Thursday, 25 February 2021 06:40

We Won’t Witch Hunt Anybody — New EFCC Boss, Abdulrasheed Bawa

Abdulrasheed Bawa, the new Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Com­mission (EFCC), assured the Senate on Wednesday that he would not allow the commis­sion to be used for witch-hunt­ing.

This was after the upper chamber of the National Assembly confirmed him as substantive chairman of the anti-graft body.

He stated that he would en­sure that the body was insulat­ed from political interference.

The decision of the upper chamber of the National As­sembly followed the outcome of a more than two-hour confirmation hearing where lawmakers grilled Bawa on his academic qualification, career trajectory, and moral strength to reposition the commission and to resist high profile influences in the prosecution of financial crimes.

The confirmation hearing began with the Senate sus­pending Order 17 of its Rule Book to allow friends and well-wishers of the nominee to witness the exercise on the floor of the chamber.

The new EFCC boss told the Senate that his tenure would focus on repatriating funds stolen from Nigeria and stashed elsewhere.

He said he would approach his job without fear or favour.

He said: “When my ap­pointment was announced last week, an elderly man advised me that I was forty years old.

“Even if you succeed un­like any of your predecessors and serve two terms, you are still going to be forty-eight.

“And he reminded me that you will still be too young. And he said that I have a very long future ahead.

“I am a human being and I am not perfect but I am going to discharge my duty without fear or favour.”

He also clarified the pro­cess of funds recovery by the commission.

He stated: “Somebody may think that yes, the EFCC had said that it had recovered one trillion, then they would go to the EFCC recovery account.

“They will see nine hun­dred billion and then they will ask, where is one hundred bil­lion?

“So, those are some of the disparities that I hope, God willing, we are going to digi­talize the process.“We are going to show ac­countability and transparen­cy in what we do.”

On forfeiture of property, he revealed that the body had a Directorate of Asset Forfei­ture and Recovery with direc­tors at the headquarters and at all the zonal directorates of the commission.

“These directors manage all interim and permanent forfeiture disposal of property as well as their return to their owners if need be,” he said.

Bawa disclosed that if appointed, his tenure would not allow for media trial of suspects.

His response followed a question on how his tenure would handle allegations of media trial of suspects.

He explained that it was not in the power of the com­mission to conceal issues once it is in court.

Bawa cited his team’s man­agement of an investigation into the fuel subsidy scandal.

“If we had allowed what we discovered in that investi­gation to flow into the public, probably we would have seen another round of major pro­test that would have shaken Nigeria,” he said.

The lawmakers’ concern for an internal self-cleansing was laid to rest when Bawa promised to ensure that the commission’s Directorate of Internal Affairs would ensure that the EFCC func­tioned in line with global best practices.

The senator representing Borno South, Ali Ndume, however, took the new EFCC chairman to task, express­ing doubt that Bawa’s young age would interfere with the necessary push to fight high profile financial theft.

He noted that the EFCC must find ways to improve interactions with the Unex­plained Wealth Order (UWO).

Quoting the provisions of the EFCC Establishment Act section 7 (1e), Bawa ex­plained that the commission has the power to investigate the property of any person if it comes to the knowledge of the anti-graft agency that the subject has questions to provide answers to.

He, however, revealed that the EFCC has over 90 percent success rate in court with the commission having already recovered N10.9 billion in La­gos State alone in 2020.

Going forward, the EFCC would have a more open rela­tionship with the courts with a view to ensuring accelerat­ed determination of cases.

Senator Ndume’s position was corroborated by another lawmaker, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, who expressed res­ervations at the ability of the EFCC chair to go beyond the prosecution of ‘Yahoo-Yahoo Boys’ to the prosecution of high-profile financial crime cases.

On the continued use of of­ficers from the Nigeria Police Force on secondment to the commission, he stated that his tenure would review the portfolio of the arrangement and decide the next course of action.

“If the need arises to sec­ond or not to second at all to your organisation, we are go­ing to review the process. We are looking at the situation where we are going to have a very robust process.

“If the need arises for us to retain some of the police of­ficers, we would retain them. If the need arises for us to return them, we will return them,” he said.

Bawa said that the EFCC was grateful for the founda­tion laid by the Nigeria Police Force.

The confirmation of Bawa made him the fifth person to be the chairman of the commission since it was established in 2003 as a law enforcement agency to inves­tigate financial crimes such as advance fee fraud (419) and money laundering.

According to Bawa’s pro­file, the EFCC chairman holds a B.Sc and an M.Sc from Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto State, and he is a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist.

He was also trained by the Federal Bureau of Inves­tigation (FBI) of the Unit­ed States and the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom.

The 40-year-old law en­forcement officer joined the anti-graft agency in 2014 and was trained in the Act of Law Enforcement and Financial Crimes Investigation.

Presenting his dossier to the Senate, the young officer disclosed that he was the only EFCC officer that had headed three different zones.

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