General Ibrahmi Babangida sponsored President Olusegun Obasanjo to power with his corrupt wealth. Now, the man in charge of probing corrupt officials, EFCC's Nuhu Ribadu has acknowledged that IBB is the mastermind of institutionalized corruption. And why is IBB still enjoying his loot? You guessed right!

Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu declares that General Ibrahim Babangida, and also the late Gen. Sani Abacha and Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar made corruption the guiding principle for running the affairs of the country.

The EFCC Chairman  spoke at the 3rd Media Trust Annual Dialogue in Abuja  on the theme "Corruption: The Trouble With Nigeria," also disclosed that the efforts of his Commission in fighting corruption has yielded more than N500 billion to the nation's coffers. He added that EFCC has successfully prosecuted 35 corruption cases in various courts in the country.

Justifying the freezing of Plateau State bank accounts on the order of a Federal High Court in Lagos, Ribadu said the Court acted in accordance with the provisions of the EFCC Act.

"The trouble with Nigeria is that we have allowed its influence to rule every aspect of our national life, to the extent that it has in fact become the way of life for most†of our countrymen," he said.

He traced the first visible manifestation of corruption in the body politics of the country to the Second Republic government of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) headed by Alhaji Shehu Shagari, which he said, "had very little to show for the huge investment of confidence of the populace in the new democratic dispensation which as they had promised would lead Nigeria out of the woods."

"As it turned out, profligacy came to be what that attempt at civilian governance came to be known and remembered for. Disrespect for the rule of law started to manifest seriously during this period. Of course, there was bare-faced, free-for-all looting of public funds through white elephant projects. This period witnessed the massive erosion of the nation's morals and ethics," Ribadu said.

The EFCC boss however praised the little efforts made by the military regime of Buhari-Idiagbon, in addressing the issue of corruption, "Public officers accused and convicted for corrupt practices were given as much as five lifetime jail sentences each and all the ill-gotten wealth confiscated," he said of the Buhari regime.

He regretted that the measures adopted by the Buhari regime "only scratched the surface of the problem." According to him, the Buhari-Idiagbon regime's attempts at facing up to the problem, which achieved modest results in the direction of national re-orientation "was rubbished by the actions of the subsequent military regimes that governed the country between 1985-1998."

Ribadu said, under the Babangida, Abacha and Abubakar's regimes, "corruption became the sole guiding principle for running affairs of state. The period witnessed a total reversal and destruction of every good thing in the country and positive values were jettisoned, agencies were decimated."

"The decline we noticed in the education sector today also started in that period. The shameless rot in the aviation sector, the absence of an efficient public transport system, the collapse of our public schools, the thievery in the ports and the decay in our health care delivery system all of which huge sums had been budgeted and spent are a direct reflection of the poverty of leadership of that era.

"The military regimes of that period legitimized corruption and in effect did not offer much to the Nigerian nation," he said.

Ribadu observed rather surprisingly that the Babangida-Abacha-Abubakar administrations was the period when providence handed the nation her best opportunity ever to get her acts right and make decisive move to pull herself out of the backwaters of economic, social and political underdevelopment.

"Unfortunately" the EFCC Chairman said that "the leadership of the time did not have their eyes on the future; their eyes were set on the gravy train. It is on record that we earned more money in comparative terms then than in any other period in the history of Nigeria."

"But there was nothing to show for it. Instead, hundreds of millions of dollars were wasted on projects and programmes that have recently been revealed to be only conduit pipes to siphon Nigeria's money into foreign accounts and personal projects," Ribadu said.

He said "The leadership we have been unlucky to be saddled with for most of our lives as a nation has been that which has exhibited incompetence at the highest level."
"This, has manifested in poor management of resources, both human and material. It can also be seen in the army of sycophants and blind loyalists who owe their sustenance and allegiances only to their benefactors.

"Rather than encourage and promote the virtues of accountability, respect for the rule of law and patriotism, the leadership we had destroyed institutions that sustain the growth of society, unleashing on the rest of the people an army of blind loyalists with the explicit instructions to do whatever it will take, or including brazen theft and violence to strengthen their stranglehold on power," he said.

Ribadu observed that in societies where corrupt practices thrive, it is the attitude of that society to corruption and its proceeds that act as incentives to perpetuating corruption. He said in the case of Nigeria, "Ours is an accepting, not a questioning society. We could sooner celebrate than ask questions of those cutting corners for personal gains."

"People who suddenly come into wealth through acts of criminality or corruption are the toast of the society. They are rewarded with Chieftaincy titles while musicians wax special records to mark their coming of age," he said.

The EFCC Chairman said for Nigeria to pull back from the brinks of corruption "it must respect the rule of law, adopt a zero tolerance position for corruption and strictly enforce sanctions against corruption, Nigerians must have respect and patriotism for the country, elect selfless, honest and courageous leadership and build and strengthen institutions for fighting corruption."

Ribadu's description of President Olusegun Obasanjo as a "Great Leader" for his efforts at fighting corruption in the country however drew jeers from the public, and it took the intervention of Chairman of the occasion, Maj. Gen. Garba Ali Mohammed to restore order in the hall.

Ribadu, who felt unperturbed by the attitude of the audience held tenaciously to his views, explaining that his position was informed by the self conviction that Obasanjo was not only the first Nigerian leader to have shown serious commitment to fighting corruption, but also the "first leader in the history of this country to have for the first time allowed those who were closest to him to be investigated by us."

He cited the case of Mr. Tafa Balogun, some members of the National Assembly as examples of Obasnjo's bravery. He also swore in the name of Allah that Obasanjo has never personally directed the Commission to go after anybody perceived as the president's enemies. He said all the people his Commission have investigated are based on public information of corrupt allegations against such people
Also speaking at the occasion, University don, Professor Attahiru Jega observed that the trouble with the country was that of leadership not corruption. He argued that it is bad leadership that breeds corruption and that, "We have corruption as a problem because we have poverty of leadership who have institutionalized corruption in the country."

He accused the nation's leaders of lacking the basic frameworks of good governance, which he listed to include responsiveness, accountability, due process, rule of law etc, hence running corrupt regimes.
He said it was wrong to hold the belief as some do that corruption is inherent in Nigerians.

According to him, "There is perhaps no other country in the world where absolute power corrupts absolutely than Nigeria."

Also Major General Ishola Williams (rtd) who spoke earlier aligned himself with the position that leadership had been largely responsible for the persistence of corruption in Nigeria, and that in addition to addressing the issue of leadership, "we must exterminate corruption in Nigeria today, lawyers and auditors must be incorruptible.

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