By Douglas Ogbankwa, Esq.
While watching Abdulrahman Bawa’s confirmation by the Nigerian Senate as the then Chairman-designate of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (hereinafter called “the EFCC”, I saw a ray of hope in this country, seeing a young man sounding so articulate and so well trained, so much so that, I did an article on him, giving him some advice, gleaned from my experience in dealing with the EFCC.
Alas, I was wrong. Abdulrasheed Bawa, the Chairman of the EFCC is one of the tragedies of the Nigerian Story. A complete symbol of impunity, the EFCC under Bawa, has done things that are not just ridiculous, but can only be imagined in Nollywood blockbusters. Bawa’s boys raid hotels all across the country, cutting electrical wires and breaking doors open. Sometimes, they burst in on couples, some of whom are legitimate couples, husbands and wives, making love when they break into their hotel rooms, looking for fraudsters, thereby violating their right to privacy.
While the National Assembly which is as docile as the Senate President leaves such issues and pander to pedestrian issues, the Attorney General of the Federation is the Protector-in-Chief of Bawa and his impunity. This is not surprising as there are reports that Bawa is Malami’s nephew.
Bawa’s EFCC throws on the Nigerian Public, a huge number of convictions of citizens and recovery of assets and monies, propagated by their vibrant and heavily funded social media template and I ask the question: Of all these convictions, how many are full trials and how many are plea bargains? The EFCC under Bawa is a skewed enterprise, structured to deceive the Nigerian people. It is a place where plea bargains are bargained like a commodity in the market. If I may ask, where are the billions recovered quarterly, and which Federal Government accounts are they domiciled? Where are the cars, houses, jewelry, etc seized? Where is the evidence of the public auctioning of same in a Court supervised auction scheme?
The first sign that Bawa was on his way to infamy was when he was being more catholic than the Pope by meddling in the issue of Code of Conduct for Bankers that is under the purview of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Bawa in his usual cocky manner went on National Television to say Bankers are to declare their code of Conduct to the EFCC. The law establishing the scheme was however made in the 80s when the EFCC was not in existence and the Authority with the exclusive jurisdiction to superintendent over this matter is the Secretary to Government of the Federation.
Bawa makes Ibrahim Magu look like a saint. While Magu would intervene in matters where the Commission infringes on the rights of citizens, under Bawa the case is made worse. For example, in a case which I was doing in Warri, the officers of the EFCC did not only go forum shopping, they went Judge Shopping to Warri, while the cause of action accrued in Asaba. True to my fears, the Judge has given the EFCC an official imprimatur to their dastardly infringement on the Human Rights of the Citizen involved – Eze Njoku, who has been in both EFCC detention and prison custody since the 24th day of August 2021. The EFCC under Bawa even appealed against the bail duly granted to the citizen – Eze Njoku, then abandoned the appeal, while arraigning him in a Court that has no territorial jurisdiction, and the Judge has made sure the citizen does not enjoy his constitutionally guaranteed right to liberty.
Bawa’s EFCC is the only Agency known to me that files an appeal against the bail granted to a Nigerian citizen, which is unknown to our jurisprudence. There are cases under Bawa’s EFCC of detention for weeks of citizens of this country, without a detention order.
The detention and harassment of Lawyers, which climaxed with the vicious attack on the Chairman of the Markudi Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, witnessed by the officials of the Benue State Ministry of Justice, is a case in point. Bawa, deceived by his newfound status, told the Chairman of the Markudi Branch of the NBA that he knows Judges and if he goes to Court he will get nothing out of the case. If Bawa is the new vista of Nigerian Leadership, then this country is doomed as the indices he resonates with are against international best practices.
At the EFCC, once you are arrested, it appears as if your citizenship has been suspended. They allow you access to your lawyers and your family at their whim and caprices. They peg your sureties to either be very senior civil servants or a holder of a Certificate of Occupancy over a house or both. They do this irrespective of the fact that it is against the law.
In the case of Col Sambo Dasuki v the Director-General of the State Security Services, the use of civil servants as sureties was declared illegal in Nigeria as it offends the Public Service Rules. It takes them another long period to confirm sureties. While you are kept in detention perpetually, they sell to you the idea of a Plea Bargain. This is where a huge chunk of EFCC convictions in Court come from. Nigerian Citizens are under the perpetual siege of the EFCC; being arrested sometimes for commercial transactions or in some cases, where the citizen has no dealing whatsoever with the crime alleged, leveraging on the ignorance of the Citizens, Bawa’s EFCC forces them to plea bargain and they now count those convictions as working in fighting sleaze, while the commission stinks in all ramifications.
It has a paradox of purpose, a case of the pot calling the kettle black. They freeze citizens’ bank accounts with the connivance of the banks with mere letters or what they call Bank Order (not a Court Order ), against the spirit of the Constitution and the extant decision on the matter depicted in the case of Odutola v GTB.
The EFCC needs new leadership, that understands the philosophy behind establishing the Commission. That is to say, only the Commission can redeem itself from the perception that has been created by the illegal actions perpetrated by it. When the EFCC deals with you, you will understand the meaning of the saying, that ‘the Police is your friend’.
The Police are saints when you see the actions of this Commission. The EFCC under Bawa is a well-packaged facade, designed to deceive the Nigerian People. Bawa better retrace his steps or just like Magu, he will bow out in shame.
About the Author: Douglas Ogbankwa Esq.,@ email@example.com, is the Convener of the Vanguard for the Independence of the Judiciary.