Leaders and supporters of more than 150 anti-corruption civil society organisations (CSOs) yesterday gathered to celebrate the suspension of Abdulrasheed Bawa, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
They trooped out on the streets of Ikeja in Lagos, defying heavy rain and chanting solidarity songs, after which they converged in a hall to address a news conference.
They noted that the suspension of Mr Bawa and the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, was long overdue.
Speaking for the CSOs, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) chairman, Debo Adeniran, said the coalition of CSOs in Nigeria was delighted about the indefinite suspension of Mr Bawa by President Bola Tinubu.
Mr Adeniran said the suspension of Bawa was a welcome development, as it was long overdue since being called for by the community of genuine anti-corruption organisations in the country.
He said the action was an opportunity for a thorough investigation into the conduct of Mr Bawa during his reign as the chairman of the EFCC. According to him, the decision of the president is very timely, especially when coming at a time it has become necessary to shore up waning public confidence in the EFCC.
He said it was sad that the reign of Mr Bawa was characterised by grave allegations of disobedience to the rule of law about court orders, alleged massive corruption and mismanagement of recovered public funds and assets.
“For over six months, our coalition consistently demanded the removal of Bawa as chairman of the EFCC, based on several allegations of disobedience to the rule of law; allegations of personal enrichment; (the) subversion of the course of justice in particular cases prosecuted by the EFCC and open politicisation of the commission’s activities,” he said.
Mr Adeniran added, “Meanwhile, we are demanding a thorough probe of the activities of the EFCC during the reign of Bawa as chief executive of the commission.”
He said the coalition would partner Mr Tinubu’s government to ensure the survival of the anti-corruption efforts in the overall interest of the nation.
Mr Tinubu, on Wednesday, suspended Bawa indefinitely to allow for a thorough investigation into his conduct while in office following “weighty allegations” of abuse of office against him.
The Partners for Electoral Reform chairman, Ezenwa Nwagwu, noted the “reputational challenge it foists portray the government as lame and ineffective, indeed subverts its advertised objective of fighting corruption” and added that “it’s a brilliant posture by President Tinubu.”
Hamzat Lawal, an activist and head of the Connected Development (CODE), said the EFCC, under the embattled Mr Bawa, “had become a toothless bulldog running after the so-called ‘Yahoo boys’ and ignoring those who have committed monumental economic sabotage against our nation.”
Mr Lawal added, “Of course, tackling cybercrime is commendable, but Bawa looked the other way as officials of government raided Nigeria’s treasury with reckless abandon.”
A constitutional lawyer, Adeniyi Adegbite, said the president was on a sound legal footing in suspending Mr Bawa over weighty allegations of financial improprieties and other misconduct and abuse of office.
According to Mr Adegbite, Mr Bawa’s suspension allows for a thorough and unhindered investigation.
“For instance, the immediate past governor of Zamfara state, Bello Matawalle, alleged that Mr Bawa demanded a $2 million bribe from him. This allegation cannot be swept under the carpet,” stated the lawyer. “The suspension has nothing to do with the independence of the commission.”
Mr Adegbite, however, stressed that the office of an EFCC chairman should “have a secure tenure of office for stability and audacity to do the delicate job.”
Sadiq Isah Radda, a former executive secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, said it was too early to comment because the issues are based on weighty allegations.
“I think the president must have some facts at his disposal. Hence, I have no qualms when public officials are held to account. The process should simply be fair and facts-based,” Mr Radda explained. “Frankly, we should learn to embrace the consequences of our actions or inaction while in office.”
He added, “Meanwhile, let us wait for the findings. May the truth and Nigeria succeed.”