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Ribadu tells of Nigeria corruption battle

Nuhu Ribadu
Nuhu Ribadu fled Nigeria in fear of his life

Nuhu Ribadu is a man who continues to divide Nigerian public opinion two years after the anti-corruption campaigner was forced from his job.

His supporters portray him as a relentless pursuer of the thieves in high places who have kept most residents of this oil-rich country mired in poverty.

As chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ribadu even sent his own boss - the inspector general of police - to prison.

He brought more than 1,000 cases to court, and secured 270 convictions.

Before his appointment no company in Nigeria had ever been charged for bribery.

However, his critics accused him of being a political hatchet-man.

They accused him of only pursuing cases against enemies of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and leaving his friends untouched.

Dismissed

Shortly after Mr Obasanjo left office in 2007, Mr Ribadu was removed from his post and sent on a year's "training course".

Some people were hired, and their responsibility was to get me. Luckily my car is bulletproof
Nuhu Ribadu

"I was dismissed," he told the BBC World Service's Outlook programme.

"There was a clear signal that no-one should do anything about fighting corruption. That is very sad."

He soon fled the country because, he says, two attempts were made on his life - one while he was driving.

"Some people were hired, and their responsibility was to get me.

"They came quite close. The individual behind the driver brought out his hand and shot three shots at my car. Luckily my car is bulletproof.

"When they attempted that, I left the country the next day."

Raw cash

As head of the EFCC, Mr Ribadu found himself in a potentially lucrative position should he succumb to the same corruption that grips the nation.

James Ibori, former Delta State governor
Mr Ibori's $35m assets included several properties in London

"They'll try everything," he said.

"They will attempt to bribe you. If it fails, they will blackmail you and try to make a mess of your name."

One extraordinary bribery attempt sticks out in his mind.

"One of them gave me $15 million in cash. Raw cash. American dollars.

"I got my people to take it to Central Bank of Nigeria and deposit it there. We used it as an exhibit in the trial against the individual. We got him locked for about two or three months in jail while I was office."

But James Ibori, a former governor of the oil-rich Delta state and key backer of new President Umaru Yar'Adua, was freed on bail and his case has since languished in the courts.

Soon after this case Mr Ribadu was removed from his post.

'It's not over'

Since leaving the country, he has found himself at the centre of allegations over his own professional conduct - being accused of not declaring assets.

He says he will not return to Nigeria to challenge the allegations.

OUTLOOK
Outlook is broadcast daily on the BBC World Service
It is also available as a podcast

"The reason why they are doing that is simply thinking 'lets get him back in to the country. We'll seize his own documents, possibly get him behind bars.'"

"It's as much as saying 'Go and get killed'. And I think that is not right. I love life, I want to live."

He did, however, make a brief appearance in Lagos in September for the funeral of human rights activist Gani Fawehinmi, even though the authorities were supposedly desperate to find him.

Mr Ribadu does vow to return home to finish his work.

"I will certainly go back to Nigeria. It's not over.

"This is the sad story of our own country. This is money belonging to the people.

"This is what is supposed to be used to solve the problem that we are facing. Look at how it's being wasted. See what is happening with our people. Today they use the money to fight for their own survival, they give it to lawyers across the world, they buy private jets.

"Total waste."



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SEE ALSO
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Open season on Nigeria's Obasanjo
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Q&A: Nigeria's war against graft
11 Apr 08 |  Africa

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