance” in the developing world. Tackling corruption would be the fastest way to address problems like poverty, disease, and illiteracy, he contended.
EFCC was established in 2002, and since then Ribadu has investigated powerful politicians, businessmen, government and police officers, cyber scammers, and others. He has secured more than 150 convictions––against none prior to EFCC’s arrival––and recovered over $5 billion of stolen public funds.
But he has also lost three of his staff members to reprisals from the interests he has disturbed.
Known in Nigeria as “a messenger of hope” and described as “a hero on the frontlines,” Ribadu said, “It is time to say ’enough is enough.’ Nigeria is an oil-producing country that still imports 90 percent of its consumption needs and suffers from poverty and lack of basic services.
“Now for the first time in its history, people are being called to account, stolen resources are being recovered, and the corrupt are being punished. We have the possibility to establish rule of law and accountability,” Ribadu added.
A Role for the Bank
Asked how the World Bank and other donors could help, Ribadu replied that a $5 million Bank grant two years ago had helped EFCC survive after it had been shut out of funding because it had taken on certain political interests. Now it was setting up a financial intelligence unit.
“What we need is training, equipment, and exposure for our staff. We also need your support at the international level. So much of grand corruption is out of our control, as the money goes out of our jurisdiction. If the World Bank can help us retrieve stolen money and ensure there is no safe haven outside, it will help us immensely in our fight internally. There should be no hiding place for the corrupt ; treat them like terrorists,” he appealed.
Further, asserted Ribadu, “you must carry the message to the world that corruption is behind the failure of governance. You must continue to support our work. That then sends a strong message to our elite that the world is watching what is happening in Nigeria, and that protects us.”
Failure of Leadership In response to a question about the culpability of foreign commercial interests, Ribadu said the primary fault remained that of “failure of leadership,” and it was a country’s responsibility to clean its own systems.
“I have seen multinationals and big oil companies play by the rules elsewhere, but behaving badly in Nigeria and Africa because of our collapsed systems. We have to insist ourselves on the rule of law and order ; then everyone will behave,” he said.
He did suggest, though, that publicly naming multinationals that attempted to compromise the system could act as a deterrent.
Solving Problems Replying to other questions, Ribadu said recovered funds were being returned to their owners––in most cases the federal or state governments, or banks.
He said working with the judiciary and police could be a challenge, especially as the Nigerian Constitution insulates the judiciary itself from investigation.
EFCC’s success has in part been because it both investigates and prosecutes, unlike in Kenya or Ghana, where prosecutors are part of a government cadre and the attorney-general could be a political appointee with no incentive to take on his masters.
Moreover, Nigerian law has been amended so that the high courts can designate special judges to handle EFCC cases. These (so far) 14 judges have delivered the 150-plus convictions.
Asked how he was communicating his work to Nigerian society and securing its support, Ribadu said the answer lay in being “very strategic” about the selection of targets and the timing of investigations.
EFCC has gained popularity with the public, but now that he has taken on powerful political interests (“six of whom control 80 percent of the Nigerian media”), he was not expecting anything good to be said about him. It was in this context that international support and scrutiny were critical.
Finally, asked if he would do anything differently, Ribadu stressed : “I would do the same things and more. I have no regrets. I am 100 percent okay with all we have done. My conviction remains that if you want to make poverty history, you have to make corruption and bad leadership history.” Source : World Bank, April 5, 2007