Following Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State’s bombshell, on Wednesday, 17 May, 2023, that he and some other prominent Nigerians have evidence of corrupt practices against the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa, notable Anti-Corruption crusaders in Nigeria, numbering over 150, on Thursday, 18 May, 2023, insisted that Bawa can no longer continue to stay in office.
The leaders of the organisations who said they had refused to be cowed into shelving their agitation for a genuine fight against corruption in Nigeria, said inasmuch as elected officials must account for their actions in office, they shared Matawalle’s view that the investigations must not be selective but all-embracing.
According to the activists, the EFCC is an important agency in Nigeria, established to rid the society of corruption with impunity, it was not conceived as an agency meant for settling scores for political godfathers.
Led by the Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, Debo Adeniran, the activists said, at a press conference in Lagos, that it was the standard practice all over the world for officials who have been accused of gross misconduct to step aside while investigations are being conducted to ascertain the veracity of the allegations.
They, therefore, called for a full probe into the activities of the EFCC under Bawa, saying, “his predecessor, Ibrahim Magu, was not only told to step aside when Bawa’s godfather wanted him out at all costs, he was humiliated out of office and up till tomorrow, no one knows the exact outcome of the probe against him.”
According to them, from the interraction of Journalists and CSOs with ordinary Nigerians who had been invited for one reason or the other at the Commission, “there have been several allegations to the effect that about 80 per cent of cases under EFCC investigation are not taken to court. EFCC offices now literally serve as court rooms.”
“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 Mr. Bawa’s watch,” the anti-corruption activists alleged.
“This needs to be thoroughly investigated by a technical Commission of Inquiry to dig into the modus operandi of EFCC investigations in the last three years by thoroughly analysing records of arrests, investigations, outcomes and final closure of each incident and individual suspects and how the matters were eventually dispensed with,” they demanded.
In a speech delivered on behalf of the CSOs, their spokesperson, Olufemi Lawson, stated, “Allegations of sharp practices with confiscated assets by the Commission 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.
“The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed 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 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.”
The activists said claims by Bawa that the EFCC had secured 98.93 per cent convictions in 2022, losing only 1.07 per cent, were spurious, noting that a large chunk of the convictions were online fraudsters, while favoured political office holders were left untouched.
Lawson said, “We are also aware that in December 2022, the Bawa-led EFCC had announced its plan to sell forfeited properties. It also announced later in January that about 12 bids were made for those properties and, later, that six of those bids were successful. No details of this were made public, either to know successful bids or rejected ones. This was a ploy, in our opinion, to make the processes less transparent and, therefore, facilitate corrupt mismanagement of the proceeds or ensure that only their corrupt allies got the opportunity to purchase the assets at giveaway prices. The processes were rendered opaque and that’s very suspicious.
“The EFCC has done a selective invitation to outgoing Governors in Nigeria, reportedly exempting other government officials who have loads of petitions against them, even by Governors.”
“If a government agency expected to fight crime is found going about its business in a manner that mimics witch-hunt and selective justice while also being unable to deal with corruption going on within its own workforce, the Coalition of Anti-Corruption Organizations, COACOs, is afraid that the Nation may slide into some real crisis of confidence in our systems, which is bound to provoke a defunding of the EFCC by local and international donor organizations,” the activists stressed.