Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri, have both dismissed the remarks made by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in an interview he granted to the commission’s in-house magazine, Zero Tolerance.
In the interview, Obasanjo had accused Atiku of corruption, adding that his former deputy had not been unable to travel to the United States of America because he risked being jailed by the American authorities.
In the same interview, Obasanjo had said Waziri as the EFCC chairman was a “disaster” in the anti-graft war, insisting that she was not qualified for the post and was only appointed because of the recommendation made by the convicted former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
In a statement issued by Atiku’s Media Adviser, Garba Shehu, yesterday in Abuja, the media aide said: “Following the corruption charges made by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in an EFCC magazine ‘Zero Tolerance’ that former vice-president risked jail if he travelled to the United States, the former president is wrong.
“It is widely known that Atiku did not enter government broke. He declared his assets at the commencement of his vice-presidency and did so at the end of his term as required by the constitution, which is a sacred document to Atiku.
“Atiku, who is currently returning from China after leading a private economic trade mission at the invitation of the Chinese government, travels often and has a well-documented record of building industries and putting thousands of Nigerians to work. And this record, quite frankly, has been thoroughly investigated.”
While reiterating that Atiku has no case against him by any arm of the law in any country in the world, including the United States, Shehu said: “President Obasanjo’s repeated jokes about Turaki not being able to go to America have become cliché, tiresome and not true.”
The media aide recalled that in 2006, Obasanjo sent his National Security Adviser (NSA) to stop Atiku from travelling to the US, saying the vice-president risked arrest on arrival.
He said Turaki spurned that advice, left Nigeria to land at the Andrews Air Force Base, the official airport of the US government, to receive the best reception ever on a visit to America, adding, “So we are used to those taunts.”
He noted that when the former vice-president left office shortly before the late Yar’Adua was inaugurated president, Atiku spent three month in the US, pointing out that if US authorities wanted him for anything, they would have arrested him.
“It is time to start dealing in facts. Specifically, the fact is that Atiku’s visa to visit the United States has been recently renewed.
“Another fact is Atiku is one of the most investigated politicians in Nigerian history. And every investigation, whether politically motivated here at home or by the FBI abroad, has yielded the same result every time: Not guilty.
“If Atiku is guilty of anything, it is crushing persistent attempts at re-writing our constitution.
“Atiku has chosen the path of optimism and hope. Moving forward, he will continue working to fuel Nigeria’s economy through investment and job creation, while also passionately and persistently defending our young democracy,” Shehu said.
In her reaction, Waziri took a swipe at her predecessor Nuhu Ribadu, who Obasanjo extolled in the said interview and reminded the former president that the “ability to be used to persecute political enemies in the rabid pursuit of a third term agenda has never been part of the qualifications for appointment as chairman of the anti-graft agency.”
According to the statement personally signed by Waziri, “My attention has been drawn to a number of allegations made against me by Mr. Obasanjo. One of such was the alleged involvement of former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, in my appointment.
“While I hold the office of a Head of State, either serving or retired in the highest esteem, I will like to put on record for the umpteenth time that this is a totally unfounded, blatant lie and arrant falsehood. It is therefore worrisome when a man who has twice been Nigeria’s head of state can descend so low to peddle falsehood.
“The truth is that I never met Ibori in my life until after months in office as chairman of the EFCC when I used to see him in the presidential villa. It is on record today that I initiated the investigation that drove Ibori into the waiting hands of Interpol and the Met Police.
“As such, it is illogical and nonsensical for anyone to continue to insinuate that Ibori had a hand in my appointment. I remember this was one of the lies Obasanjo’s sit-tight pawns cooked to stop my appointment as EFCC chairman in 2008.
“On the issue of qualifications raised by Obasanjo, the qualifications for appointment as chairman of the commission as stipulated in its establishment Act says that the chairman shall ‘be a serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent; and possess not less than 15 years cognate experience’.
“The late President Yar’Adua did not have to alter the establishment Act when he was appointing me unlike what Obasanjo did. Again, for the record, I served in the Nigeria Police Force for 35 years and got to the pinnacle of my career before my appointment as EFCC chairman.
“If Obasanjo’s real age has not blurred his memory, I will like to remind him that I was a Commissioner of Police, Admin Force CID, CP General Investigations, CP Anti-fraud, CP X Squad, CP Police Special Fraud Unit where I secured the first conviction in a case of Advance Fee Fraud in Nigerian history.
“These are all prime investigative organs of the Nigeria Police where I related with other law enforcement agencies including the FBI across the world. I must place on record that at SFU, I did not only relate with the FBI, Interpol and Met Police, among others, we carried out joint operations at different times on a number of cases. I have also led the Nigerian delegation to the Interpol headquarters in France.
“To further expose the height of mischief in the allegations, the past and present chairmen of the EFCC have both worked under me, yet someone can open his mouth to say I am not qualified to head the same agency.
“This is in addition to my educational qualifications such as a first degree in Law, a Master’s degree in Law and another Master’s degree in Strategic Studies. I doubt if Obasanjo himself can boast of this level of educational qualifications.
“I will also like to remind Obasanjo that no chairman of the EFCC has to date, beaten my record in terms of investigation of high profile cases, prosecution, conviction and recovery.
“I will like to warn that those who live in glass houses don’t throw stones and as such Obasanjo should not allow me to open up on him. Respectable elder statesmen act and speak with decorum.”