Communiqueissued at the end of the One-Day brain storming session of over 100 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) from Abuja FCT and the North Central Zone with the theme “BAWA MUST GO,” held at the National Headquarters of League of Civil Societies, Utako, in Abuja
On Friday, 3rd March, 2023.
After an exhaustive Extra-Ordinary Meeting convened by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Abuja with some strategic stakeholders in the Middle Belt (North Central geopolitical zone), about the recent protests in Lagos and across the country against the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdurasheed Bawa’s poor handling of the state of the corruption war since assuming office, his lackluster and abysmal failure in the administration of the anti-graft agency’s mandate and the obvious drop in the country’s perception index in international ratings; having assessed his witch-hunt of select individuals and organizations, as well as perceived enemies of government; the various members of the Guild and League of CSOs, NGOs, present dialogued on national burning issues on the front-burner and came to the general conclusion that “Mr Bawa is unfit for office and should resign forthwith as he does not have the moral capacity to remain in office, due to his lackluster performance and the alleged maladministration of the agency.”
The CSOs/NGOs recalled that recently, over 40 anti-corruption Civil Society Organizations gathered in Lagos to protest what they described as the incessant disobedience of court orders by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission under Abdulrasheed Bawa and the seeming politicization of the agency’s activities. It is alleged that the EFCC had chosen to become an institution known for brazen impunity, disobeying orders of courts in such manner that does not only undermine the institution of democracy, but also indicates a contradiction to the anti-corruption agenda of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and came to the sorry tale that Mr Bawa must be sacked for the commission to recover its past glory.
Aside, from the EFCC’s penchant for disobedience of court orders, the situation has reached an alarming and embarrassing height where, courts of competent jurisdiction, had cause to commit the commission’s head, Mr Bawa, to prison more than once within two months for clear breach of the extant orders of the courts. This gestapo-style regime of disobeying court orders must stop. Nigeria is not a banana republic. Attempts by institutions of state, to ridicule the country and make it seem like a lawless fiefdom must be resisted by all well-meaning Nigerians.
This is because the EFCC seems to have allowed itself to be used as an instrument of political witch-hunt as it targets some individuals/organizations more than others in the eyes of Nigerians. It is an empirical record and fact that some of the organizations have submitted several petitions to the commission against some heads of organizations, but the EFCC has bluntly refused to act on them, even when the petitioners sit with the EFCC team to reason on the merits of those petitions.
We have discovered, to our dismay that, once there are political interests and undertones in any issue, the whole process of investigation and litigation becomes politicized. The EFCC has, of recent, since assumption of Mr Bawa as its head, has become an agent of protection of dubious individuals and corrupt organizations, as the Chairman has been discovered to be busy telling them not to answer any anti-corruption enquiries against them, even the ones based on Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, but they would rather go ahead to assure such organizations that they are under the protection of the EFCC.
The Commission has been discovered to seem only to act with gestapo style against perceived political enemies of some powerful political forces in the country, rather than being neutral and professional. For instance, the Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly, was bundled to Abuja on corruption allegations, while several similar petitions elsewhere have been left untouched by the commission. If we may ask: “Where then is justice, impartiality and professionalism?”
We query the violation of human rights by the EFCC’s flagrant disobedience to court orders, violations, undermining of judicial processes, select anti-graft/corruption campaigns, compromising of graft cases and persecution of perceived opponents by the EFCC, since the present leadership assumed the mantle of leadership.
May it be brought to the attention of Nigerians, that since Mr Bawa took over, it has been a plethora of malaise, human rights abuses, alleged maladministration of the organization from what it used to be to what Nigerians now see as a relic of the old self; debasing all known rules or laws, including hounding perceived political opponents to draw back the gains of democracy achieved since 1999. We have exhausted all other channels, networks and behind-the-scene contacts, with the office of the Chairman of the EFCC, in trying to advise appropriately and right some of the wrongs of the administration. We have also written several letters in form of advice and have sent series of correspondence to the Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation on the need to bring sanity, and caution the EFCC Chairman who has brought the office to odium and public ridicule from what it used to be in the comity of nations.
