23 November 2011/ By Stephen Davis
President Goodluck Jonathan today stunned his critics when he fired Mrs Farida Waziri, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Presidential spokesman said, “This is evidence of Mr President’s determination to revitalise the fight against corruption.”
The writing was on the wall for Waziri with many foreign anti-corruption agencies refusing to work with her. Her position as Nigeria’s number 1 corruption fighter was increasingly tarnished with evidence questioning her actions being made public.
Waziri has been replaced by Ibrahim Lamorde, who until now has been EFCC Director of Operations, a position he held under previous EFCC Chairman Nuhu Ribadu. Lamorde is well respected by Nigeria’s international partners in fighting corruption. As EFCC’s Acting Chairman, Lamorde’s first task will be to review the case files and determine which cases may have slipped into the backwater of legal action and bring them forward. There is more than a hint that, under Waziri, some high profile people may have conveniently slipped out of the EFCC’s sights.
Equally important will be Lamorde’s second task of restoring the confidence of Nigeria’s international partners in fighting corruption. This is a most important task as many of the “big men” have been squirreling away their ill-gotten gains offshore, presuming they are beyond the reach of Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies. Waziri displayed a considerable reluctance to co-operate with international authorities in pursuing cases against high profile Nigerians.
As the case against James Ibori collects more casualties who may follow his wife and mistress to gaol, others involved in the case may now be worried that they may not escape the vortex of corruption which they had hoped would pass them by.
Replacing Waziri is a bold step by President Jonathan. It clearly shows this is not a puppet President but a man who may yet be the leader Nigeria desperately needs to carry the nation through a dark and difficult time.
There is the hint that Jonathan may announce further reforms and is looking at other key areas. President Jonathan has already hinted at security reform having announced a review of national security. There can be no doubt that Nigeria’s security situation has been deteriorating for many years culminating in suicide bombings and direct threats on the security of every citizen. Jonathan is yet to receive the report of the review but it is likely that the report will recommend significant changes precipitated by a deteriorating security situation in the north.
Jonathan won widespread support at the recent Commonwealth heads of Government Meeting and attracted much interest in Nigeria’s economic potential. The two major potholes in the road to economic growth and international investment are corruption and conflict. President Jonathan has decisively moved on corruption and the spotlight will now be on Lamorde to carry the torch and make the anti-corruption shine brighter.
President Jonathan has today surprised the nation and heartened not only his supporters but many who had become apathetic about the government’s interest in fighting corruption. If this bold move is indeed part of President’s wider agenda to strengthen and stimulate Nigeria’s economy then we look forward to further developments. If it is part of a determination to reform the critical core of the government then President Jonathan’s next steps will need to taken sooner rather than later so that the positive impact of each step will compound rather than dissipate as tends to occur in Nigeria when bold moves come in isolation and lack follow-up.
President Jonathan has today shown some steel in his spine and raised a flag signally a leader on seat.