03 December 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – A former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has said senior lawyers hired by the federal government to handle the Halliburton bribery scandal, used the case to ‘feather their nest’ rather than work for the public interest.
He said the lawyers made more money than government from the case, even as he questioned the rationale behind involving private lawyers to handle the case, describing the arrangement as contrary to the global practice.
Ribadu, who spoke yesterday as guest lecturer at the 9th J-K Gadzama LLP Annual Lecture on the theme, “Corruption and the Nigerian Economy: Lawyers as Change Agents”, also blamed some unnamed senior lawyers for keeping corruption cases against some former state governors languishing in the courts since 2007.
The former anti-graft boss, who blamed his successor at the commission for inflicting “serious damages on the EFCC from which the commission is still struggling to recover,” cited some of the alleged damages to include bringing in lawyers from outside the commission “to handle very important cases that sometimes were turned into avenues of making money.”
One of such cases, according to him, was the Halliburton scandal.
“We did all the work and took the investigation to a very advanced stage but the case was handed over to private lawyers who connived with some officials to feather their nests from it.
“The lawyers ended up earning more than even the government, to the anguish of those diligent workers who built the case. That was a very unprofessional practice and against global best practice. The US and the UK who had similar cases did not involve any private lawyer to handle it for them,” he stated.
Ribadu, while recalling that the US government made $1.6 billion from the case, lamented that “you will sit down in your chambers and write one single letter and then get paid $5 million. How can you call that fight against corruption?”
The former anti-graft czar also bemoaned activities of senior lawyers who, he said, hindered the prosecution of some former governors, started during his days as the EFCC chairman.
“One thing that also did a serious damage to the war against corruption was the active connivance of some senior lawyers who represented the governors we charged to courts after the 2007 election. It is on record that we charged the former governors of Jigawa, Taraba, Plateau, Enugu, Ekiti, Delta, Abia and Edo states as the first set of ex-governors to face prosecution.
“However, almost 10 years after, most of the cases have not gone anywhere because of deliberate action by lawyers to frustrate the trials,” he stated.
Ribadu, however, praised some senior lawyers, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and late human rights lawyer, Mr. Gani Fawehinmi, who, he said, helped the EFCC during his time by offering free legal services and other forms of support.
“In this, Gani has an enviable place. He gave the EFCC his all. He went up to the Supreme Court twice in defence of our work and offered all services of his chambers, including the Law Reports, free for the commission.
“Another strong pillar of support was Femi Falana, who supported us in nurturing the EFCC to what it is today. Mr. Falana’s legal advocacy and support is still being felt by those doing the work. We equally got incredible support from others like Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the current Vice President of Nigeria, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo; Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, and Chief Kanu Agabi.”
In his welcome remarks, founder and principal partner of J-K Gadzama LLP, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, charged the justice sector to rise to the current challenges by spearheading self-cleansing and not give room for external interference.
He said lawyers have the capacity to bring about the needed change in the country as they control an entire arm of government and “share the rest with others”.
The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Nkanu Onnogehen, who was represented by Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad of the Supreme Court, emphasised the need to support the current fight against corruption as he urged lawyers to lead the process.