LAGOS, Nigeria – LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — The Nigerian government on Wednesday dropped criminal charges against the oil-rich nation's former anti-corruption czar, potentially allowing him to return home from a self-imposed exile.
Nuhu Ribadu, the one-time chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, fled Nigeria in 2008 after he received death threats and survived a drive-by shooting, his lawyer Femi Falana said. The government later filed charges against Ribadu before the nation's Code of Conduct Tribunal over him allegedly failing to declare his financial assets while serving as the anti-corruption agency's leader.
Falana said Ribadu properly filed his asset declaration, something the tribunal acknowledged after the lawyer presented a copy of it.
Many in Nigeria, long regarded by watchdog groups as one of the world's most corrupt nations, saw the charges and Ribadu's firing in 2007 as a sign he had overstepped bounds that have traditionally protected the country's ruling elite. In his four years at the agency, Ribadu investigated and brought criminal charges against top politicians from the ruling People's Democratic Party.
Ribadu also once estimated corruption cost Nigeria — a nation where most people live on less than $2 a day — over $380 billion since gaining its independence from Britain in 1960.
Appointed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003, Ribadu saw his political fortunes wane after the election of President Umaru Yar'Adua in 2007. At the time, he had begun investigations into senior ruling-party politicians believed to have bankrolled deeply flawed April elections that brought Yar'Adua to office.
Officials later reduced Ribadu's police rank and refused to grant him a graduation certificate from the police training program. Ribadu left Nigeria for the U.S. and became a fellow at the Center for Global Development.
After Ribadu fled, the government filed the charges against the anti-corruption investigator as a means to draw him back to the country, Falana said.
"They just wanted him brought to the country at all costs," Falana said. "They believed his staying outside of the country was embarrassing for them and it was better to keep him in."
While politics likely launched the case against Ribadu, politics also may be playing a part in the case's dismissal as well. Yar'Adua, chronically ill and unseen by public since November, no longer runs the nation after lawmakers empowered Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to take over. Former government minister Nasir el-Rufai, an Obasanjo backer who faces corruption charges, recently returned to Nigeria without being arrested by authorities.
Ribadu might be joining him.
Ribadu "is trying to tidy up his affairs," Falana said. "I think he will back home soon."