• Friday, September 29, 2023
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Nigerian Anti-Corruption Crusaders demand Bawa’s dismissal

Nigerian Anti-Corruption Crusaders demand Bawa’s dismissal

After Bello Matawalle, Governor of Zamfara State made allegations of corruption against Abdulrasheed Bawa, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), anti-corruption crusaders in Nigeria have called for Bawa’s immediate resignation. They emphasised the need for comprehensive investigations into corruption, rather than selective targeting.

The activists, comprising over 150 groups highlighted that the EFCC was established as a vital agency to combat corruption and not as a means to settle political scores. They assert that officials accused of gross misconduct should step aside during investigations, as it is the standard practice worldwide.

Led by Debo Adeniran, chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), the activists during a press conference held recently in Lagos demanded a thorough probe into the activities of the EFCC under Bawa, alluding to the treatment of his predecessor, Ibrahim Magu, who was compelled to step aside without a clear outcome of the investigation against him.

CACOL revealed that from interactions between journalists, CSOs, and ordinary Nigerians the Commission invited for different reasons, “there have been several allegations to the effect that about 80 percent of cases under EFCC investigation are not taken to court, and that EFCC offices now literally serve as courtrooms.”

“There are damning allegations that some of the Commission’s officials simply negotiate with suspects, get assets and cash retrieved and do plea bargains,” the anti-corruption activists alleged.

“This opens limitless opportunities for corrupt bargaining and self-enrichment by the operatives of EFCC under Bawa’s watch.”

The group called for a thorough investigation into all the matters in the last three years, analysing records of arrests, investigations, outcomes and final closure of each incident and individual suspects and how the matters were eventually dispensed with.

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“Allegations of sharp practices with confiscated assets by this anti-graft agency 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,” Olufemi Lawson, CACOL’s spokesperson said in his speech.

“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 (IGP) 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.”

Furthermore, the activists disputed Bawa’s claims regarding the EFCC’s conviction rates– 98.93 percent conviction rate in 2022, with only 1.07 percent lost– stating that the majority of convictions were related to online fraudsters, while politically influential individuals remained untouched.

Moreover, it was brought to light that in December 2022, the EFCC under Bawa’s leadership announced its intention to sell forfeited properties. Subsequently, in January, 12 bids were made for these properties, with six bids being successful. However, no information was disclosed regarding the details of the successful or rejected bids.

“This lack of transparency raised suspicions that the process was intentionally made opaque to facilitate corrupt practices, potentially benefiting their allies by allowing them to acquire assets at extremely low prices. Such opacity is highly questionable,” CACOL’s representatives said.

“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 the corruption going on within its own workforce, the Coalition of Anti-Corruption Organisations, 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.”