419: Judiciary Used to Frustrate Trial, Says Ribadu|
From Josephine Lohor in Abuja and Victor Efeizomor in Lagos
Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, (EFCC) Alhaji Nuhu Ribadu, has accused financial crime suspects (419ers) of using the judiciary to frustrate their trail.
Ribadu who spoke on Monday in a Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) programme "Eagle Square," monitored in Abuja, also noted that the advance fee fraud (419) would remain unabated in Nigeria until there are convictions, which will serve as deterrent to others.
Argued Nuhu, "How can it be that in South Africa, there are 38 Nigerians convicted for 419, but in Nigeria there is no single conviction. How do you think that the international community will take us serious."
Continuing he said, "there must be conviction for the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to take us serious."
Ribadu who noted the role of the judiciary in frustrating prosecution of crime suspects in Nigeria, said, "Any time we commence full prosecution, lawyers to these 419 kingpins will use the courts to stall prosecution. They will file one motion or the other at the Court of Appeal."
"We need to set example by actual conviction. In this country, there is no single case of conviction, yet there are over 27 Nigerians in detention for crimes of 419," he said.
The EFCC boss also criticized the judicial system in Nigeria regretting that,
"It is only the poor that go to prison." He added: "it is high time we brought the rich who are criminals to justice. They have money and use their money to buy their way out. Today there is no rich man in Nigerian prisons."
Ribadu revealed that his commission has secured witnesses from Holland, Nethe-rland, Germany and the United Kingdom to enable it prosecute several cases of 419 against some prominent Nigerians currently in jail.
He lamented that, "these witnesses, who are victims of 419 are being threatened by the 419 kingpins." But he assured them that, "we will give them adequate protection, if only to tell the world that we are serious."
On the allegation against Fred Ajudua, Ade Bendel, and Maurice Ibekwe currently in detention for Advance Fee Fraud offences, Ribadu said, " Fred Ajudua has twelve cases pending against him. The latest was advance fee fraud to the tune of 1.6 million Euros and another $1.5 million. Both offences were committed in 2001."
Ade Bendel, he said duped an Egyptian General and some group of people in Calabar. According to the EFCC Boss "Ade Bendel has three cases against him," while Maurice Ibekwe is being charged for defrauding a German. The offence, he said was committed in 1992.
On the deportation of the Vaswani brothers, Nuhu Ribadu accused them of corrupting the security agencies by compromising them in the course of their duties.
Ribadu added that the deportation of the Vaswanis became necessary since they claimed to be British citizens and therefore expected to face trial in a British court.
"We need to set example with them," Ribadu stated, noting that there is no big deal about their deportation because over three hundred Nigerians are being deported per week from all over the world.
Meanwhile, the presidency has vowed not to interfere in the on-going prosecution of Ibekwe, a member of the House of Representatives, Ajudua and others accused of advanced fee fraud (a.k.a 419).
This declaration is in response to pressures mounting on the presidency to release the kingpins who are currently on trial for several 419 cases.
A presidency source stated yesterday that government has been keeping tabs on the various media campaigns accusing President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar of insensitivity over the matter.
The source, who said the President has insisted that "if Ajudua or any of them is guilty, he will go to jail," added that Obasanjo has also vowed that the EFCC has just begun its job.
The source added that "the publications are wildly speculative and factually deficient." He said "the damaging falsehood peddled against the President and the Vice President were intended to pressure them to release a particular 419 kingpin now that all the legal maneouvres and powerful lobbying had failed to stop their trial. But we are not bothered."
Emphasising that the law will definitely deal with people found guilty of defrauding any Nigerian or foreigner, the source noted that "the publication recently called the President a liar over his nationwide address on October 1, 2003. They followed another cover story calling him a failure and a deceiver.
"The Vice President got his own dose this week in a cover story titled 'Atiku and His Bribery Gang,' alleging the oft repeated falsehood that Atiku bribed the Senate to the tune of N50 million to have Nasir el-Rufai, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory," the source added.
Meanwhile, an Ikeja High Court was yesterday told that Ibekwe who is standing trial for alleged involvement in Advance Fee Fraud is critically ill and has been referred to the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital (LUTH) for treatment.
This prompted the trial judge, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun to adjourn further hearing on the matter to tomorrow to enable the defence counsel Professor Taiwo Osipitan to furnish the court with medical reports from the Nigerian Prison Authority and the hospital.
When the matter was mentioned for hearing yesterday, Ibekwe's counsel told the court that due to the deteriorating health condition of the detained lawmaker, the prison authority could not bring him (Ibekwe) to court as he has been referred to for proper medical attention.