On 23rd November, Farida Waziri, the then chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC,) was booted out of office. A Press Release issued by Reuben Abati, SA Media to the President, announced the removal of the anti-graft Czar and an immediate replacement in person of Ibrahim Lamourde who was until his appointment EFCC’s Director of Operations.
The removal of the former EFCC boss unceremoniously, this paper gathered, may be due to her alleged unprincipled demeanor and bureaucratic gaffe in her line of duties, and her poor prosecution of the anti-corruption war. Moreover, DESERT HERALD gathered that aside from her alleged sins, enormous pressures from many political interests which cut across party lines, and many National Assembly members and the Governors, may also have influenced her removal from office by the president even as he was airborne to France.
To many Nigerians the removal of the EFCC boss came as a shock especially as she was yet to complete her 5 years tenure. We also gathered that political pressure for her removal had been on and as such the Presidency had not been pleased with a series of reports of rising corruption which allegedly included her and other members of the Commission under her tutelage. For instance, her situation was compounded by some reports over the diversion of the sum of N250 million from an operative at the Lagos office of the commission.
It was also learnt that a row was ignited between Farida and leader of the team of investigators; a bribe of N120 million was said to be the subject of her row with the leader of the team of the investigators. The source also claimed that the said leader who hails from the North-Eastern part of Nigeria, is a Senior Police Officer and was now re-deployed from the EFCC.
In another development, we gathered that Waziri had an altercation with the then Director of Operations, DCP Ogunshakin, over a battle which is unfathomable. It was gathered that the altercation ended in the removal of Ogunshakin on allegation of his involvement in an examination fraud at the University of Abuja where he was undergoing a Law Programme though the school authority later absolved him of complicity in the said act.
We also learnt that the police chief was said to have accused the then EFCC boss of being involved in unethical behaviour and that she also created a special team which was under her direct supervision which was not in consonance with laid down rules of the Commission before Farida’s appointment.
Farida was also said to have an alleged relationship with one Victor Uwajeh, but fell apart with him; however, Madam Waziri denied knowing the said Uwajeh as at that time. But the music changed when the man produced pictures of her and Uwajeh at a party. Uwajeh was said to have been connected with Waziri by Paulen Tallen.
A confidential cable from the US Embassy in London cited in detail UK Foreign Office assessments of the Nigerian Government in 2008 and 2009 naming Michael Aondoakaa, former Federal Attorney General and close associate of James Ibori, as keeping “Waziri on a very short leash.”
A leaked US Embassy cable dated 17 November 2008 notes, “Former UK Chargé in Abuja (and current FCO East and Central Africa Group Head) James Tansley assesses that Waziri will not pursue any corruption cases that are not in the government’s interests.”
One of the high profile cases Waziri consistently backed away from was the prosecution of former Delta State Governor James Ibori who has been accused of embezzling vast amounts of Delta State funds while he was governor and transferring it to the UK. UK authorities have been keen on pursueing legal action against Ibori through the London courts but the EFCC and former Attorney General Aondoakaa had been less than helpful. Aondoakaa, a close associate of Ibori, had requested the British to return evidence earlier provided for the case.
In one of the leaked US Embassy cables Tansey noted that “it is bizarre how frequently Waziri asks for additional information on major cases, details that she should already be familiar with if she is ‘really digging into her portfolio”.
Other charges against Mrs. Waziri were her alleged issuance of “Letter of Clearance” which gave suspected high profile persons clean bill of health. For instance, she was alleged to have cleared Ibori and former Akwa Ibom governor, Victor Attah, among many other such suspects of corruption charges.
Another United States of America diplomatic cable on Nigeria released by WikkiLeaks stated that the American Ambassador to Nigeria in 2009, Robin Sanders, snubbed the former chairman while desperately seeking audience with the diplomat.
The cable revealed that the US government had distanced itself from the anti-corruption boss because she was perceived to be corrupt and bereft of progress in the fight against corruption in the country. Based on this perception, the US government specifically instructed Sanders not to have anything to do with her.
The former EFCC boss, this paper gathered, faced the heat also from the United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton who was critical in her assessment of the EFCC under Waziri.
Another thing which may also account for the ouster of the EFCC boss may as well be connected with the general displeasure felt over her way of handling things at the commission by the US, EU, as they frowned at her lack of progress in the anti-corruption war. However, a close source said there are security reports which alleged that some persons had earlier demanded for money allegedly on her behalf to be able to bamboozle the prosecution of the four ex-PDP governors who were charged to court by EFCC last month.
Moreover, one Emeka Ugwuonye, a lawyer, had been at loggerheads with Farida. According to Emeka in an Incident Report which was published in an online news, one midnight the former EFCC boss visited their cell in Lagos at midnight, and she began to address the entire inmates including him, where she said that we were all guilty of whatever offences we were accused of. She urged them to confess in order for us to receive mercy. She allegedly threatened that unless they confessed she was going to send any of the inmates she pleased to Adeniyi Adele and Panti.
