EFCC boss, Bawa, under wave of controversy



Uba Group

The storm of uncertainty is still gathering and hovering over the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa, who has continued to get negative press after he was accused by Civil Society Organisations and constitutional lawyers of flouting court orders, politicising the EFCC and human rights violations, with calls to the President, Muhammadu Buhari, to axe him. And as those calls for his sack continue to put Bawa in the hot spot, the embattled EFCC Chairman seems poised to damn the consequences and continue what he said was his unrelenting fight against corruption.

Bawa, born on April 30, 1980, in Jega, Kebbi State, took up the reins of the EFCC on a flurry of promises to reverse the decrepit image that clouded the anti-graft agency owing to the fall from grace of his predecessor, Ibrahim Magu, amidst allegations of gross misconduct. Interestingly, Magu is not the only head of the EFCC who bowed out unceremoniously from office.

The pioneer chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, as well as Farida Waziri and Ibrahim Lamorde, all left the Commission in controversial circumstances, and the notion Nigerians had was that the status of these Heads of the EFCC as either serving or retired police officers was a factor that militates against their overall success in office. The Nigeria Police Force is alleged to be one of the most corrupt in the world.


So, when corruption allegations were leveled against any of these past EFCC chairpersons, it would seem it was the wonted “business as usual” syndrome prevalent in most government institutions in the country. For this reason, when Bawa was appointed by Buhari, on February 16, 2021, and later confirmed by the Senate on February 24, 2021, he came off to Nigerians as a breath of fresh air. Bawa is the first regular EFCC personnel nominated to hold the position of Executive Chairman.

In other words, he was groomed by the Commission. The other Chief Executives before him were from the “abhorred” Police Force, and it was no surprise that it was for this reason Nigerians wanted to know who the young, fresh-faced, new kid on the block was. It wasn’t long before the news mill began to grind.

Reports about Bawa being involved in corrupt practices while he headed the Port Harcourt branch of the Commission began to make the rounds. It was reported he auctioned petrol-bearing trucks he confiscated from suspects and auctioned them off to his proxies at giveaway prices. Bawa was even said to have been arrested and relieved of his duties by Ibrahim Magu before he (Bawa) was shipped back to the Commission’s training school in Abuja.

Ever alert, Civil Society Organisations urged the Senate not to confirm Bawa’s nomination. The man himself denied the allegations and the EFCC also lent its voice and spoke up for its then Chairman-designate, saying through its spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, that Bawa was never arrested or detained over sale of any assets.

After he escaped that chopping block, Bawa took up his appointment as the substantive head of the EFCC with zest. And the Commission under his watch secured some convictions and he was celebrated in many quarters. Albeit, Bawa also had a weighty matter on his chest he wanted to “offload”. So, in 2021, during the weekly Ministerial Briefing organised by the Presidential Media Team at the Presidential Villa, in Abuja, Bawa said that his predecessors who got booted out of office met that fate because “corruption was fighting back”.

Bawa said that the former Chief Executives were labeled “enemies” because they had denied those with illegally acquired wealth the paradise to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth. Bawa also disclosed that the same force that prevailed over his predecessors was now working against him and jostling to disgrace him out of office.

Many Nigerians regarded what Bawa said with a large pinch of salt. However, what Nigerians couldn’t wrap their heads around was why he kept disregarding court orders as well as his other well-documented “dishonourable acts” he accomplished in office, which got the CSOs and constitutional lawyers back on his case again.

Bawa had disregarded a court order given in November 2018 asking the Commission to return a Range Rover and N40 million to a former suspect, and in October 2022, another Judge, Chizoba Orji, after the contempt case was brought before her, ruled that Bawa be arrested and sent to Kuje Prison. Bawa appealed the judgment.

He prayed the judge to quash her earlier sentence because he had returned the said vehicle and was on the verge of returning the money, even though his predecessor, Magu, was in charge when the original judgment was delivered.