Nigerians can attest to the fact that the fight against corruption in Nigeria is not ebbing, rather, corruption continues to be on the increase daily and our perception index and ratings from the international agencies like Transparency International (TI) and the Human Rights Watch, are on the increase and have become a total shame and disgrace as we have continuously fallen below standards and have also declined in the rating globally.
Nigerians are aware of the various credible stories told and retold of how the agency forcefully amassed properties and assets from Nigerians, dispossessing them of assets and properties without following due process and due diligence as well as appropriating same properties to themselves and cronies alike across the length and breadth of the country. These denigrating activities also include threatening some Nigerians with jail terms if such stories got to the press.
The EFCC, under Bawa, has become a rogue organization with mercenaries who are armed to the teeth to take-out would be perceived enemies. The EFCC does not partake in the yearly briefing to Nigerians on its operations and challenges, including the reportage on the number of corruption cases treated or cases that are pending, including operational tactics with international organizations and sister agencies, and as such, not transparent in any of its activities.
Indeed, it is regrettable as a lot of financial infractions, sleaze, nepotism and impunity are on-going in most government institutions now but the EFCC seems to maintain a deafening silence or pretend not to know what to do. Corruption is now endemic in our system and practised openly with impunity in most state institutions without fear of the law catching up with the practitioner(s). This is ostensibly because the EFCC Chairman has laid the foundation for the disregard of our judicial processes by not obeying court summons himself.
We have it on good authority, that the EFCC, on several occasions, arrested individuals on trumped-up charges. Such persons arrested were remanded in EFCC cells, without recourse to their fundamental human rights. We also noticed, through our various channels of investigations that, a lot of abuses are presently on-going in EFCC cells across the nation, where inmates and innocent individuals are harassed, harangued and ruthlessly dealt with on daily basis, not minding their freedom of speech and rights to seek redress or right to fair hearing. This is, indeed, very appalling and unbecoming of these sufferings by Nigerians in the precincts of the EFCC across the nation.
This culture of impurity as constantly exhibited by the EFCC chairman continues to ridicule Nigerians in the comity of nations and sabotage efforts at attracting foreign direct investment.
Investors only go to jurisdictions where the rule of law and respect for human rights are safe and guaranteed while shunning countries where “rule of man” predominates.
Consequently, the following are resolutions reached:
1. The EFCC Chairman, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, must resign or be sacked by President Muhammadu Buhari.
2. The EFCC Chairman, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, has a moral burden on his neck as such should be sacked forthwith by President Muhammadu Buhari.
3. The EFCC Chairman, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, has no value to bring to the board and management of the EFCC, and since his appointment, the perception of the EFCC by Nigerians has dropped astronomically in the eyes of Nigerians and the international community.
4. The EFCC should strengthen information sharing mechanism between the anti-graft agencies and Nigerians, including its yearly operational cases and sustain briefings to Nigerians.
5. The EFCC should be run by people with vast experience in Intelligence, security, prosecutorial powers and a Military/Para-Military background and not a civilian/public servant.
6. Patriotism and nationalism should be the driving force to guide the activities of the EFCC Chairman and mandate.
7. The EFCC should stop witch-hunting and politicizing issues and face its job and responsibilities squarely.
*Com. Bright Chigbo, *Com. John Maxwell,
Co-ordinator, Agenda for Convener, Coalition of Civil Societies
Good Governance (AGG) Against Corruption (CCSAC).
*Com. Jude Ogah Obayi, *Com. Musa Abdullahi,
Coordinator, Centre for Policy Development President, United Nigerians Forum (UNF).
And Leadership (CPDC).
Com. Ibrahim Isa Bakori, Com. Wale Adegoke
Coordinator, Arewa Voters Assembly (AVA) & National Chairman, Conscience Group (CG).
Spokesperson, Coalition of Pro-Democracy &
Human Rights Groups in Nigeria.