Bawa, new EFCC chair denies political witch-hunt, media trial in agency

•Promises diligent prosecution of high profile cases

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed the nomination of AbdulRasheed Bawa as the substantive Chairman of the country anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

For two hours, 18 Senators took the nominee to task on various issues agitating the minds of Nigerians; his perceived ineligibility for the office, allegation of illegal sale of assets of suspects during his stewardship in Port Harcourt, need to insulate the anti-graft body from political influence, lack of zeal in prosecuting high profile cases, amongst others.

Bawa who commended his predecessors at the EFCC dismissed the claim that the anti-graft agency has been used for political witch-hunt by successive ruling party.

He told the lawmakers that the allegation could not be justified as he noted that under the erstwhile ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the current ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftains of the parties have been prosecuted in court.

He equally faulted the claim that the agency concentrates on media trial of suspects while its prosecution of cases was bereft of diligence.

He said: “The issue of political witch-hunt has been here with EFCC since its inception. At the time, a certain political party was on board. I am sure members of that political party were charged to court. Now, a political party is in place, their members are being charged to court.

“On the issue of media trial, we have a responsibility to inform Nigerians. Matters that are in court are already in the public domain. So, it is not within our purview to determine which matter are in court are to be published and which not to. So, media trial is beyond our control when cases are already charged to Court.”

He further faulted the perception that high profile cases were deliberately bungled since suspects were the politically exposed Nigerians.

The new EFCC Chairman disclosed that the anti-corruption commission has successfully prosecuted high profile cases, giving the Commission a 90 per cent performance rating. He maintained that the agency stance to tidy up its charges before the prosecution has been wrongfully perceived as complacency on its part.

“We have over 90 per cent of success cases in court. The high profile cases, we are dealing with politically exposed people, who can hire the best lawyers and we need to be fair to the defendant. Despite that, we have ensured high number of conviction in that regard.

“Before we profile charges, we must be sure that we can prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Bawa who promised to reposition the agency to meet the expectations of Nigerians promised a sustained interface with other security agencies to meet the national mandate of not only fighting corruption but preventing it.

“We are going to reach out because we don’t have a monopoly of knowledge, we will liaise with other security agencies because we can’t be an island to ourselves.

“There must be proactive efforts to fight corruption. There is a difference between fighting corrupt people and fighting corruption.”

Bawa was however taken to task on his alleged abuse of his office in the sale of seized assets while he was head of operations in the Port Harcourt office of the Commission.

He denied the allegation, submitting that only the Secretary of the Commission was vested with the powers to dispose of seized or recovered assets.

“Even the Executive Chairman lacks the power to dispose of assets. I as zonal head never for once disposed of assets. I never did. The Secretary of the Commission flew to Port Harcourt and sold off the assets. It was the head office that did it, the head office did it and I don’t know how they did it.

“Assuming I did it, the head of operations posted me to head the biggest operation in Lagos. If I did, I could have been punished but I was promoted.”

Bawa dismissed the allegation that he was once reprimanded by the immediate past Chairman of the agency, Ibrahim Magu for alleged gross misconduct.

“I was never arrested, I was never detained by him. He even called me to congratulate me. So, I do have a cordial relationship with him and his other predecessors. I will even consult them for advice when the need arises.”

Asked by Senator Gabriel Suswam to clear the air on the controversy surrounding his eligibility for the office since he was not a Police officer, Bawa said there was no truth in the claim.

“On whether I am qualified by the provisions of the Act establishing the EFCC, the law is clear. It says the person to be appointed should be a law enforcement officer, serving or retired. Yes, I am a law enforcement officer,
because the Act establishing the EFCC says officers of the EFCC shall enjoy the privilege of the Police officer. The law says you must have 15 years of cognate experience. I have served 15 years. My rank is equivalent to that of the Assistant Commissioner of Police.”

Bawa, a Certified Fraud Examiner, and Certified anti-money laundering specialist, who assumed the exalted office at 40 promised not to disappoint the teeming youths in the country.

“My nomination has raised hope of our youth, I promised to give them a good representation so that at the end of the day, more youths will be given positions of responsibility.

“If confirmed, I will do my quota to ensure that this country becomes a better place for all of us.”

He further assured that under his leadership, the Commission would no longer entertain delay in disposing of seized assets after Court pronouncements.

“God willing, it will be carried out case by case basis. Once we finish with the court process, we will dispose of the assets, without delay.”

The EFCC which was established in 2003 by the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration had a former presidential candidate of the defunct Action Congress, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as its pioneer chairman.

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