THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has raised the alarm over the activities of some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) who have been embarking on protests tagged ‘Bawa Must Go’ in Lagos.
The CSOs have been protesting against the Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, over the alleged politicisation of operations of the EFCC, disobedience of court orders and infringement on human rights.
The civil society coalition started with a call for the removal of the EFCC chairman before commencing protests on Sunday at Ikeja.
But addressing journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, February 14, EFCC spokesperson Wilson Uwujaren said the group protesting against Bawa is sponsored by persons under investigation.
Uwujaren claimed the groups have no interest in the fight against corruption.
“Information available to the Commission indicates that the group is sponsored by persons under investigation by the Commission and have been mobilised and mandated by their paymaster to embarrass the person of the Chairman through choreographed street protests across the country until he is removed from office.
“It is significant that this group found its voice after the EFCC launched an investigation into the mindless looting of the treasury of one of the states.
“This same group shouted that the Commission lacked the power to investigate the theft of the state’s resources. Their latest dance in the market square came a few hours after family members of a sitting state governor were arraigned at an Abuja court for allegedly stealing the state’s funds,” the EFCC spokesperson said.
The anti-graft agency appealed to the public to disregard the campaign by the group “as they do not represent the genuine interest of millions of Nigerians”.
“We want to assure Nigerians that the EFCC will not be distracted by this campaign of calumny as we believe that this agenda will fail.
“It is also important to reassure Nigerians and all stakeholders that the Commission has never, and will not take any steps to undermine the judiciary,” the Commission stated.
On the two cases of contempt against Bawa, the EFCC said it is essential to revisit the circumstances of the two orders.
“The first order by an FCT High Court on November 8, 2022, was issued over the failure to comply with a November 21st, 2018 order of the court directing the Commission to return seized assets comprising a Range Rover SUV and the sum of N40, 000,000.00 (Forty Million Naira) to the applicant.
“For the benefit of the public, the said order of the FCT High Court was given three years before Abdulrasheed Bawa became EFCC Chairman. Also, the contempt process is quasi-criminal in nature and must be served on the person involved. In this case, Bawa, as Chairman of the EFCC, was neither served Form 48 nor Form 49.
“Despite this fact, the Executive Chairman, upon being made aware of the said order of November 21st, 2018, had released the Range Rover in question to the Applicant on the 27th of June, 2022 and had approved the process of the release of the remaining N40m before the committal order was issued,” Uwujaren added.
Commenting on the latest order by Justice R.O. Ayoola of the Kogi State High Court, the EFCC spokesperson said the processes are still ongoing.
However, he noted that by invoking Form 49, the court failed to take cognisance of a pending appeal of its ruling of November 30, which directed the Commission to produce a fraud suspect, Ali Bello.
“As a law-abiding institution, EFCC approached the appellate court for a stay of execution.
“This is a valid and lawful remedy by law and does not evoke any aura of impunity or disregard for the judiciary.”
Meanwhile, in their hundreds, members of CSOs continued their protest against Bawa on Monday, February 13.
The protest was tagged ‘Protest Against Politicisation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Disobedience of Court Orders and Infringement on Human Rights of Nigerians’.
Monday’s protest was the third since the activists began their call for Bawa’s sack.
The EFCC is currently prosecuting the wife of Kogi State governor, Rashida Bello, a nephew to the governor, Ali Bello and others on an 18-count charge bordering on criminal misappropriation and money laundering to the tune of N3.081 billion.
The case will resume at the Federal High Court Abuja on Tuesday, February 14.