Former President, Goodluck Jonathan has fired back at former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Farida Waziri, after she said she was removed as head of the anti-graft agency for going after oil thieves in her book ‘Farida Waziri: One Step Ahead’.
The former EFCC Chairman said before she was removed, she got a call from the Presidential Villa not to arrest the racketeers but she refused to be compromised on the case. Waziri also revealed that late Minister of Information Prof. Dora Akunyili knew of the plot to remove her and asked her to beg Jonathan, but she rejected the advice because it was totally against her “conscience and moral judgment.”
Waziri averred that former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Pius Anyim offered her ambassadorial appointment in line with the agenda to oust her from office.
Excerpts from the book reads;
“The date was November 23, 2011. It didn’t take me by surprise. There had been rumblings and maneuverings in the recent past to guess such an end was in the offing. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was an EFCC operation in Lagos.
“The agency got a tip-off about some oil racketeers who were in Nigeria for dubious dealings. People of interest were going to move money into Lagos. The tip-off came from outside the country, one of our reliable foreigner(sic) agents. We flew into Lagos and organised the operation. Detectives moved to the target office, to conduct a search and bring the suspect to Abuja. At the time they got into the office, the target was not on seat.
“I’d asked the team to invite the accountant and to bring along the computers. Few minutes after the arrival of the accountant and the machines, I got a call from Aso Rock, the Presidential Villa.
“The message was an order: ”Release the man immediately!” My calm explanation to the voice from the villa was “The person you are calling for is not arrested; it is his accountant we invited here.” “Ok, let the accountant go.”
“That put me in a dilemma. We had acted on intelligence. We spent days planning the operation. And indeed, we had on our hands a good case complete with evidence. How do I explain to my operatives that the case has to be jettisoned because of a call from Aso Rock? How do I disabuse their minds from thinking I had compromised?
“I asked the detectives to take the accountant’s statement and release him on bail. While we were at it, the caller from the Villa interrupted us again with another order: “Release the computers to him.” He tried to justify this by claiming, “he contributed so much to the campaign of President Goodluck Jonathan.”
“At that point, I asked him: “Is this instruction from Mr. President? “ Yes, the voice affirmed. I played my last card: “I can release the man on bail, but I won’t release the computers. “How did it end?” “The outcome was my sack a few weeks later. I guess this and other events contributed to my removal, although other events took place before this.”
However in a statement released by Jonathan’s spokesperson Ikechukwu Eze, the former President debunked the claim and also stated that he retained her when he assumed office despite international calls for her sack.
Jonathan insisted that he had no personal issues with Mrs. Waziri but had to eventually let her go over national interest.
The statement reads;
”We read media reports credited to the former boss of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri, in which she claimed in her new book that she was removed from office by ex-President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, because of her probe of some oil racketeers.
”We thought we had dealt with this matter, after promptly debunking similar statements she made in the past. In 2017 when she claimed that she lost her job because she ‘refused to back down from the probe of one of the masterminds of the fuel subsidy scam’, we quickly refuted and clarified the claim for the records, and even challenged her to name the individual or company in question.
”We had expected that a book from Mrs. Farida, coming years after the claim was first made, should have towed the path of honour by telling the truth for the benefit of history. Unfortunately, that still didn’t happen.
”It will be recalled that after assuming office as President on May 6, 2010, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan decided to retain Mrs. Waziri, who was appointed by his predecessor, late President Umaru Yar’Adua, as the head of the elite anti-crime agency. Despite obvious disenchantment from many Nigerians and mounting international pressure against Mrs. Waziri’s continued stay in office, the former President stood by her, in line with his conviction that every public officer should first be given the opportunity to deliver on his or her mandate.
”It must be pointed out that former President Jonathan had no personal issues with Mrs. Waziri. The former President had to eventually let her go in the national interest. Her removal therefore has a lot to do with reasons relating to Nigeria’s interest and global standing which details Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is obliged to keep as state secret in our common national interest. It is very important to note that when dealing with the interest of the nation and the performance of the functions of a public office, a determined leader cannot prioritise the interest of an individual.
”It therefore bears repeating here that Mrs Waziri’s removal as chairperson of EFCC had absolutely nothing to do with her purported refusal to desist from probing any oil individual. This claim sounds rather superficial and contradicts available evidence of the then government’s genuine efforts to combat oil subsidy racketeering. It is noteworthy that throughout President Jonathan’s tenure, he made practical efforts to combat the alleged oil cabals, including directing the stoppage of further payment of fuel subsidy claims to oil importers, and the setting up of the Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede-led committee which had high level representation from all the intelligence agencies including the EFCC, with a mandate to thoroughly investigate the scandals in the industry. The choice of Aig-Aigboje, a man widely acclaimed for his dependability, as leader of the committee, was a clear demonstration that the President had no personal interest in the matter.”
Upon being sacked after serving as EFCC’s chairman from May 2008 to November 2011, Waziri was replaced with Ibrahim Lamorde. Before her sack, she was accused of compromising cases involving former governors like Lucky Igbinedion, former governor of Edo state who got a minor punishment for a $24 million embezzlement case.