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Nigerian Rights Groups Criticize Firing of Former Anti-Graft Chief

Rights groups in Nigeria have criticized the firing of the country's former anti-corruption chief from the police force for alleged insubordination. They say his dismissal was aimed at punishing a key voice in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

Campaigners in Nigeria insist Nuhu Ribadu's removal from the anti-corruption job was orchestrated to undermine the investigations he began.

President Umaru Yar'Adua took power 18 months ago pledging zero tolerance for corruption. But the removal of Ribadu prompted anti-graft organizations to question Mr. Yar'Adua's commitment to fighting graft.

The authorities rejected suggestions that the action was politically motivated.

Police spokesman Suleiman Abba says Ribadu, a deputy police commissioner, was dismissed for "gross indiscipline and insubordination."

"It is obvious that the consequences of serious misconduct by DCP [Deputy Commissioner of Police] Nuhu Ribadu as highlighted, is tantamount to dismissal from service. Refusal to accept posting or report for duty is a very serious misconduct and may lead to dismissal in the armed forces and the police as such action is inimical to national security," he said.

The rights group, the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, claims the firing of Ribadu is an indication that the government has caved in to pressure from politicians anxious to stop investigations into their finances. The head of the group, Olasubo Ojo, said Ribadu's dismissal as illegal.

"The constitution is higher than any police regulation," said Ojo. "Under the rule of law fair hearing dictates that the [police] service commission should hear the other side. Did they ever call the man to come and show why he should not be disciplined?"

Ribadu was first suspended as head of the economic and financial crimes commission in December 2007, two weeks after the arrest on corruption charges of former Delta state Governor James Ibori, a powerful politician who was known to be close to the president.

Ribadu says he would challenge his formal dismissal in court.

Corruption is viewed as a major problem in oil-rich Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation.