Date Published: 02/10/10
Profile of the Big Mouth Aondoakaa
Nigeria has had its fair share of controversial Attorney Generals. Few, however, appear to have delighted in creating and perpetuating controversy as much as Michael Kaase Aondoakaa.
From the beginning, the 47 year old Senior Advocate of Nigeria did not hide his ambition to severely clip the wings of the Economic and financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and its then Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu.
Barely a month after his appointment in July 2007, he submitted a memo to the President requesting "that all agencies involved in the prosecution of criminal offences such as the EFCC and ICPC should report and initiate criminal proceedings with the consent and approval of the Attorney-General of the Federation as specified in relevant sections of the Constitution." The President initially granted the request, but was forced to make an embarrassing reversal when it was revealed that it contradicted an earlier ruling of the Supreme Court.
The fight against Mr. Ribadu intensified with the attempts by the former EFCC Chairman to prosecute the former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, reputed to be a close friend of Mr. Aondoakaa, and the person who actually recommended him to President Yar'Adua for the position of Attorney General.
Fighting Mr. Ribadu soon became a full time task for Mr. Aondoakaa. In February 2009, only weeks after Mr. Ribadu was dismissed from the Nigeria Police Force, Mr. Aondoakaa filed charges against him, before the Code of Conduct tribunal, alleging that he did not declare his assets upon assumption of duties as EFCC chief, as required by law.
Following revelations that emerged in the United States that American oil servicing firm Halliburton had paid huge bribes to Nigerian officials, Mr. Aondoakaa promised that the government would "constitute a committee ... that will be charged with the responsibility of gathering information. If the quality of information we receive internally is sufficient for us to commence prosecution, we will commence prosecution."
But after assembling a legal team, and announcing that Nigeria had decided to prosecute Halliburton, Mr. Aondoakaa decided to sit on his hands. One year later, none of the Nigerians named and implicated in the scandal has been prosecuted. This applies to the Wilbros and Siemens scandals as well.
A stranger to rectitude
Mr. Aondoakaa's penchant for making unguarded statements to the press is unrivalled. In September 2009, he called a press conference to announce that the EFCC had cleared three former state governors (one of whom was Mr. Ibori) of fraudulent conduct relating to the sale of their states' stake in the telecommunications firm Vmobile. Investigations into the deal commenced when Mr. Ribadu was Chairman of the EFCC.
Mr. Aondoakaa also seized the opportunity of the press conference to lament that Mr. Ribadu was sabotaging the Yar'Adua administration by making false statements to foreign investigators. A day after Aondoakaa's announcement, the EFCC denied that it had cleared the three men.
Passionate presidential defender
Mr. Yar'Adua's trip to Saudi Arabia on November 23, 2009, for medical attention gave fresh impetus to Mr. Aondoakaa's obsession with courting controversy. He has since then been Mr. Yar'Adua's most passionate defender.
Three weeks after the President disappeared from the country - without a handover letter - Mr. Aondoakaa argued: "There is no evidence that [Mr. Yar'Adua] is not exercising his powers as president. He has his vice-president and his ministers whom he delegates power and functions to. He does not have to be in the country before he can exercise his power. He can do that anywhere. The president can delegate his power to anyone and he can even give instruction anywhere in the world, even on his sick bed."
In early December, he reacted angrily to a call by Rotimi Akeredolu, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association calling on Mr. Yar'Adua to resign from office on health grounds. "The statement of the NBA President is his personal opinion. The FEC is the only body recognised by the constitution to decide on the matter... We should not allow somebody's ill-health to be politicised ... We should not play politics with human health. The President's health is improving everyday..."
Since then he has never wasted an opportunity to dismiss all calls on the ailing President to hand over to his deputy. At the end of the January 27 Federal Executive Council meeting, after more than two months of a vacuum in the highest office in the country, Mr. Aondoakaa announced, on behalf of the Council, that "the president is not incapable of discharging the functions of his office, and [the] medical treatment outside the country does not constitute incapacity to warrant or commence the process of the removal of the president from office, under section 144 and 146 of the 1999 constitution."
This was in reaction to a January 22 ruling by Justice Dan Abutu of an Abuja Federal High Court, giving the council two weeks to "consider, pass and publicise a resolution in accordance with the provisions of section 144 of the 1999 constitution declaring whether, having regard to the absence of the president from Nigeria on medical ground since the 23rd of November 2009, the President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office." As before, he insisted that the President's health and the decision to not hand over "is not a matter that ought to be mixed with politics."
Mr. Aondoakaa was reportedly the first person to oppose the move, last Wednesday, by his Federal Executive Council colleague, Dora Akunyili, minister of information and communications to present a memo to the Council urging it to compel the President to hand over to his deputy.
Aondoakaa must go
Calls for Mr. Aondoakaa to be sacked have intensified over the last year. In September 2009, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), The Movement Against Corruption (MAC) and the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) called for his dismissal from office for the comments he made regarding the investigations into the Vmobile scandal. Another anti-corruption group, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), in November 2009, marched to the National Assembly to demand the sack of Mr. Aondoakaa.