Anti-Corruption Crusader Nuhu Ribadu

Nuhu Ribadu, former head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria, put himself in danger by charging a powerful state governor with corruption. Now in exile in the U.S., he talks about misuse of authority and the continued need for foreign aid in Africa.Read the interview Video by The Washington Post
Sunday, May 24, 2009

In 2003, Nuhu Ribadu, a bookish police officer with a legal degree, became head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria. His job was to investigate corruption -- a problem that Ribadu estimates has cost Nigeria more than $380 billion since independence in 1960.

One of Ribadu's first moves was to go after the Nigerian scams that duped e-mail recipients around the world into get-rich-quick schemes. He went after dirty politicians, too, helping Nigeria recover more than $5 billion in stolen assets. But Ribadu went too far. After charging a powerful state governor with corruption in December 2007, Ribadu was removed from his post. After two attempts on his life, he fled to Britain in September. Last week, Ribadu sat down with Outlook editor John Pomfret to talk about Africa, corruption and trying to stay alive. Excerpts:

How bad is corruption in Africa?

It's a massive problem. $140 billion -- that is the African Union's estimate of the cost of corruption to Africa annually. This is about 25 percent of total GDP in sub-Saharan Africa.

It is the reason why Africa is Africa today. Not long ago, we were at par with several other parts of the world. Today we are really decades away, and it is certainly because of corruption.

You investigated and prosecuted your own boss, Tafa Balogun, the inspector general of police.

This is a gentleman who was in charge of law enforcement. We got as much as $150 million that he was keeping in terms of money and properties.

How much does a police officer make per month in Nigeria?

The average I think, maybe maximum $200.

So how did you get him?

We had a reporting system whereby transactions above a certain threshold had to be reported to us. And we saw this policeman with a billion nairas [$1 = 150 naira] in his account. And that's what triggered the investigation.

You also investigated governors of Nigeria's powerful states.

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