'Eliot Ness' of Africa Announces Run for Nigeria Presidency

Famed corruption fighter Nuhu Ribadu targeted many of Nigeria's top officials.

September 21, 2010, 11:33 AM

Sept. 21, 2010 — -- Former Nigerian anti-corruption chief Nuhu Ribadu has announced he will run for Nigeria's top job next year. Ribadu had earned worldwide acclaim and the nickname of Africa's "Eliot Ness" for his willingness to take on some of Nigeria's most powerful political figures on corruption charges.

Ribadu told reporters in Nigeria's capital Abuja that he planned to run for president as part of a new party, the Action Congress of Nigeria, a breakaway faction from one of the country's leading political parties.

"There is a need for a party that is national," Ribadu said. "There is a need for a party that will give Nigerians a chance for democracy to work, an alternative to what we have today."

Ribadu, the former chief of Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is loved by some in Nigeria's political class, but equally hated by others. Under Ribadu's leadership, the EFCC convicted Nigeria's top police official on corruption charges, and launched investigations of a former vice president and 31 of the country's governors.

An ABC investigation in 2006 documented the EFCC's crackdown on Nigeria's notorious internet scam artists.


In an interview with Brian Ross, Ribadu blamed his nation's poverty and negative image on rampant corruption, saying hundreds of billions of dollars in oil revenue had been looted by crooked officials over the years.

"Corruption was endemic, was literally responsible for all our failures," said Ribadu in the interview. "We felt it had to be addressed, we have to go after these bad people, we have to bring them to justice," he said.


Nuhu Ribadu Fled Nigeria After Attempt On His Life

However, Ribadu was removed from office following the 2007 election of President Umaru Yar'dua after accusations that Ribadu had used his position to target the political enemies of former President Obasanjo. Shortly thereafter an attempt was made on Ribadu's life, and he and his family fled Nigeria for London. During his exile, Ribadu was a fellow at Oxford University and at the Center for Global Development.

While abroad, he was charged with failing to declare his assets during his time in office and faced immediate arrest upon his return to Nigeria, forcing him to live in exile. The charges were withdrawn after current President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn last February, following the death of Yar'Dua.

Ribadu returned to Nigeria this June and will now face Jonathan in the elections scheduled for January of next year.

At his announcement, Ribadu told reporters he feels Nigeria is at a turning point and has the potential to become a true democracy.

"I see the possibility of progressives and good elements across the country…coming together to give this country a fresh start and a new beginning," he said.

Nigeria's elections in 2007 were marred with irregularities and violence. The international community largely condemned the election, calling the process and subsequent results not credible. The current electoral commission has warned it may need to push back January's balloting in order to make sure it is free and fair, and not have a repeat of the last general election.

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