Posted by By STEVE NWOSU on
Four first-class traditional rulers spread across the geo-political zones. Two holders of the GCON national honours.
Four first-class traditional rulers spread across the geo-political zones. Two holders of the GCON national honours. N100 million bond and sureties with property in either Asokoro or Maitama districts of Abuja. And many more requirements about travel documents, regularly reporting to EFCC and all.
The conditions set for the bail of Mr. Tafa Balogun, embattled former Inspector General of Police, looked impossible to meet. And indeed, it proved a little difficult. Almost 72 hours after the bail was granted, there was still no headway. But it was met eventually. And that the Balogun team managed to spring it is now the cause of fresh concern at the headquarters of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).
For one, Balogun was taken away from EFCC while the commission’s chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, was said to be out of the country. Ribadu had travelled without an iota of doubt that the ex-IGP would still be his guest at his return. A source at the commission said that “up till this moment (Thursday), we cannot precisely say who the sureties are or whether or not all the conditions for his release were met”.
The Obasanjo connection
A few hours after EFCC men picked up Balogun from his Ikoyi, Lagos, residence, a senior EFCC officer who confirmed the arrest to Saturday Sun had assured that the former IGP was not going back home in a hurry. He had added that it would take a presidential directive to even take him on bail.
Reminded that virtually all the offences that the IGP was being charged for were bailable, the EFCC officer said ‘that is beyond the issue”.
When eventually the Abuja court granted the Osun State-born police chief bail, the same EFCC source boasted: “Let us wait and see who would dare Obasanjo”.
A few days later, the same officer hinted that however agrees to take Tafa’s bail or stand in as surety would do so with the express permission of the president. He further squealed that certain people, including at least one traditional ruler from the South West, were already lobbying the president over the bail.
Eventually, the EFCC officer said, “all we hear is that two former Inspectors-General of Police, Muhammadu Gambo Jimeta (under whom Balogun served as CSO) and Aliyu Attah stood in for him”.
However, it is with relation to the traditional rulers that images of Aso Rock’s possible behind-the-scene manipulations begin to emerge.
Now, the traditional institutions in the country is arranged in such a way that it is almost impossible for any particular royal father to embark on a venture as huge as standing surety for Tafa Balogun without the say so of the respective State Governor. Not a few people are therefore asking questions as to why all of the traditional rulers who stood for Balogun had to come from states whose governors are considered to be President Obasanjo’s right hand men.
Two of the traditional rulers came from Balogun’s Osun State which governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, has never hidden the fact that he is an Obasanjo boy. Another one came from Rivers state and is in fact believed to be Governor Peter Odili’s own traditional ruler.
If some governors have anything against Governor Adamu Abdullahi of Nasarawa State, it is because of his perceived closeness to President Obasanjo. One other governor had, in fact, accused Adamu of leaking whatever resolutions the governors reached to Obasanjo before the plan is put into action. Of course, the Lafia governor tenders no apologies for this perceived closeness, eventhough he faults the allegation of squealing on his colleagues to Aso Rock. Incidentally, the fourth traditional ruler that signed the Tafa Balogun bail bond was an Emir from Nasarawa State.
This reality, has left some EFCC buffs confused. Is the president suddenly soft-pedalling on Tafa Balogun? Can he truly be said not to have had foreknowledge of the bail arrangement?
Confusion at EFCC
But beyond the issue of what and who was behind the eventual bail of Tafa Balogun is the issue of diligent prosecution of the case. As at last Thursday, there was still confusion as to how one EFCC lawyer who is not even a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) would square up to the three SANs that Balogun has lined up for his defence.
Saturday Sun further gathered that one of the prosecution witnesses, fearing that his case could be mismanaged, is even toying with the idea of hiring his own lawyer.
There is also the issue of which of the 70 charges against the former IG can be said to have a water-tight case for which a conviction might be achieved.
Although it could not be confirmed if EFCC had finally dropped its lawyer for a new one, Jacob, or whether the new attorney is being brought in to support the existing one, Saturday Sun gathered that more charges have in fact been dug up and that the new attorney might file fresh charges and also drop a few others.
Plans to re-arrest Tafa
As a result of this development, it was also gathered that strong on the card of the EFCC is the possibility of re-arresting the former IGP. However, the leadership of the commission is said to be seeking a legal position on the matter. But for the fact that Ribadu had travelled out of the country literally assured that the bail conditions set for his former boss would never be met, Saturday Sun gathered that this Plan B of rearresting Tafa would have been perfected. Now, with the embattled IG now back home, EFCC is essentially working from a position of disadvantage.