“At the present time I am a fellow at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University,
as well as a visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Development, Washington DV, United States of America.
This statement concerns the period that I was Executive Chairman of the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja, Nigeria, between April 2003 and July 2008. I was seconded to the EFCC from the Nigerian Police Force, which I joined in 1985.
The problem of corruption is a sad reality for most developing countries, but Nigeria happens to be one of the worst. The people, who are in charge of the country or in charge of governance, waste or divert public funds do their own benefit.
Corruption overwhelms the engine of society and becomes a way of life. Leaders, who have had the opportunity to be in control of the country and communities are beneficiaries of it and are in total control. The leadership has to have the political will to address the problem.
There is an absence of the rule of law in Nigeria. The people who are in control do what the like and regard ‘the State’ as their own personal property. The level of awareness is quite low in the sense that the people do not know or appreciate the damage that corruption is doing. Everybody seems to accept that if you are a powerful person or if you are rich then you are above the law and can do what you like.
A Nigerian State Governor, particularly a corrupt Nigerian State Governor is a very powerful person; he is King and owns his State.
Since gaining independence Nigeria has been ruled by successive military governments, whereby soldiers have taken over simply because of corruption themselves. It occurred in the 170’s and in the 1980’s and the first serious attempt to combat corruption by the civilian administration was in 1999 and by that I mean the President Olusegun Obasanjo government.
The President Obasanjo administration was responsible for setting-up the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and latterly the EFCC in 2003.
The formation of the ICPC raised public awareness of the problem of corruption, but it did not address the problem of ‘grand corruption’ and corruptors were never brought to justice.
Law enforcement in Nigeria is the exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Prior to the formation of the ICPC, criminal investigations were conducted by the police force. For instance the investigation into the theft of government funds by the Sani Abacha, who died in 1998, was directed by a committee set-up by the office of the National Security Advisor, which brought in the police and security services (the SSS). In excess of USD 2 billion was recovered by and on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The EFCC was formed in the early part of 2003, following concerted pressure from the international community for Nigeria to address its chronic corruption problems.
In April 2003, I was appointed Executive Chairman of the EFCC, based in Abuja. I was appointed by the Nigerian President Obasanjo, having been approved for the position by the Nigerian Senate. The EFCC Board included representatives from the private sector and also representatives from the police force, the SSS and the Central Bank of Nigeria. The Chairman of the EFCC has executive powers and the Board members are part-time.
I worked with the EFCC Board to create an organization from scratch. We were able to second staff from the police force and working from borrowed offices, we began our work almost immediately. Our initial annual budget was approximately £1 million, which came directly from the Federal Government of Nigeria. The highest annual budget that the EFCC received whilst I was Chairman was approximately £7 million.
The Lagos EFCC office was originally used by a unit responsible for investigating 419 fraud, which became one of the responsibilities of the EFCC, as well as investigation of corruption and regulation of the banking sector. Our Abuja Headquarters were acquired at a later time. There are EFCC offices in six (6) geopolical zones, namely Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enegu, Kano and Gombe.
The European Untion supported EFCC capacity building by providing approximately Euros 23 million to provude training, infrastructure, motor vehicles, computer technology, etc., as part of a five year project that commenced in 2005. Various foreign governments, including the United Kingdom, have funded training initiatives since the formation of the EFCC.
There are a number of ways in which a formal criminal complaint or allegation of crime can be made to the EFCC. It can be made in person, by letter, email, fax or via the EFCC internet website. The majority of complaints are made in the form of written petitions that people send to us. They can be made by individuals, companies, foreign governments and organizations such as the United Nations. We receive thousands of petitions per annum.
When the EFCC was formed Nigerian State corruption was identified as being a huge problem and consequently we investigated a majority of the States as soon as the EFCC became operational.
In deciding whether and who to investigave, we wold take into account petiutions perceived from ordinary Nigerian citizens, who see at frist hand what is going on. We would review intelligence received from the banking community via our Financial Intelligence Unit, to see whether there were suspicious money movements into accounts of politicians that required or warranted investigation.
I had absolute authority to decide who to investigate. I would reiterate that more than 90% of the popel that we investigated were people of the same plitcal party (as President Obasanjo), that being the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). I had never met President Obasanjo (before I was appointed) and it was not until sometime after I had begun my work with the EFCC that I met him. He never told me who to investigate or who not to investigate.
I discovered that when you fight corruption it will always fight back. These are people not used to being brought to justice. They will attempt to corrupt you. If you are not corruptible they will attempt to blackmail you. If that fails they will just try and give you a bad name.
Legislation allows the EFCC to prosecute its own cases. When investigators feel that they have gathered sufficient evidence to prosecute, the case will be referred to the EFCC Prosecution Department, which is staffed by lawyers. The decision as to whether an individual should be prosecuted in made by the Prosecution Department and their decision is final.
The EFCC is empowered to transmit Letters of Request directly to other jurisdictions for execution. Similarly, the EFCC is empowered to receive Letters of Request from another jurisdiction for execution in Nigeria. There is no requirement for the EFCC to seek authority from the Nigerian Attorney General to deal with a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty request.
However, the then Attorney General Mr. Bayo Ojo was informed of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty requests concerning high profile cases involving the Nigerian State Governors, as was his successor Mr. Michael Aaondonkaa. There was no legal requirement for us to do this, but we felt that it was appropriate because the Attorney General is responsible for the administration of justice in Nigeria and these were cases which had serious implications for Federal and State governance.
