Yar’Adua orders issuance of passports to el-Rufai, Ribadu

President Umaru Yar’Adua yesterday ordered all Nigerian missions abroad to issue new passports to a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, and a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.

He also fired the Director-General of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr. Emmanuel Enarune Imohe, over the Nasir el-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu passport saga and approved immediate appointment of Ambassador Oladeji Adeniyi as Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

The former Director-General of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr. Emmanuel Enarune Imohe, who has been sacked by the Federal Government over the Nasir el-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu passport saga was said to have issued an instruction to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ask Nigerian missions abroad to deny el-Rufai and Ribadu consular services.
El-Rufai, former Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and Ribadu, former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), are currently involved in face-offs with federal authorities and the embargo was interpreted as an attempt to get back at them.

Yar’Adua, who upheld the sack of the former DG of the NIA, Ambassador Imohe, felt bad that el-Rufai and Ribadu were denied new passports based on a letter from the ex-NIA boss.


It was learnt that the President was angry that el-Rufai and Ribadu were maltreated in his name when he never gave such a directive.

The President has also directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, to probe the issuance of controversial memos to ministers by security agencies to paint the Presidency in bad light.

Sources from the Ministry of External Affairs said: “When the news first broke and it was brought to the attention of Mr. President, the explanation he got was that Nasir el-Rufai’s passport had not expired and that his claims were ‘just a continuation of his campaign against the government’… The President was assured no such order was given either against el-Rufai or Nuhu Ribadu and that the former refused to comply with the date of return given him to pick up a new passport.

“The President believed their explanation until the publication in a newspaper of letters purportedly written by the Ministry of Foreign affairs and the National Intelligence Agency.

“The publication led him to order an investigation to confirm the veracity of the correspondences which were confirmed.

“He sent for the available Foreign Affairs Minister, Ambassador Bagudu Hirse and ordered him to issue a counter-instruction to all the emissaries.

“The President also directed that the SGF should communicate to the NIA DG, Ambassador Enaruna Imohe, to hand over, with immediate effect, to the next most senior Director, Ambassador Oladeji Olaniyi, who is now the new DG.

“President Yar’Adua is not behind, and could not have authorised, the denial of passport to any Nigerian.

“He (the President) feels very bad about the treatment meted to Mr. el-Rufai and even angrier that it was done in his name when he gave no such directive.

“The President is also said to have mandated the SGF to investigate whether ministers usually obey such controversial instructions emanating from the security agencies on issues pertaining to their ministries without bordering to crosscheck the veracity of claims with the Presidency.

Following the President’s tough decisions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has directed all Nigerian missions to grant any consular assistance to el-Rufai and Ribadu.

The Ministry’s letter to all missions was signed by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Bagudu Hirse.

The letter reads: “The Federal Government has directed that the content of Telex S.111 dated 17th September, 2009 should be reversed.

“Consequently, any request for the re-issuance of passport or any consular assistance from the former FCT Minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and former EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, should be entertained.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the said directive had no authority of Mr. President, who has ordered an investigation into the matter.

“Furthermore, the Federal Government has reiterated that all Nigerian missions should give requisite consular assistance to any Nigerian, repeat any Nigerian that requests for such assistance in any Nigerian mission abroad in line with the avowed commitment of the present administration to democracy and the rule of law.

“Indeed, it is the inalienable right of every Nigerian to seek and be granted a Nigerian standard passport as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.”

