Former chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Farida Waziri has expressed dismay at how she was unceremoniously removed from office despite her years of service to the nation which spans a period of 35 years.
In an exclusive interview with Zero Tolerance, a magazine produced by the EFCC, Mrs. Waziri alleged that she got to know of her sack by President Goodluck Jonathan in November 2011, in the news media; and said she did not deserve such treatment since she had not been found wanting for any misdemeanour.
“If you are removed like that, it has a tendency to scare some people. I wasn’t bothered that I left because my philosophy of life is simple, ‘what has a beginning has an end,’” Mrs. Waziri said in the interview.
Mrs. Waziri was appointed by late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua in 2008 to succeed the pioneer chairman, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, who also was booted out of office in rather humiliating circumstances.
She said, “The manner of the sack was what bothered me. I have done a span of 35 years, fighting for my fatherland, I deserve some little dignity and respect. When you wake up and you see on AIT, Waziri sacked! NTA, Waziri sacked! Channels, Waziri sacked! That is the style I am talking about.”
“My predecessor’s case was even worse, but I do hope that the authorities will take note. Except you are removed as a result of gross misconduct, any other way you should be treated with dignity, respect for the human person,” she said.
Mrs. Waziri, a respected police officer, who retired as an Assistant Inspector General of Police, maintained that she had no problem vacating the position of head of EFCC but the approach adopted for her removal was what she frowned at.
“I knew I would one day leave. In fact, the handwriting was on the wall. I knew it was matter of time,” she said.
The former EFCC boss was sacked in November 2011 in what seemed a controversial circumstance, bringing to an end a tenure believed by many to have slowed down the modest successes recorded by her predecessor in office.
Mrs. Waziri was seen as a co-conspirator of her kinsman, then controversial minister of justice, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa in the plot to shield some allegedly corrupt former governors from trial and a case in point was the abysmal trial of former governor of Delta state, James Ibori, who escaped conviction in Nigeria largely due to the shoddy job done by the anti-graft agency.
However, what would later prove to be the ultimate proof that the EFCC under Mrs. Waziri let Mr. Ibori off the hook would be the former governor’s arrest in Dubai, United Arab Emirate, before he was extradited to the United Kingdom where he was convicted and is currently serving a 14-year jail term for stealing state funds.
In the face of these claims, Mrs. Waziri denied helping to free Mr. Ibori and claimed she never knew the former governor even though there were whispers that he was one of those who head-hunted her for the job. She also denied knowing Mr. Aondoakaa prior to her appointment as head of the EFCC, but insinuated that the former minister’s relationship with Mr. Ibori may have played a vital role in his escape from the law.
“I never knew him. I never knew James Ibori. When I was appointed, I went to the villa very often because the president called his staff and told them Farida has free access to him 24/7, whether in the office or villa. So I went there very often and I met Ibori; he was always there,” she said.
“I think what happened was that my younger brother, Aondoakaa, the former attorney general was close to Ibori.”
“….if I was in league with Ibori and was not sincerely pursuing him, would he have run, gone out of this country to Dubai?”
Mrs. Waziri dismissed claims she tipped Mr. Ibori off, to flee the country after President Yar’Adua’s death as “all lies of the enemies.”
“By my training and upbringing I can never betray my country for anyone, for any reason; never! Of course I was all out and that was how he ran out and went and got himself in more trouble,” she said.
She also denied widespread belief that her tenure as head of EFCC witnessed a lull in the fight against corruption in sharp contrast to the record set by her predecessor, Nuhu Ribadu.
“Go and check the record of convictions, the first conviction ever that went to logical conclusion was during Farida,” she said. “190 billion naira, one single recovery from one person that went to jail was during Farida Waziri.”
She said the negative impression accusing her of bungling several investigations, was more of a fierce media campaign against her stay in office just as she claimed there was intense interference in her work. She declined to give names.
“The enemies were many, ferocious; they kept on mounting the campaign of calumny, injecting the poison pen for three and half years,” she said.
“If you open the newspapers, it is Farida; if you open Saharareporters, it is Farida; if you tune the radio, it is Farida. It seems as if I was the worst civil servant in the history of Nigeria.”