Over 120 frontline Anti-corruption Civil Society Organisations, on Friday, held a massive town hall meeting, in Lagos, to round off their week-long protest against what they called “Politicisation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Disobedience of Court Orders and Infringement on Human Rights of Nigerians” under the leadership of Abdulrasheed Bawa.
The protesters, who began to have a large following on social and conventional media, since their first public protest Friday, 10 February, 2023, gave the Inspector-General of Police a seven-day ultimatum to effect the Court order that committed Bawa to prison for contempt, noting that the EFCC’s alleged desperate recruitment of “counter-CSOs” would not help the Commission.
According to them, though the first phase of the protest ended on Friday, 17 February, 2023, the CSOs would jointly and individually petition relevant international agencies, demanding sanctions against Bawa until he becomes law abiding and serves his jail term.
Spokesperson for the Transparency and Accountability Group, Ayodeji Ologun, insisted that the EFCC boss could not appeal the contempt ruling without first obeying the order, saying the Nigerian authorities were dangerously toeing the path of anarchy with the incessant disobedience of court orders, especially by an agency set up to stamp out corruption.
He said the politicisation of the EFCC was evident in the slant of its operations, noting that while series of petitions were piled up unattended at the EFCC offices on monumental corruption across Nigeria, the Commission’s boss had allegedly demonstrated that his task was mainly political vendetta.
The activists kicked strongly against the EFCC’s statement that they were hired CSOs, saying those on the struggle had been at the forefront of the fight against corruption for years and were well known for their doggedness and patriotism.
“When Bawa was still learning to wear his pants, or hiding in his parents’ home, many of us here were already at the barricades fighting for democracy and the office he is enjoying today. Back then, nobody paid us to fight for justice. Whoever is saying we were paid to do this must be thoroughly examined. We are strictly activists, not political jobbers,” Director, Activists for Good Governance, Declan Ihehaire, said.
“We are saying President Buhari should sack Bawa and if he doesn’t sack him, we are sure that whoever is coming on board, come May 29, 2023, will listen to us and have Bawa sacked,” he added.
The CSOs accused the EFCC of greater corruption and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately put machineries in motion to sanitise the Commission so that the war against criminals and corrupt elements in Nigeria would make a meaning.
“Go to EFCC office today, there won’t be parking space. Most of them, who are police officers, drive different types of exotic cars that their colleagues who don’t work with EFCC cannot afford,” Spokesperson for the Coalition of Anti-corruption Organisations, Olufemi Lawson, said.
Reviewing the protests so far, he stated, “For one week, we have, as a coalition, embarked on a sustained agitation for the removal of Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The Coalition, comprising of over 120 active organisations, has been able to sustain this, despite sponsored blackmail, intimidation and campaign of calumny by agents of the embattled EFCC Chairman, Mr Bawa.
“Today, we have invited selected leaders of our various organizations, to further press home our demand, under an atmosphere of engagement with some more stakeholders, whom we have also invited to be part of us today.
“As frontline Anti-corruption activists, we wish to restate our uncompromising demand, for President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately releive Mr Bawa of the position of the Chairman of the EFCC. Mr Bawa has lost the moral capacity to continually preside over such an important law enforcement agency, having become a signpost for disobedience to the rule of law, particularly express orders of our courts.”
Lawson, who is also the Executive Director, Centre for Public Accountability, added, “This is just the first phase. We will be submitting petitions to relevant international agencies and embassies demanding sanctions against Bawa until he becomes law-abiding. We can’t allow our Judiciary be rubbished by anyone.
“We are by this medium, giving a seven-day ultimatum to President Muhammadu Buhari, in line with the mood of the nation currently, to direct the Inspector General of Police to effect the arrest order on Bawa and commit him to prison, as ordered by the court, after which our nationwide protests would resume.”
He saluted the courage of various leaders and groups who had been part of the sustained agitation for Bawa to be sacked on account of disobedience of court orders, and had refused to be intimidated even in the face of obvious threats.
The ‘Bawa Must Go’ protests, which started a week ago, were 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 100 notable leaders of Anti-corruption CSOs.