She said that in those places we would have to prepare their wills. The two places she mentioned were two police detention cells known for extreme brutality, torture and extra judicial killings. When she made this threat, the EFCC staff around her laughed knowingly indicating their common awareness of such extraordinary rendition. For anyone to be sent to any of those two places is literally to be sent to a gas chamber.
There was a grave silence among the inmates on the mention of the Chairman’s plan for “non-cooperating” inmates.
The silence and the terror were palpable in the eyes of the inmates. The same is said of an inmate who was impregnated by an EFCC officer and then the issue was covered by the EFCC, even after a petition was taken, nothing happened.
A petition was written to the effect that the commission’s critical mission is to be the bulwark against official corruption, fraud, and money laundering, said a source. It is not a federal government parastatal for resolving petty conflicts between individuals, or between parties in commercial contracts, all of which carry the imprimature of civil cases. When arrested by EFCC, citizens have a right to expect that they will be charged immediately to the court of appropriate jurisdiction.
Where applicable, they expect to be granted bail.
The petitioner also alleged that they are saddened to note that the history of the EFCC under her watch has taken a frightening turn towards highhandedness and brazen infringement of the fundamental human right of detainees. It is also troubling that the EFFC now appears to have become tool for settling petty and mundane transactional disputes, away from its core mandate.
But a group of anti-corruption lawyers have hailed the removal of Farida Waziri, as they said that they have been vindicated. They also said that she is the most corrupt and incompetent anti-graft Czar they have ever had in the history of Nigeria.
“A woman who turned the EFCC to a Businessmen Centre and money spinning factory with passports of people being seized without Court orders. The sacking of waziri is long overdue and we commend President Goodluck Jonathan for this bold step taken to repair the image of Nigeria already battered by this woman,” they said.
They added that the President should direct the SSS to seize her international passport and prevent her from leaving the shores of this country to enable a proper probe and prosecution of Waziri, who since she was appointed has been engaging in massive and serial looting of funds of the EFCC and engaging herself in primitive accumulation of wealth. We also plead with the US Embassy, the US Department of State, The British High Commission, Abuja, other EU Embassies in Nigeria, SSS, and Nigerian Immigration Service. etc not to allow her leave Nigeria. She should be red flagged and placed on watch list.
“We have already prepared Court Summons waiting for filing tomorrow to get Waziri prosecuted over various offences ranging from: Non-declaration of assets as EFCC Chairman since June 5, 2008, illegal acquisition of properties in Maitama (No.25,Trent River Street, Maitama) and Plot 1460 Mabushi District, Abuja, failure to remit to the Federation Account/CRF the alleged N20 Billion loot recovered from former IGP, Mr. Tafa Balogun since November 2005 after conviction of Balogun in violation of Section 31(3) EFCC Act 2004 and Section 80(1) 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.
“Our letter to her on May 12, 2011 for her to account for this fund was not replied till date. She will account for this in Court from tomorrow.
There is also her failure to account for the N9.1Billion allocated the EFCC for 2010 Budget, out of which over N2.95Billion was allegedly misappropriated for fictitious Capital Projects. Interestingly, our letter to her under FOI to account for this money was not replied since October 16, 2011. She will account for this sum from tomorrow in Court,” they concluded.
The group also cited impersonation of the position of AIG when she retired as DIG, detaining suspects including Lawyers without trial.
Ibrahim Lamorde has since taken over; Lamorde, who is 48, enlisted into the Nigeria Police in 1986, after obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology (1984) from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
He was posted to the Niger State Police Command and served between 1987 and 1988 in Minna. He was Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) in Rijau, Niger State between 1988 and 1989 and for four years (1989-1993), served as Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Niger State Command.
Lamorde was a pioneer officer of the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the Nigeria Police, created in 1993 and served in the premier anti-419 corps of the Nigeria Police until 2002. While still an officer of the SFU, he was deployed as Chief Investigation Officer of Ermera District of East Timor of the United Nations Civilian Police where he served creditably, between 2000 and 2001. He was briefly Divisional Police Officer, Ojo, Ibadan, Oyo State and later deployed to the Force Headquarters, Abuja, from where he was seconded as a pioneer officer and Director of Operations of the EFCC.
In the global pursuit of criminals, Lamorde has worked effectively with other government law enforcement agencies around the world, including the FBI, Metropolitan Police, US Postal Inspection Services (USPIS), Internet Crime Complaints Centre (ICC), the Dutch Police, German Police and the South African Police, among others.
Lamorde is a Member of the Nigerian Institute of Management and Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), has attended several international training programmes, seminars and workshops where he delivered papers on the Nigeria’s fight against corruption, Advance Fee Fraud and other forms of economic and financial crimes. He also attended a Strategic Management of Regulatory and Enforcement Agencies course at the Harvard University in 2005.