Why CSOs, activists abandoned him
By Ishmael Roland
More than 85 days after the disengagement and the arrest of the suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, nobody seems to be calling for either the prosecution or the release of the once feared anti-graft boss.
Aside his alleged refusal to hire a legal representative, despite being confined in the custody of the Department of State Services for more than 85 days, since June 14, 2023, the facts emerged that the Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, human rights activists and the media, seem to have abandoned Bawa, to rot with his alleged sins.
The Federal government is probing him for alleged financial impropriety and abuse of office under his watch.
According to reports, one of the reasons why Bawa is still in detention is his failure to answer any queries brought before him by the secret police.
Sunday Times’ investigations revealed that the ex- EFCC boss refused to get a lawyer to represent him in court or request for his release from custody on bail.
It was learned that he also refused to write any statement or answer questions posed to him by several operatives that have queried him in detention.
Despite the fact that the DSS had invited EFCC’s officials for questioning over alleged mismanagement, misappropriation, conspiracy, and diversion of proceeds of sold assets forfeited to the agency, Bawa was adamant to respond to his own queries insisting that the DSS has no power or right to arrest him.
It was gathered that the DSS cannot charge him to court or file charges against the embattled Ex- EFCC boss because he was yet to make statement.
This was said to have prompted the DSS to go for an exparte order in June to extend Bawa’s detention in their facility, and it was granted to them while they continue with their investigation pending when Bawa would make his statement.
With an exparte order, Bawa may find it difficult to go to court to file lawsuits to enforce his fundamental human rights.
Meanwhile, the silence of the media, CSOs, NGOs and the human rights activists over the predicament of Bawa looks like conspiracy.
But a dependable source in one of the CSOs harped on the fact the Bawa deserves what he is going through at the moment.
He stated that Bawa severally violated court orders with impunity which made the court to convict him in one of the cases adding that those arrogance are what’s playing out on him.
Before the downfall of Bawa, Nigeria’s foremost anti-corruption Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, numbering over 100, trooped out on the streets of Lagos, in February with thousands of their members and supporters, in continuation of their “Protest Against Politicisation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, disobedience of court orders and infringement on human rights of Nigerians.
The protest was the fourth organised one, since the group began their call for the sack of the EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa.
According to them, EFCC, under Bawa, turned itself into a sensational media agency, churning out deliberate misinformation on almost a daily basis to strengthen a political cause, adding that responsible CSOs would not fold their arms and watch the country’s global anti-corruption outlook slip into a mess “all in the name of the anti-democratic tendencies of a few recalcitrant leaders.”
The ‘Bawa Must Go’ protesters, were led by the Chairman, of Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran; Executive Director, of Zero Graft Centre, Kolawole Sanchez-Jude; Chairman, of Coalition Against Corruption and Bad Governance, Toyin Raheem; Executive Director, Centre for Public Accountability, Olufemi Lawson.
Others were: spokesperson for the Transparency and Accountability Group, Ayodeji Ologun; Director, Activists for Good Governance, Declan Ihehaire; and Ahmed Balogun of Media Rights Concern, among others.
Adeniran, called for the removal of Bawa because he had allegedly become an embarrassment to the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
According to him, the EFCC boss became a serial violator of court orders and not fit to be the head of an agency that is supposed to sanitise society.
Adeniran, the anti-corruption activist, 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.
“For several years, we have criticised the military regimes and civilian administrations that have ruled us with impunity. Impunity comes when the court is no longer seen as an arbiter between the people and the provisions of the extant laws.
“We rely on the courts to adjudicate in matters of conflict between the people and the system. And anytime anyone runs against the system, it is also the court that will adjudicate.
“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 sanitise the society,” he declared.
The anti-corruption CSOs also hinted that they would petition the Chief Justice of Nigeria to demand that until the court order to arrest Bawa is effected, “no court should entertain any EFCC case henceforth.”
Other leaders of the CSOs, who took turns to speak with the media claimed that some EFCC officials had confided in their members that they were not happy that the Commission under Bawa appeared to be focusing mainly on settling political scores than confronting its big mandate.
“You can’t run to the same courts you disrespect to get judgment for your cases. And you can’t also choose which court judgement to obey. If Bawa has been committed to prison, he has no business being in office right now. And someone who has flouted the order of the court on several occasions cannot head an agency as sensitive as EFCC.
“Some of their officials had confided in our members at different times that they were not happy that the Commission appears to focus more on settling political scores than actually confronting its big mandate,” Executive Director, Centre for Public Accountability, Olufemi Lawson, said.
Ologun, noted, “Many cases of genuine corruption are left unattended under Bawa. He came on board through vendetta and he has proved in the period he has been in office that he might have been appointed to serve as a tool for political assault on opponents of his sponsors.”
Other CSO leaders present at the protest were: Ochiaga Jude, Centre for Ethics and Good Governance; Barr. Cletus Okedube, Barrister. Johnson Areola, Barrister George Sanda, among a host of other notable activists, lawyers and women’s rights NGOs.
For those in the media, an editor of one of the private televisions told our correspondent that Bawa had no respect for journalists and the media adding that he treats them with disdain.
Trouble started with Bawa when information leaked to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that Bawa allegedly collaborated with the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, to have, among other things, carried out fraudulent deals with some forex operators.
It was also noted that Bawa allegedly misappropriated proceeds of assets seized from suspects by the EFCC.
Bawa was arrested and detained by the anti-graft agency in 2019 for allegedly selling at least 244 trucks worth between N20 million and N30 million each to his cronies at the cost of N100,000 per unit, hence depriving the country of about N4.8 billion in potential loot recovery.
According to sources, the forfeiture proceedings of most of the trucks were yet to be concluded when Bawa allegedly disposed of them.
It was gathered that the former EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu, in 2019, arrested Bawa and questioned him over the sale of about 244 trucks that were seized by the Port Harcourt zonal office, where he worked then as zonal head.
It was gathered that case was one of the major reasons why he was suspended and is being investigated.
The source said that he sold the trucks worth between N20m and N30m each to his proxies at N100,000 per unit, depriving the country of about N4.8bn in potential loot recovery.
According to the source, this prompted the former EFCC Secretary, Ola Olukoyede, to confront the EFCC boss in 2019, as he was said to have received complaints that Bawa was tampering with assets undergoing forfeiture proceedings.
It was gathered that when Bawa was queried about what happened to the trucks, he claimed that he was acting on the instructions of the former Chairman, Magu, but he never wrote that in his statement.”
Aside this, his matter with Tinubu’s close friend, the former governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, who accused him of demanding a $2m bribe by is also raging.
In May 2023, the former Governor of Zamfara state, Bello Matawalle, accused Bawa of demanding a $2m bribe from him. Matawalle made the allegation during an interview with BBC Hausa amid an ongoing rift between the governor and the anti-graft agency.
Matawalle was said to have submitted his proofs to Tinubu as part of his allegations levelled against Bawa that led to his suspension.