Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC): Why We Didn’t Arrest el-Rufai

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mallam Nasiru el-Rufai

•Ex-minister in heroic return after 2 years in exile

By Collins Edomaruse and Chuks Okocha

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said last night that it did not arrest former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) Mallam Nasiru el-Rufai, who returned to the country yesterday after a two-year self exile, because he returned to the country on a day the courts were not in session.

The action of the anti-corruption agency has, however, set a precedent for other former public officers it earlier declared wanted like Mr. James Ibori, former governor of Delta State.
EFCC had on December 21, 2008 declared el-Rufai wanted for abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds to the tune of N32 billion.

El-Rufai who returned to the country yesterday morning through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, in a hail of glory was escorted by officials of the State Security Services (SSS) into the midst of a crowd consisting of scores of family members, friends and well-wishers.

Some commentators in Abuja yesterday wondered whether the same treatment given to el-Rufai will be extended to others who had been declared wanted by the anti-graft agency simply because they entered the country on a work-free day.

But as if trying to stave off criticism that the commission is partial, the spokesman, Mr. Femi Babafemi, told THISDAY last night that el-Rufai would “definitely be invited to our office on Tuesday”.

He said: “We could not pick him up at the airport on the day he returned to the country because it was on a public holiday. We cannot arrest him and keep him in our office; he must be taken to the court straight. And you know, the courts were not in session on the day he returned. The Commission will definitely invite him on the next working day and I believe that is on Tuesday.”

Babafemi also said the former minister, who he said is facing a 9-count charge at an Abuja High Court, is being expected at the EFCC office to make a formal statement on the sundry allegations against him.
El-Rufai has vigorously denied all charges, claiming that they were as a result of political persecution by loyalists of ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua.

In a statement he issued in Abuja to announce his arrival, el-Rufai said his first major pre-occupation was to clear his name “from the onslaught of political attacks and slander perpetrated against my person.”
He also commended Acting President Goodluck Jonathan for his plans to restructure the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as well as his achievements during his recent visit to the United States, which he said has opened a fresh vista in the Nigeria-United States relations.

El-Rufai further commended Nigerians for their insistence that the country must be better run. He explained that there were windows of opportunity for Nigerians to build a better society, where elected officials are accountable to the people and where the civil society groups become the guardian of the country’s democracy.

The full text of his statement titled, “I am Happy to be Home” is as follows:
“My dear Nigerians, it feels good to be back. I am delighted to return home after almost two years of absence. It is a period within which I enhanced my education and endured much vilification and persecution. Through it all, I have retained my faith in Nigeria, its people and its possibilities; and I have been encouraged by the appreciation my compatriots continue to show for my contributions in public service. It is also fitting that I thank all those groups and persons that have supported me in very trying moments.

“I salute Nigerians for their growing insistence that this country can and should be better run. This is further cause for hope because it shows that there is an abiding faith that this can yet become a great country in fact, and not just by aspiration. It is my hope that Nigerians in the Diaspora, spread across the world; Nigerians who love their country; who understand its vast potential, feel compelled to return to Nigeria.

“There is a small window of opportunity to build a new Nigeria – where the government is accountable to its people; where civil society becomes the guardian of its democracy.  There is an opportunity to have Nigeria open for business, but not business as usual.   There is an opportunity to take the reins of control from a small corrupt elite and return it to its rightful owners – the 150 million Nigerians.  There is an opportunity for the “agents of change” to take the arch of history and bend and shape it to their will.”

“We need to work with those “agents of change” to ensure a free and fair election in Nigeria.  Towards this end, I applaud the decisive actions of acting President Goodluck Jonathan in setting a new direction for good governance, and most recently, for paving the way for the re-constitution of the Independent National Electoral Commission.  I also commend him for his successful visit to the United States where he was able to reinvigorate Nigeria’s bilateral relationship with that major world power.

“It is already well known that I am working with like minded Nigerians to promote the robust participation of Nigerians in their own governance. Aside from this collective vision, please know that my first personal priority is to clear my name from the onslaught of political attacks and slander perpetrated against my person in the past two years. Many of the false allegations have since been dropped and it is instructive to note that only one criminal charge has been filed against me after over two years of extensive and endless investigations. It is my intention to vigorously defend the spurious charge and work within the legal system to exonerate myself.”

El-Rufai went into exile at the heat of the allegations that he mismanaged his port folio as FCT Minister and sold properties to his cronies and family members at give away prices. He was later declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Crommission (EFCC).

EFCC had preferred a nine-count charge of criminal conspiracy and abuse of office against the former FCT minister. A judge had ruled previously that the EFCC should paste charges against him on the wall of his residence at 12 Mambila Street, Maitama, Abuja, following his failure to make himself available for service of court papers.

Two other persons, who are being prosecuted alongside el-Rufai are Altine Jubrin, former Director General, Abuja Geographic Information Sys-tem (AGIS) and Ismaila Iro, former General Manager, AGIS. The summons against the duo had long been served on them.


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