I heard about my removal on TV –Waziri


The removed Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes, Mrs. Farida Waziri, on Wednesday said she heard the news of her sacking on the television.

In a brief telephone chat with one of our correspondents late on Wednesday, Waziri also said she was yet to be formally communicated. She, however, added that she would determine her next line of action whenever the sack letter reached her.

The brief telephone chat went thus:

Good evening Madam. My feeling is that you were out of the country?

No, I am in the country.

How did you see what happened?

I don’t know; I will talk to you later because I have not gotten any fact. I only heard of it on television and I have nothing to say.

What do you intend to do if you are formally communicated?

When we get there we will decide the next option. I will link you up through the EFCC spokesman, Mr. Femi Babafemi.

Jonathan on Wednesday sacked Waziri and replaced her with a director in the agency, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, who is to run the commission in acting capacity.

A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said the change took immediate effect. But the statement was silent on the reasons for the change.

The statement reads, "President Goodluck Jonathan has approved the appointment of Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde as the Acting Chairman/Chief Executive of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

"The appointment takes immediate effect, and effectively relieves Mrs. Farida Waziri of her position as EFCC Chairman.

"Mrs. Waziri was appointed EFCC Chairman by the Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on May 18, 2008 and confirmed by the Senate on May 27, 2008.

"Mr. Lamorde, an officer of the Nigeria Police, was, until this appointment the Director of Operations of the EFCC. He was also Ag. Chairman of the EFCC before Mrs. Waziri assumed duty at the Commission."

Also, in a text message sent to THE PUNCH on Wednesday, Abati said the removal was to revitalise the fight against corruption.

"The President may in due course announce further reforms and will be looking at other key areas to give more vigorous emphasis to the administration’s transformation agenda," he said.

Why she was removed

Also on Wednesday, reliable sources in government who spoke to our correspondents explained why Waziri was removed.

A source in the Presidency told THE PUNCH that the President acted under the "pressure of the petitions, alleging corruption against top officials of the anti-corruption agency."

The source who only agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity said that the EFCC had suffered "huge reputational injuries" on account of Waziri’s headship of the agency.

The source listed Waziri’ sins to include the alleged shoddy handling of the case of former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, whose acquittal by a court was not contested with an appeal by the EFCC.

The source also blamed the leadership of the agency for the loss of the goodwill it had enjoyed in the international community before Waziri took over.

The source said, "The agency’s loss of credibility has continued to attract doubt about the government’s anti-corruption crusade. Hillary Clinton (US Secretary of State) was unsparing in her assessment of the EFCC under Waziri.

"The London Metropolitan Police also announced a severance of ties with the EFCC over the Ibori case. Other partners like the UK Serious Fraud Office also gave the agency a wide berth.

"It is the loss of credibility that is responsible for the doubts that have trailed the recent arraignment of some former governors."

Another source in government, who also pleaded anonymity while speaking with our correspondent in Abuja, said the President was also worried about the way the plea bargaining agreements with some high profile suspects were handled.

Senators and Reps react

Meanwhile, some members of the National assembly said on Wednesday that Jonathan could not be questioned for removing Waziri. They said the President acted within his powers.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Drugs/Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Mr. Adams Jagaba, while speaking on the development, noted that Jonathan had the power to "hire and fire" a head of the agency.

"The pencil used in nominating Waziri has an eraser. He has used the eraser to erase her name. What is important is that the EFCC as an agency is still there. It is our wish that whoever takes over from Waziri should drive Nigeria to become a corrupt-free society," he said.

He recalled that before the sack, some Nigerians had clamoured for the removal of the EFCC chairman.

"Some people have been calling for her removal. Others have even said that they do not want anybody with a police background to head the agency", the lawmaker added.

The sack came barely one month after the House had initiated a bill to amend the EFCC Act to make either a retired justice of the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal the chairman of the agency.

It was speculated that the move was to foreclose the chances of re-appointing Waziri at the expiration of her tenure next year.

However, Jagaba claimed that Waziri was not the target.

"The National Assembly has no hand in her removal. The bill we proposed was intended to strengthen the operation of the agency; it was not targeted at anybody. It was the President who sacked her; so he alone can explain why," he said.

The Chairman of Senate Committee on Narcotics, Drugs and Financial Crimes, Senator Victor Lar, said the sack came to him as a surprise.

He said, "It is a tenure appointment and it has not reached the end of her tenure and she has been removed from office. That she has been removed from office means that the President who appointed her has cogent reasons for doing so. Since he has not said that, I can only say I am sure it is for the good of the fight against corruption."

He said the Act establishing the EFCC was clear about the appointment and removal of the Chairman of the commission, noting that he was satisfied with the way the Act was designed.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Gas, Senator Nkechi Nwaogu, told one of our correspondents that it was the prerogative of the President to appoint or remove whoever was the Chairman of the EFCC.

Nwaogu said, "You and I know that the EFCC has been facing criticisms of inefficiency, and she herself had admitted a number of frustrations and had listed a number of factors working against the agency.

"The President is an executive President, he has the right to hire and fire. We hope that the action would lead to an effective agency that would fight corruption."

Also, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Women Affairs, Senator Helen Esuene, said the removal of Waziri by the President could be in the interest of the country.

According to her, the fight against corruption in the last four years had lost its steam and bite, given that very few achievements were made.

"In the last four years we did not make much progress in terms of the fight against corruption; we did not get to hear about much arrest. I may be wrong, but we need to do more," she said.

Leader of the Senate, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, said he would need to take a look at the EFCC Act before commenting on the issue.

"Why is it coming at this time, do you have any idea? Well I will have to look at the EFCC Act before I comment," he said.

What the EFCC Act says

Section 3 of the EFCC Act 2004 says, “(1) The Chairman and members of the Commission other than ex-officio members shall hold office for a period of four years and may be re-appointed for a further term of four years and no more.

(2) A member of the Commission may at any time be removed by the President for inability to discharge the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for misconduct or if the President is satisfied that it is not in the interest of the Commission or the interest of the public that the member should continue in office.

(3) A member of the Commission may resign his membership by notice in writing addressed to the President and that member shall, on the date of the receipt of the notice by the President, cease to be member”
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About Akins Mathew

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