The judge harkened to Bawa and set aside the sentencing. It was, therefore, unflattering to Nigerians when in February this year, another judge from the Kogi State High Court in Lokoja sentenced Bawa to prison yet again for disobeying its order.

The Judge, Rukayat Ayoola, ordered that Bawa be detained in prison until he clears himself of the contempt for which he was jailed, or, “until he purges himself of the contempt” as the judge put it. These incidents didn’t help Bawa’s cause, and already in the bad books of the CSOs and constitutional lawyers, he got into more deep water. But because there were concerns he enjoys the backing of the presidency, some analysts fear Bawa may not bow to pressure until after this administration winds down.

A senior lawyer, Fred Aigbadumah, who spoke to The Point said Bawa was “copying” his godfather, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who has been accused of disobeying court orders himself, hence Bawa’s behaviour. Aigbadumah also said that the National Assembly hadn’t lived up to its responsibilities. According to him, the NASS should have used its powers to invite Bawa and as a “subject of threat” to the presidency.

He said, “If there’s a problem with the head, it will affect the whole body. If they have not seen somebody that they’re copying, that is giving them the backing that is standing with them honestly they will not be behaving this way.

“And if it is a real democracy where we have a real NASS….they would have invoked their constitutional power, not just to invite Bawa, they would have used it as a subject of threat to the presidency, because if you debase the judiciary, it means the whole system is gone… respect for the court, respect for the law is the bedrock of every society,” he said. Aigbadumah who noted that the buck stops at the president’s desk concerning Bawa’s behaviour because the presidency and AGF were in tandem, said that the effort of those challenging Bawa’s disregard for the rule of law through protests would not be in vain, as “posterity would exonerate them”.


The disregard for the rule of law, together with his other “sins”, from alleged politicisation of the Commission, disobedience of court orders to infringement on the rights of Nigerians, is the reason why a host of frontline anti-corruption CSOs, numbering over 130 have vowed to compel Buhari to dislodge Bawa from office.

The CSOs have also been staging “Bawa Must Go” protests in Lagos that have been running for days now, and it doesn’t look like they will be retreating or surrendering anytime soon. The anti-corruption czar, Bawa, not wanting to be “humbled” by the CSOs and over 250 constitutional and human rights lawyers who called on the National Judicial Council to direct all courts in Nigeria not to entertain cases brought before them by the EFCC, stated in his defense that the protesters calling for his removal were “rented crowds” and sponsored by those under investigation by the Commission.

On their part, the CSOs have been vocal and have not minced words. The Director, Activists for Good Governance, Declan Ihehaire, said during one of the protests, “Bawa has continued to display disregard for the rule of law…He should stop chasing shadows. He is not bigger than the law and no one can intimidate us…We come out in the sun to press home our demands for you to know how serious this matter is.

“There is no retreat, no surrender. Bawa must vacate the office, no matter who is behind him. Many Nigerians supported President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 because they knew his anti-corruption stance. See what that has become now – an embarrassment. “EFCC has derailed, it is now politicised, and we say Bawa must excuse us so that a right thinking official can come in to sanitise the system and truly serve Nigerians,” he said.

The Chairman for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, who is among those leading the protests, equally aired his view. He said, “We are not only asking him (Bawa) to quit, we are asking the authorities to remove him because he has become an embarrassment to the fight against corruption. “Any act of dishonesty is corruption, anything that is against the law, that is deliberately done with impunity is corruption. It doesn’t matter how you feel about a case.

Even if it is a drunken judge that gives a verdict on any issue taken to the court, you are bound to obey the court order. “A situation whereby somebody is so powerful, somebody is so influential, somebody sees that he has a larger than life image and decides that he is not going to respect our law courts or the laws of the land, it is against the rule of natural justice, it is against the ethos of democratic practice, it is against the principles of human rights. So, definitely, a serial violator of court order is not fit to be the head of an agency that is supposed to sanitize the society,” Adeniran declared.