EFCC responds to demands to remove Bawa
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has attributed recent protests calling for the removal of its chairperson, Abdulrasheed Bawa, to individuals smarting from their investigations for corruption.
The commission’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, addressed journalists on behalf of Mr Bawa at the EFCC headquarters in Abuja on Tuesday.
Mr Uwujaren described the protesters as “rented crowds” and said the commission would not be distracted by their demonstrations.
He said the information available to the commission, “indicates that persons under investigation by the commission sponsor the group.”
He also said the persons “have been mobilised and mandated by their paymaster to embarrass the person of the chairman through choreographed street protests across the country until he is removed from office.”
He said the commission needed to “raise the alarm about the activities of an amorphous group of so-called Civil Society Organisations” as such is “a campaign to discredit the person of the Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa and incite the public against the commission.”
“Contrary to these claims, the EFCC wishes to alert the public that this group have no interest in the fight against corruption and their allusion to disobedience of court orders by the EFCC chairman is an alibi to manipulate facts around judicial pronouncements and processes to pit the public against the commission,” Mr Uwujaren said.
There have been reports of protests by a group styled as the Coalition of Anti-Corruption Organisations calling for the removal of the EFCC chairman and his arrest for contempt.
One of the protesters, Ayodeji Ologun of the Transparency and Accountability Group, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to also overhaul the anti-graft commission to recover its past glory and for a better Nigeria.
The protests were triggered by a recent judgement of Kogi State High Court, Lokoja, that jailed Mr Bawa for contempt.
His conviction, the second in four months, followed a request by a nephew of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Ali Bello, who accused the EFCC chair of violating a court judgement that declared his arrest and detention last year illegal.
Mr Bello said EFCC arraigned him on 15 December 2022 in violation of the court’s judgement.
Ruling, the judge, Rukayat Ayoola, ordered the Inspector-General of Police to arrest Mr Bawa and put him in prison “until he purges himself of the contempt”.
The police have yet to enforce the court order, while the EFCC has appealed against the court decision.
But undeterred, the commission went ahead to arraign Mr Bello on another set of N3 billion money laundering charges at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Mr Bawa was earlier cited for contempt by the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Abuja on 28 October 2022.
The court jailed Mr Bawa but the police, ordered to enforce the imprisonment, did not take any action.
In his application levelling a charge of contempt against EFCC and its chairperson, Mr Ojuawo accused the agency and its leadership of violating the court’s order on 21 November 2018, ordering them to return his seized Range Rover and N40 million to him.
But the court on 10 November 2022 nullified its committal order following an application by the EFCC chair to reverse itself.
Ruling on the request, Ms Oji said she was satisfied that the EFCC Chairman did not disregard the court’s orders, asking him to release seized assets belonging to Rufus Ojuawo, a retired air vice marshal.
The EFCC, on Tuesday, described the protesters’ call for Mr Bawa’s removal based on Mr Bawa’s conviction on contempt was aimed at inciting the public against the commission.
Mr Uwujaren said the group found its voice after the commission launched an investigation against a particular state for looting the treasury.
“Their latest dance in the market square came a few hours after family members of a sitting state governor were arraigned at an Abuja court for allegedly stealing the state’s funds,” he said.
“EFCC appeals to the public to disregard the campaign by this group as they do not represent the genuine interest of millions of Nigerians who are desirous of seeing progress in the fight against corruption,” the commission said.
1. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, wishes to raise the alarm about the activities of an amorphous group of so-called Civil Society Organizations who have recently embarked on a campaign to discredit the person of the Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa and incite the public against the Commission.
2. The group, through press conferences and staged street protests, have been calling for the sack of the EFCC Chairman for alleged disobedience of court orders. They claim they are motivated by the need to strengthen the fight against corruption.
3. Contrary to these claims, the EFCC wishes to alert the public that this group have no interest in the fight against Corruption and their allusion to disobedience of court orders by the EFCC chairman is an alibi to manipulate facts around judicial pronouncements and processes to pitch the public against the Commission.
5. It is significant that this group found its voice after the EFCC launched an investigation into the mindless looting of the treasury of one of the states. This same group shouted that the Commission lacked the power to investigate the theft of the state’s resources. Their latest dance in the market square came a few hours after family members of a sitting state governor were arraigned at an Abuja court for allegedly stealing the state’s funds.
6. EFCC appeals to the public to disregard the campaign by this group as they do not represent the genuine interest of millions of Nigerians who are desirous of seeing progress in the fight against Corruption. The spectre of rented crowd, rented CSOs, etc are blights in our social fabric and manifest demonstration of how deep-seated corruption has permeated every sector of our society.
7. We want to assure Nigerians that the EFCC will not be distracted by this campaign of calumny as we believe that this agenda will fail.
8. It is also important to reassure Nigerians and all stakeholders that the Commission has never, and will not take any steps to undermine the judiciary. As a law abiding institution, EFCC has conducted all its activities within the ambit of the law. Where judicial decisions were made against it, it has never resorted to self-help but availed itself of remedies under the law as it did in the instant case of committal orders of court.
9. It is important to revisit the circumstances of the two orders of committal against the EFCC Chairman. The first order by an FCT High Court on November 8, 2022 was issued over the failure to comply with a November 21st, 2018 order of the court directing the Commission to return seized assets comprising a Range Rover SUV and the sum of N40, 000,000.00 (Forty Million Naira) to the applicant.
10. For the benefit of the public, the said order of the FCT High Court was given three years before Abdulrasheed Bawa became EFCC Chairman. Also, the contempt process is quasi criminal in nature and must be served on the person involved. In this case, Bawa as chairman of the EFCC, was neither served Form 48 nor Form 49.
11. Despite this fact, the Executive Chairman, upon being made aware of the said order of November 21st, 2018 had released the Range Rover in question to the Applicant on the 27th of June, 2022 and had approved the process of the release of the remaining N40m before the committal order was issued.
12. His action does not show contempt for the court or the judiciary which he holds in great esteem.
13. In the case of the last order by Justice R.O. Ayoola of the Kogi State High Court, the processes are still ongoing so I am constrained to make categorical statements. Suffice is to say that in invoking Form 49, the court failed to take cognizance of a pending appeal of its ruling of November 30, which directed the Commission to produce a fraud suspect, one Ali Bello. It also failed to transmit records of appeal to the Court of Appeal.
14. The Commission believes it was denied fair hearing as the alleged infringement of the rights of the applicant happened in Abuja which is outside the jurisdiction of the Kogi High court. As a law abiding institution, EFCC approached the appellate court, for a stay of execution. This is a valid and lawful remedy by law and does not evoke any aura of impunity or disregard for the judiciary.
15. It is therefore evident that those claiming that Bawa has a penchant for flouting court orders are simply up to mischief, which is clearly the central theme of the plot by the so- called civil society group.