Scores of Anti-corruption Organisations and constitutional lawyers in Nigeria, on Thursday, submitted a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari, protesting what they described as brazen disobedience of court orders by the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa; alleged reckless politicisation of the Commission under his watch and his continued stay in office, in spite of a court order committing him to prison for contempt.
In a press statement signed by Spokesperson for the over 130 CSOs, including more than 20 Constitutional lawyers, Olufemi Lawson, the activists disclosed that they had also submitted a copy of the petition to the Inspector-General of Police.
This, according to them, is “to intimate the Police authorities that a convict cannot be allowed to be walking freely without being reined in as ordered by the Courts.”
They called on President Buhari to immediately suspend Bawa to restore confidence in the capacity of the commission to truly fight financial crime; direct the IGP to effect his arrest in line with a court order; and commission an enquiry into the workings of the EFCC, its present engagements and happenings within the agency.
The activists said, being anti-corruption crusaders themselves, they could not stand by while the EFCC boss allegedly makes a mess of Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, noting specifically that his modus operandi in the Commission was reportedly “causing serious concerns and disgust among the top hierarchy of the Commission.”
In the petition, a copy of which was made available to the press, the activists stated, “It is on the basis of the continued perpetration of illegality in the EFCC, that we promptly alerted the Nation to it, issuing a 7-day ultimatum to the Inspector-General of Police to effect Bawa’s arrest and make him face justice.
“It is worrisome that weeks after we issued this ultimatum, Bawa is still walking free, continuing the perpetration of illegality that has become the identity of the EFCC.”
They listed the alleged unruly activities of the EFCC under Bawa to include “arrests without valid warrants, detention of suspects beyond the duration allowed by the courts, seizure of properties belonging to suspected persons before any such declaration by a court of competent jurisdiction, rascally handling of suspicions of financial crime that appear like witch-hunting, and brazen disobedience of court orders, among others.”
“Aside from the above, the EFCC under Bawa is also quickly becoming a cesspool of internal corruption with several reports of corrupt practices going on within the Commission.
There are allegations of age falsification to remain in office beyond the statutory limit of civil service regulations, involving very senior officers of the commission.
“If a government agency expected to fight crime is found going about its business in a manner that mimics witch-hunt and rascality, while also being unable to deal with corruption going on within its own workforce, we fear that the Nation may slide into some real crisis of confidence in our systems,” the petition said.
The anti-corruption activists also disclosed that they had uncovered plans by the EFCC to sponsor the launch of a faceless organization, led by “discredited activists”, for the purpose of laundering Bawa’s tainted image before the incoming administration takes charge.
“At the said launch of the organization, the plan is to call on the Commission to seek the services of INTERPOL to harass perceived opponents of some political godfathers and other unpatriotic government officials, to whom we believe Bawa defers,” they said.
They recalled that, upon his nomination for the position of the Commission’s chairman in 2021, several groups of Nigerians had opposed the appointment of Bawa, based on what was described as his antecedents.
According to the petition, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), in a letter dated 18th February 2021, had asked the National Assembly to reject Bawa’s nomination as EFCC chair, based on several controversies that characterised his tenure in previous positions in the EFCC, giving the grave implication of such, on the exalted position.
In the light of the aforementioned, the anti-corruption CSOs urged President Buhari to: “Direct the Inspector-General of Police to immediately effect the arrest of Abdulrasheed Bawa in compliance with a subsisting order of the court and make him face the full consequences of his actions, based on court orders that we are sure he is aware of, but has refused to act upon.
“Commission an enquiry into the workings of the EFCC, its present engagements and happenings within the commission.
“Immediately suspend Mr Bawa as head of the Commission to restore confidence in the capacity of the commission to truly fight financial crime and purge itself of bad elements while discharging its job.
“Order an immediate overhaul of the commission and where necessary lobby the National Assembly to amend the EFCC Act to make the structure less prone to high-handedness and make the Chairmen answerable to the laws of the land.”
The ‘Bawa Must Go’ protests, which continued on Tuesday are being led by CACOL Chairman, Debo Adeniran; Executive Director, Zero Graft Centre, Kolawole Sanchez-Jude; Chairman, Coalition Against Corruption and Bad Governance, Toyin Raheem; Executive Director, Centre for Public Accountability, Olufemi Lawson; Spokesperson for the Transparency and Accountability Group, Ayodeji Ologun; Director, Activists for Good Governance, Declan Ihehaire; and Ahmed Balogun of Media Rights Concern, among over 120 notable leaders of Anti-corruption CSOs.
Barr. Mogbojuri Kayode of the Citizens Rights Advocacy Group (CRAG), is also leading over 20 constitutional lawyers in the protest.
BAWA NOT FIT TO REMAIN EFCC CHAIRMAN
In continuation of our advocacy for the maintenance of the sanctity and inviolability of the rule as related to our nation’s judiciary, we have submitted a petition to the office of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, today, March 16, 2023, in Abuja, to further drive home the point that impunity cannot be allowed to thrive at any level of governance institutions.
A copy of the said petition has also been submitted to the Inspector-General of Police in order to intimate the Police authorities that a convict cannot be allowed to be walking freely without being reined in as ordered by the Courts.
For the umpteenth time, we wish to reemphasize that our primary interest is in protecting our Judiciary from heads of government agencies with anarchist mentality of reckless impunity. Such opprobrious indiscretions have no place in a democracy.
It is in this regard that we appreciate and commend President Muhammadu Buhari for his decisive action on the recently contrived complications vis-a-vis the Supreme Court judgment on the Naira swap policy. Mr. President’s exemplary stand against purveyors of impunity in his government shows him as a true Democrat and an astute statesman.
It is in this same wise that we call on him to ensure that all renegades against the rule of law in his government are firmly reined in, the latest example being the outgoing Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, who seems to be totally oblivious of the workings of governance with regard to separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary while his modus operandi with the Commission is allegedly causing serious concerns and disgust among the top hierarchy of the Commission.
We are not unaware of the targeted sponsored attacks by the Commission against our patriotic interventions, including the planned launching of a faceless organization, led by discredited activists whose stomachs are their God, for the purpose of continuing to launder Bawa’s tainted image. At the said launch of the organization, the plan is to call on the Commission to seek the services of INTERPOL to harass perceived opponents of some political godfathers and other unpatriotic government officials, to whom we believe Bawa defers.
As veteran credible activists, no amount of threats or compromising overtures can dissuade us from the genuine cause that we have embarked on to ensure that our Judiciary is not rubbished by power in the service of political machinations, and to ensure that politics has little or no space in the discharge of EFCC’s duties.