Frontline Anti-corruption Civil Society Organisations, numbering over 130, have resumed their call for the sack of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, over alleged politicisation of the Commission, Disobedience of Court Orders and Infringement on Human Rights of Nigerians, among others.
The activists who were joined by over 20 Constitutional lawyers, led by Barr. Mogbojuri Kayode of the Citizens Rights Advocacy Group, noted that the desperation of Bawa to save his face after dishonourable acts in office had taken a laughable turn, insisting that no amount of “purchased CSOs’ vote of confidence” would cover the truth about the abnormalities being condoned in EFCC under its current leadership.
They spoke at a joint press conference in Lagos on Tuesday, 14 March, 2023.
According to them, the EFCC has become so desperate to launder what they called a rapidly diminishing image of Bawa, to the extent that the Commission’s spokesman laughably signed a Press Release, recently, informing Nigerians that a Civil Society Organization had passed a vote of confidence in its chairman.
“Isn’t it the job of the media to see that and independently report?” they asked.
The leaders of the struggle said it was a thing of honour that, despite the immense pressure mounted on leaders of the “Bawa Must Go” protests to abandon their objective cause, over 120 of the main actors had remained resolute while more had joined in the interest of the rule of law.
The Anti-corruption activists, however, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for bailing the country out of what they described as a Judicial quagmire “by dissociating the Presidency from any act of disobedience to court orders and making the Central Bank of Nigeria comply with a Supreme Court order that extended the validity of old naira notes till December 31, 2023.”
“As this is expected to ease the pain of the masses, we hereby call on the President to also wade into the seeming fixation of the EFCC on certain individuals and the desperation of the Chairman of the Commission to score cheap political goals through unwarranted media trials of non-convicted individuals in the country. He should direct Mr. Bawa to step aside until he purges himself of contempt as ruled by a High Court,” Spokesperson for the Coalition, Olufemi Lawson, said in a speech delivered on behalf of the activists.
Chairman, Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, Debo Adeniran, specifically noted that his organisation had, from the outset, alerted the National Assembly to the fact that Bawa was unfit for the post of EFCC chairman, over alleged corrupt practices and his rumoured relationship with the Attorney-General of the Federation who was believed to have masterminded the travails and eventually removal of Bawa’s predecessor, Ibrahim Magu.
According to him, Bawa’s alleged misconduct in office is a confirmation of CACOL’s fears of his being a misfit for the position.
Adeniran, who made copies of CACOL’s initial objection to Bawa’s appointment available to the press, said, “Up till now, he (Bawa) has not cleared himself of all the allegations against him and he has been made to catch other people who committed offences that are not as grievous as the ones that he has been accused of. And on top of all of these, he has been behaving as if he is an authority to himself. And we are now saying that, no matter how highly placed you are, no matter how influential you are, you still are duty-bound to operate within the confines of the laws of our own country. That is the Constitution.
“Nobody is above the law. Everybody should be equal before the law. If we don’t allow the rule of law to govern our society, then we are plunging our society into that kingdom where anarchy rules, where there will be chaos and where there will be no control over who does what, and that would be a disorganised society.
“This man has been convicted about two times for flagrant disobedience of court orders. The Inspector-General of Police has been lagging behind in the performance of his duty in this regard, may be because of what they believe should be esprit de corps. Gradually, other agencies would not want to obey the rule of law.
“This would only draw back the gains we have made over the years when we thought that we had struggled ourselves out of the stranglehold of the Military. This is not expected of a born-again democrat that our President now claims to be. For how long will our President allow impunity to govern our society before he knows that he has to exercise his enormous power to insist that the rule of law that he has relied upon over the years holds sway?”
“Those in authority are duty-bound to ensure that judgements of any court, even if by a drunken judge, are implemented by the Police Force. And if the Police Force refuses to implement it, the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He should call them to order, instruct the Inspector-General of Police to implement the order. If the President also refuses to insist that the rule of law should be held sacrosanct, then there would be protests without end.
“We are just observing a break now as a result of the elections which we must all partake in. We will continue until the rule of law is obeyed. Everybody should be equal before the law,” the CACOL chairman stated.
Spokesperson for the Transparency and Accountability Group, Ayodeji Ologun, wondered why some people, in the name of CSOs would allow themselves to be used to reinforce failure, contrary to what genuine CSOs stand for, noting that in spite of pressure from different quarters, patriotic activists refused to be bought over.
“The issue of Bawa did not start today. When he was in the Port Harcourt division of the EFCC, he had allegations of misconduct around seized property hanging around his neck. These are allegations that were not cleared because he was forced upon the agency.
“We are repeating that we are not against the fight against corruption. But if the successes of the EFCC must stay, we cannot continue to have an ignoble personality like Abdulrasheed Bawa heading that agency. So we are not just asking the incoming government not to inherit him, we are saying he should be removed from office even before the expiration of the term of President Muhammadu Buhari,” he declared.
The anti-corruption CSOs maintained that the Commission had become synonymous with all kinds of scandals, saying, “There are allegations of age falsification to remain in office beyond the statutory limit of civil service regulations. An organization fighting against corruption should not be found enmeshed in such a scandal with the alleged active connivance of the Commission’s leadership.
“We call on the IGP to immediately swing into action and thoroughly investigate these allegations and ensure that all culpable personnel face the full weight of the law, including their facilitators.”
“We are also not unaware of some sponsored campaigns for the incoming administration to retain the services of Mr Bawa as the head of the EFCC. While we concede that it is the exclusive preserve of the President to appoint whoever is deemed fit to head the EFCC and other similar agencies of government, we cannot but as stakeholders state that Mr. Bawa has become deficient in character and as such should be the least considered by any administration determined to truly fight corruption for such a sensitive position which demands not only professional competency, but also high moral value,” they stated.
The ‘Bawa Must Go’ protests are being 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 120 notable leaders of Anti-corruption CSOs.
Over 20 vibrant constitutional lawyers have also joined the protests.