The EFCC investigation into the activities of Nigerian Delta State James Onanefe Ibori: I cannot remember when exactly the EFCC commenced the investigation into his activities. I do recall that we received a lot of petitions from people alleging that he had stolen money from Delta Sate and taken it out of the country and/or invested it in companies that he controlled. This was in addition to intelligence that we had received from our Financial Intelligence Unit. I would expect the original petitions to be filled with the case papers at the EFCC.
I have met with James Onanefe Ibori (James) on numerous occasions prior to and during the period that he was under investigation. When I began investigating him he asked me what cold be done to stop the investigation (into him). He told me that everybody was corrupt and that he was doing it because everybody else was doing it. I would not describe myself as a friend of James, but I am not his enemy. I cannot remember when I first met him, but it was before we began our investigation into him.
I personally did not receive any direct pressure from the Nigerian government to drop the Ibori case. This was due to the fact that I was totally focused on my work and mentally blocked out all the outside influences and pressure, which were unrelenting.
James was very aware of how our investigation was progressing. For instance the moment that we went into a bank to obtain financial evidence, somebody would tell James about it.
One of the charges that we brought against James related to a bribe that James paid me in order to stop the investigation. The bribe was made on 25 April 2007 and this was during a difficult period for him because he was going to lose his immunity (as State Governor) at the end of May 2007.
The issue of immunity from prosecution is always a factor in investigations relation to serving politicians. In Nigeria, the President, Vice-President and State Governors are immune from investigating them, whilst they are in office.
We were talking and engaging with James throughout the investigation. He sated that he wanted to give me money to stop the investigation. I wanted to make him feel comfortable, so I did not refuse his offer. I stated that he had money to give me. I initially thought that he was going to give me money to return to the United State Government, to make restitution for his crimes. He did not want to come to our offices, and I did not want to go to his house and I didn’t not want him to come to my house. He stated that he would make the money available to me at Andy Uba’s house in Abuja. At the time Andy Uba was Special Advisor to President Obasanjo.
I briefed my colleagues at the EFCC, about everything that was going on. On the day that James said that he was going to give me the money, I told my colleagues and we went to Andy Uba’s house. My staff on that occasion would have included EFCC Head of Operations, Ibrahim Lamorde and EFCC Head of Unit and EFCC Officer James Garba. James (Ibori) was there and his servant or driver brought out the money from the house, in two (2) massive sacks containing U.S. $100 dollar bills. My staff took possession of the money. This took place outside the house, but inside the compound surrounding the house. I told my staff to take the money to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directly that same afternoon, where it was counted and lodged as an exhibit. The total amount that James gave me was exactly U.S. $15 million. James was not aware that the money had been taken to the CBN, I was of the view that James thought that I had taken it personally and possibly shared it with my own staff.
At the time that he gave me the money James was immune from prosecution, so I could not arrest him. I did not tell him that I had banked the money, because I did not want him to flee the country. The first time that he would have realized that the bribe had not been successful was when he was arrested.
James was an remains a very powerful and influential figure in Nigeria, so much so that five (5) days after I had charged him in connection with out investigation I was ‘asked to go to school ‘ and by that I mean that I was taken off the case.
My position became very difficult, almost untenable, following the appointment of the new Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa, who was part of the new administration in mid-2007. His very first act was to state that he was taking over prosecutorial power from the EFCC. However, he was not legally empowered to do this because a previous Supreme Court ruling stated that the EFCC had authority to prosecute.
Despite the Supreme Court ruling, Mr. Aondoakaa interfered with many of our cases, by exercising his right of audience in the courts and destroyed cases relating to corrupt State Governors discontinuing hearings and trials. From the moment that the Attorney General was appointed my position was under threat. Every day brought new pressures upon me, from Mr. Aondoakaa.
Shortly after we charged James (on 12 December 2007), the Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro made a public announcement through a national newspaper that I was going on a course at the Nigeria Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies in the city of Jos in Plateau State. I was not informed in advance of the fact that I was going on this course, which was for one (1) year. In fact the course was of no benefit to me, because I had taught at the Institute for three (3) years previously and I was already over-qualified for it (the course). The course was actually aimed at middle-career public officers aspiring to higher office. At that time I was still a serving police officer.
I went to the Institute and eventually complete the one (1) year course.
I was not dismissed from the EFCC at the time I went to Jos, because they had no reason to dismiss me. The impression that they (the authorities) created was that I would complete the course and then return to my work at the EFCC.
Whilst I was studying in Jos, a new Chairman was appointed to the EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri. I was told by the authorities that I had been wrongly promoted to the Assistant Inspector General of Police (my rank at that time) and that I would have to revert two (2) ranks back to the position of Deputy Commissioner of Police. My deputy Ibrahim Lamorde was appointed acting Chairman in my absence for a brief period of time before he too was returned to the police force.
Whilst I was studying in Jos an attempt was made on my life. One evening at about 6-6:30pm, I was driving along on the road from Jos to Abuja in my car, which was a bullet-proof vehicle. I noticed a little Japanese make of care following me. I pulled into a filling station and then pulled out again and noticed the same car, which had four (4) occupants, including the driver. The care pulled alongside me, the rear passenger window came down and one of the occupants aimed a pistol (firearm) at me and fired three (3) shots at my car. Fortunately I was not hit and sped off. I knew what was going on, it was an assassination attempt. I decided to go back into Jos town, where I stayed for two (2) or three (3) hours, before returning to Abuja. I did not tell the police in Jos, because I believed (and still do) that they were behind the attempt on my life and when I say police I mean the Inspector General of Police Mike Okiro. If I went to any government agency they would come under pressure if they helped me, people would lose their jobs, so I kept quiet and old told those close to me. The car still has the bullet marks.
Download full Statement here