Boston — Corruption crime-fighter Nuhu Ribadu now heads Nigeria’s new Special Task Force on Petroleum Revenue, a government watchdog group that will combat oil related fraud.
Ribadu’s 21-member team will investigate and monitor the production and export of crude oil, and keep track of oil revenue streams, which constitute 80 percent of state income, according to the BBC.
It’s an auspicious appointment, but the road getting there was not easy.
As head of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from 2003-2007, “Ribadu bought more than a thousand cases against politicians and tycoons accused of corruption,” according to the BBC.
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During his tenure Ribadu was an outspoken reformer. In a 2007 New York Times op-ed he wrote, “Nigeria has made nearly half a trillion dollars from oil in less than five decades — a figure that dwarfs that of international aid to the whole of Africa. And yet, around 70 percent of Nigerians live in conditions of dispiriting poverty, on incomes of less than a dollar a day. Corruption kills far more effectively than AIDS, malaria or war.”
Presumably, statements like the above followed up by actions gained Ribadu the public’s hard-won trust and a few enemies.
He was accused of exclusively investigating his political opponents, and twice, Ribadu claims, attempts were made to kill him. He fled the country, and it was only after the death of his political rival President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2010 that Ribadu set foot on Nigerian soil.
Shortly after his return Ribadu ran for president on the Action Congress of Nigeria ticket, but lost to the current president, Goodluck Jonathan.
The formation of the task force and Ribadu’s appointment comes after massive street protests and union strikes against the government’s attempt to cut its fuel subsidiary program, which would have significantly raised the price of fuel in Nigeria.
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In a statement released yesterday Ribadu applauded the mass protests. “The biggest single victory Nigerians scored was to put the question of corruption squarely back on the top of our national policy agenda,” he wrote.
Perhaps a sign of things to come, Ribadu said in a report that details his efforts to fight corruption, “If you wrestle a pig, you can’t avoid the mud.”
It seems he's ready to get muddy.