Recently, el-Rufai’s attempt to get a new passport, having exhausted his current booklet, was turned down by the Nigerian High Commission in London reportedly on “orders from above”, although the mission claimed el-Rufai was not patient enough to wait for the processing.
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, according to a Presidency source, was then informed by top security chiefs that el-Rufai was only trying to tarnish the image of the government with his passport denial claims.
The President was said to have believed that there was no attempt to deny the former minister a new passport.
However, it has since emerged that there was actually a memo dated September 17, 2009 which was sent to Nigerian missions abroad by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Joe Keshi – acting on a directive from the NIA dated September 15, 2009 – that el-Rufai and Ribadu should be denied new passports and consular services for carrying out “a campaign of calumny” against the Federal Government.
Keshi, however, seemed to have had a rethink, as he later wrote a letter dated September 29, 2009, to Imohe, warning him of the consequences of his directive.
In the letter to Imohe entitled: “Withdrawal of Consular Assistance To Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and Mallam el-Rufai”, Keshi write: “I write to acknowledge receipt of your letter Ref. No. Sr.28/VoI.13 dated 15th September, 2009 on the above subject and to attach herewith a copy of the action taken in compliance with your letter mentioned above. However, having implemented the content of your letter under reference, I am directed to raise some concerns of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose advice on the issue would have been useful in the first instance.
“2. The decision not to renew the former Minister’s passport may unwittingly portray the Federal Government in bad light within the international community as a government that is too sensitive to criticism.
“3. The decision could engender more sympathy for him, which he could utilise to greater advantage especially if he opts to pursue the matter in court. That sympathy could also, as in the past, lead to some sympathetic country granting him temporary travelling documents which will in the end defeat our purpose and render our action irrelevant. Equally, is the view that the criticism of the Government could increase resulting in an unnecessary distraction that Government could do without at the moment.
“4. The best antidote to the Mallam el-Rufai menace is to generally ignore him, monitor his movement and where necessary respond without delay to some of his most stringent comments. It’s our silence and inability to respond promptly, extensively and effectively to his numerous comments since he left Nigeria that has hurt us most than the things he has said. As it is said in Washington, ‘a story not denied within 24 hours, is believed to be true’, hence the White House information managers are on duty 24 hours and they do not fight shy of taking on the Government’s opponent all the time. 
“5. The essence of this letter therefore is not only to inform you of the implementation of your letter, but to hope that based on the above, you may wish to reconsider the issue, which I have no doubt would show the maturity of the Federal Government.”
With the saga eventually creating PR problems for the government, Yar’Adua reportedly summoned a security meeting at the weekend to review the case.

According to THISDAY, “At first, there were suggestions that the government should dismiss the letter as forgery, but this did not sail through.
Imohe reportedly acted on “orders from above” – understood to mean the National Security Adviser, Maj-Gen Serki Mukhtar, who is also believed to have acted on “orders from above”, although it is now alleged that the President was not in the picture.
“I can say without any doubt in my mind that the President did not know anything about the directive,” a Presidency official, THISDAY reports said, although there were still strong suggestions that it would have been procedurally impossible for the NIA DG to issue such a major directive without clearance from “above”.
Another official said: “Even if Imohe was instructed from above, it was very wrong for him to have put it in writing. So that calls to question his ability to handle the job.”
Imohe was asked to resign after the security meeting last Monday, but having failed to do so by the morning of last Tuesday, he was fired by the evening of the same day.
But in a telephone interview with THISDAY yesterday, el-Rufai said he felt nothing but pity for Imohe.
“I know Imohe very well. He is just the fall guy. He acted purely on instructions from the President,” he alleged. “The first question I would like to ask is: a citizen has alleged that he was denied a new passport. As President of Nigeria, Yar’Adua should have ordered an investigation. Did he do that? Even if I was doing propaganda, did Yar’Adua make any attempt to investigate it? I pity Imohe. They have just sacrificed him for nothing. But it is a clear message to those doing Yar’Adua’s hatchet job that the man will deny them at the end of the day. At least, (former President Olusegun) Obasanjo stood by his people when he was in power. Yar’Adua will deny anybody,” he said.
Recently, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Mike Aondoakaa, accused Ribadu of plotting against Nigeria, while the EFCC is seeking the extradition of el-Rufai to face charges which the former minister maintains were politically motivated.
Meanwhile, the decision to deny el-Rufai and Ribadu new passports has been reversed.
In a message transmitted to missions by the Minister of State II Foreign Afffairs, Ambassador Bagudu Hirse, the Federal Government directed that the September 17 letter should be reversed and consular assistance should be rendered to the duo.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the said directive had no authority of Mr. President who has ordered an investigation into the matter,” he wrote.