By Emmanuel Aziken
Muttering over the nomination of Abdulrasheed Bawa as the next chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC was overflowing into a melody in the political and judicial arena at the weekend.
Allegations of illegality in the appointment of Bawa were being met with counter plots by his supporters as political actors in different camps of the Muhammadu Buhari regime fight to take hold of the EFCC ahead of their 2023 plots.
Central to the allegations against Bawa are that his nomination violates the EFCC Act, allegations of a filial relationship to a senior operative of the Buhari administration and claims of unsettled allegations of misdeeds against the nominee in his past positions.
Besides the flurry of allegations in the media space, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), an aggregate of human rights, community based, and civil society organizations and individuals has also petitioned the Senate on the appointment. The body asserted that the Senate would be violating the EFCC Act as enacted by it by confirming the nominee.
Besides CACOL whose petition to Senate President Ahmad Lawan, dated February 18, 2021, a Lagos based lawyer, Osuagwu Ugochukwu has also gone to court to stop the Senate from proceeding with the confirmation.
However, having gotten note of the plots against Bawa, his supporters in a wing of the Buhari camp have set up machinery to deflate their moves. Saturday Vanguard has learnt of fresh moves to overcome the seeming statutory challenge against Bawa’s confirmation with a hurried promotion before the Senate confirmation hearing.
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Central to the opposition as articulated in the EFCC Act is the point in Section 2a (ii) of the EFCC Establishment Act which stipulates that a nominee for the position of chairman of the EFCC should be a serving or a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police or its equivalent.
As the CACOL petition to the Senate alleged:
According to EFCC Establishment Act, Section 2a (ii) the Chairman to be appointed should: “Be a serving or retired member of any security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent.” Such equivalence in the EFCC is Grade Level 15, while Bawa is on Grade Level 13.
However, as a way of overcoming that statutory impediment, Saturday Vanguard has learnt of moves to expedite Bawa’s promotion ahead of the Senate confirmation hearings.
However, those challenging the nomination are asserting that the necessary institutions to effect the promotion are not available.
“What we understand is that Bawa was disciplined by the former chairman, Magu and the Secretary Olanipekun Olukoyede, who sanctioned him over the alleged deeds in Port Harcourt. Since Magu has been removed, and secretary has also been removed, the acting chairman cannot on his own promote him,” one source privy to the development asked.
The challenges to Bawa’s hurried promotion Saturday Vanguard gathered lie in the fact that the EFCC does not have a board making any such promotion practically ineffectual.
“The acting chairman does not have the powers to promote someone else to become his boss,” so you see the appointment is wrong in every material particular.”
“Even if you remove the issues of the allegations of the missing tankers which an investigation was set up for, how do you address the issue that he is a level 13 officer, and the law says that only a Level 15 officer or above can hold the position,” that is the fact before us.
In its petition to the Senate signed by its chairman, Debo Adeniran, CACOL said:
A.The EFCC Law is an Act of National Assembly hence Senate must not over rule itself by breaching a critical provision in the appointment of EFCC Chairman.
- Since Mr. Ibrahim Magu was suspended and not sacked, we expect the Presidency to come out with a white paper on Justice Ayo Salami’s panel set up in July 2020 to investigate various allegations of wrong-doing against Ibrahim Magu. The panel had since submitted its report to the President on November 20, 2020. Till date, we are still expecting a white paper on the recommendations of the panel. We would also want to know the fate of Ibrahim Magu.
- From inception of EFCC, the story of the termination of the appointment of virtually all the former heads of the agency seem to be the same. It looks like the position is fast becoming a “use and dump” position wherein the end of the tenure has been determined from the beginning.
It is gratifying that President Muhammadu Buhari, at various fora, having recognized the need to tackle corruption head-on, one would have expected him to appoint a person of impeccable character to head the anti-corruption agency.
It is against this background that CACOL is appealing to the Senate to please take the pains to dig deep into Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa’s record of overall performance as well as that of corruption allegation leveled against him.
Meanwhile, Ugochukwu in his own motion before the Federal High Court, Abuja is asking the Court to stop the Senate from considering Bawa’s nomination upon the claim that the nominee as a grade 13 officer cannot be confirmed for a position meant for those on grade level 15.