- Joins Emefiele in DSS’ custody
- ‘He has jail term to serve’, CSOs remind Tinubu, hail suspension
- Why Bawa was suspended – FG
BY TIMOTHY AGBOR & MAYOWA SAMUEL
Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chief Investigator at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, by virtue of his position as the Chairman of the anti-graft agency, on Wednesday, became a prime suspect with his suspension and subsequent drilling by the Department of State Services.
He is the second Federal Government appointee to land in DSS custody in one week. The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, was suspended on June 10, 2023 and taken in by the DSS the same day.
The approval of Bawa’s suspension was conveyed in a statement by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, signed by the Director, Information, Willie Bassey.
His suspension, with immediate effect, is to allow for a thorough investigation into his conduct while in office, following “weighty allegations” of abuse of office against him, according to the SGF’s office.
Bawa was directed to immediately hand over the affairs of the Commission to the Director, Operations, pending the conclusion of investigations.
The statement read, “President Tinubu has approved the indefinite suspension from office of AbdulRasheed Bawa, CON, as the Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to allow for proper investigation into his conduct while in office. This follows weighty allegations of abuse of office leveled against him.
“Mr. Bawa has been directed to immediately handover the affairs of his office to the Director, Operations in the Commission, who will oversee the affairs of the office of the Chairman of the Commission pending the conclusion of the investigation.”
BAWA LANDS IN EFFC CUSTODY
Meanwhile, the Department of State Services said, on Wednesday, that the EFCC boss had been invited to its office for “some investigative activities concerning him.”
This was conveyed in a statement signed by the spokesperson for the Service, Peter Afunanya.
The statement read, “The Department of State Services (DSS) has invited Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa, the suspended Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Bawa arrived a few hours ago.
“The invitation relates to some investigative activities concerning him.”
HE HAS A JAIL TERM TO SERVE, CSOs REMIND TINUBU
Meanwhile, Anti-Corruption Civil Society Organisations have hailed President Tinubu over the decision to suspend the EFCC boss and investigate the activities of the Commission under him.
The CSOs, however, reminded the President that Bawa had a jail term to serve in Kuje Prison “until he purges himself of the contempt of court still hanging around his neck.”
Responding to The Point, in a telephone interview on Monday night, the Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, advised the current administration to do due diligence in terms of background checks to ensure that whoever would take over from the embattled Bawa, in substantive capacity, would no longer be an “embarrassment” to the EFCC and the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
Adeniran, along with leaders of over 150 Anti-Corruption CSOs had led the over five months call for the removal of Bawa, across Nigeria, over what they termed politicisation of EFCC, disobedience to court orders and infringement on the human rights of Nigerians.
Adeniran stated, “When we embarked on this struggle to sanitise the leadership of the EFCC a couple of months back by calling for Bawa’s removal, we did so with the genuine concern that the Commission was rapidly losing focus from its primary assignment of preventing and fighting corruption.
“Suddenly we discovered that the man put in charge of fighting corruption was ironically using his position to help himself by orchestrating a sophisticated regime of corruption with so many weighty allegations flying all over the place with humongous financial implications.
“He turned EFCC into a political tool for victimising perceived political enemies of his political godfathers and placed himself above the law by trampling anyhow on the Judiciary through flagrant disobedience to lawful court orders.
“We are not surprised by the way he ended because we foresaw it and advised the government in a letter to the Senate not to confirm the gentleman as EFCC Chairman but they still went ahead to confirm him. Now we’ve been proven right beyond all reasonable doubts by the chain of events that culminated in his indefinite suspension.
“There must be due diligence in background checks of whoever is taking over from him in substantive capacity in order to avoid this type of embarrassment to the EFCC in the future.”
STORIES OF POLITICISATION, HIGH HANDEDNESS
Many Nigerians, including activists and politicians, had pointed out that the EFCC was derailing from its core functions in the fight against corruption and had allegedly turned itself into a tool for settling political scores of perceived godfathers.
According to them, this accounts for why petitions against certain institutions and individuals alleged to have been involved in weighty corrupt activities were reportedly never attended to.
Some of those heavy corrupt practices, they said, were now being exposed under the new administration.
“Aside from Internet fraudsters that were being convicted everyday, check their records you would find that they lose more of those cases celebrated through media trials because the allegations are mainly political and frivolous,” Ifeyinwa Ikechukwu, an anti-corruption activist, told our correspondent.
Many analysts also said the years of fixation of the EFCC on Kogi State and activities connected with the state was an embarrassment to the nation’s anti-corruption crusade. It connotes a case of witch-hunt, clearly, according to them.
DIRECT ALLEGATIONS OF CORRUPTION AGAINST BAWA
Recently, the squabble between the suspended EFCC chairman and the general public took a dramatic dimension when a former governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, launched a virulent attack against him in an apparent retaliation against the commission’s embarrassing publications on him.
Matawalle publicly claimed that the EFCC chairman had asked him for a $2 million bribe, an allegation Bawa vehemently denied.
In an interview with the Hausa Service of BBC, the former governor criticised the seeming obsession of the Commission with governors whereas federal officials were not investigated. He also accused the Commission of not being transparent in the disposal of confiscated assets.
“I have also seen a video in which Mr. Bawa is accused of staying in a $15,000-per-room hotel with many of his extended family members during hajj in Saudi Arabia. The narrator wonders how the Chairman, a civil servant, could afford such an expensive hotel accommodation for himself and his family members,” Matawalle noted.
After Matawalle’s allegations of corruption against Bawa, the anti-corruption crusaders in Nigeria, again, called for Bawa’s immediate resignation.
They emphasised the need for comprehensive investigations into corruption, rather than selective targeting.
The activists, comprising over 150 groups, highlighted that the EFCC was established as a vital agency to combat corruption and not as a means to settle political scores. They asserted that officials accused of gross misconduct should step aside during investigations, as it is the standard practice worldwide.
Led by Debo Adeniran, Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, the activists during a press conference held recently in Lagos, demanded a thorough probe into the activities of the EFCC under Bawa, alluding to the treatment of his predecessor, Ibrahim Magu, who was compelled to step aside without a clear outcome of the investigation against him.
CACOL revealed that from interactions between journalists, CSOs, and ordinary Nigerians the Commission invited for different reasons, “there have been several allegations to the effect that about 80 per cent of cases under EFCC investigation are not taken to court and that EFCC offices now literally serve as courtrooms.”
“There are damning allegations that some of the Commission’s officials simply negotiate with suspects, get assets and cash retrieved and do plea bargains.
“This opens limitless opportunities for corrupt bargaining and self-enrichment by the operatives of EFCC under Bawa’s watch,” the activists claimed.
The group called for a thorough investigation into all the matters in the last three years, analysing records of arrests, investigations, outcomes and final closure of each incident and individual suspects and how the matters were eventually dispensed with.
“Allegations of sharp practices with confiscated assets by this anti-graft agency have refused to go away. To this end, all seized assets need to be forensically audited with a view to recovering all assets re-looted or auctioned in suspicious circumstances.
“Bawa has been convicted for contempt over his failure to comply with an earlier order of the court. As we speak, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) has not complied with a court order to commit Bawa to Kuje prison while Bawa has not deemed it fit to purge himself of contempt,” CACOL’s spokesperson said in his speech.
Furthermore, the activists disputed Bawa’s claims regarding the EFCC’s conviction rates – 98.93 per cent conviction rate in 2022, with only 1.07 per cent lost – stating that the majority of convictions were related to online fraudsters, while politically influential individuals remained untouched.