President Bola Ahmed Tinubu last night approved the indefinite suspension of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, to allow for “proper investigation into his conduct while in office,Dailytrust report.
Immediately after the suspension, the Department of State Services (DSS) invited Bawa for interrogation.
It was learnt that he arrived the headquarters of DSS at about 9:02pm.
A source said he was already being grilled at the facility popularly called “Yellow House” over his alleged activities when he held sway in the commission.
The spokesman of the DSS, Peter Afunanya confirmed Bawa’s presence.
“Bawa arrived a few hours ago. The invitation relates to some investigative activities concerning him”, Afunanya said in terse statement.
How Bawa was suspended
Bawa’s suspension was contained in a statement from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) and signed by the Director, Information, OSGF, Willie Bassey on Wednesday night.
“This (suspension) follows weighty allegations of abuse of office levelled against him,” the statement said.
Even though none of the allegations was mentioned in the statement, credible sources told the Daily Trust that besides other reasons, President Tinubu and those around him were angered by the role played by Bawa in the naira redesign policy of former President Muhammadu Buhari.
While the naira redesign and cashless policy were meant to address monetary and fiscal issues, Tinubu and others said the timing was wrong and targeted at them to lose the election.
Recall that Bawa had a few months ago said that he was privy to the naira issues.
In a separate interview with Daily Trust, he had said many politicians had amassed billions of naira outside the banking sector. He said following the naira redesign policy, some governors had made moves to pay salaries in cash in order to dispose of the old naira notes.
His suspension comes less than a week after Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was also suspended on June 9 by the president, who ordered a probe of the apex bank.
Bawa’s most recent ordeal
The most recent allegation of infractions against Bawa was from former Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State who accused him of demanding $2m bribe, an allegation he denied and instead accused Matawalle of brazen looting of Zamfara State treasury.
How Bawa emerged EFCC chair
The immediate past President, Buhari appointed Bawa on February 16, 2021, before he was confirmed by the Senate on February 24, 2021 as the fourth Executive Chairman of the EFCC.
Also, the immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in March 2021 told Daily Trust in an exclusive interview that he recommended Bawa for the chairmanship of the EFCC because of his high level of dedication and capacity.
Malami, who also denied being related to Bawa, said that contrary to reports that he singlehandedly picked Bawa to be the chairman of EFCC, four names were submitted to the president for consideration and Bawa was subsequently picked.
‘When it’s time, I will go’
While reacting in March this year to a string of protests against his continuous stay in office over alleged infractions, Bawa had said that some politicians in the country thought that he was too stubborn for them and therefore wanted him to go.
He had said, “How can somebody stand on his own, while we are 200m Nigerians, and do the bidding of certain politicians that Bawa must go and others are saying Bawa must stay? They are paid to do so. When it is time for Bawa to go, Bawa must go.
“The issues they are raising are baseless. They don’t know what they are saying, to be honest. I am inviting them to come here so that they can discuss some of these issues. They are maybe wrongly informed. There is a new government coming in that is why maybe they think Bawa is too stubborn for them.
“When it is time, Bawa will go, but the EFCC is going to remain. That is what they need to understand. Whosoever is taking from me whether it is tomorrow or in the next two years, I will guarantee you that EFCC will do what it has to do.”
Speaking on the development, the Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr Ibrahim Zikirullahi, said that without prejudice to the prerogative of the government to launch a probe into the state of the EFCC, his perspective is to look at how these action impacts on the stability of the commission and its capacity to deliver on its mandate.
“As one of the frontline agencies leading the fight against corruption, it is worrisome that the political elite have made it their pastime to toss about the EFCC leadership. Every president that gets to the position is eager to sack the EFCC leadership and replace him or her with one, which would do the bidding of the powers that be.
“This has not helped the anti-corruption crusade because the EFCC is not independent and it is tied to the apron strings of those it should ordinarily be holding to account. The instability in the leadership of the Commission calls for reforms. An EFCC chairman that is at the beck and call of politically exposed persons cannot truly wage a dispassionate war against corruption,” Zikirullahi said.
Also, the Executive Director Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Head of Transparency International-Nigeria, Mallam Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said Bawa’s suspension was not surprising looking at how the previous presidents removed EFCC leaders at various times in Nigeria.
“However, from this development, the suspended chairman already knew that he was going to be removed when Ahmed Bola Tinubu and the senate president took over.
“This is because there is a belief that the suspended EFCC chairman is seen as the boy of the ex- minister of Justice, Malami and had a different political interest with the current government,” Rafsanjani said.
In February this year, dozens of anti-corruption CSOs gathered in Lagos to protest what they described as the incessant disobedience of court orders by the EFCC under the suspended Bawa and the seeming politicisation of the agency’s activities.
The bodies were led by the Chairman, Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), Debo Adeniran; Executive Director, Zero Graft Centre, Kolawole Sanchez-Jude; Chairman, Coalition Against Corruption and Bad Governance, Toyin Raheem; Executive Director, Centre for Public Accountability, Olufemi Lawson; and Ahmed Balogun of Media Rights Concern, among others.
Those that left before Bawa
The EFCC was established by an Act of the National Assembly on December 12, 2002, by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Following the appointment and confirmation by the Senate, of the pioneer Executive Chairman, Malam Nuhu Ribadu and other administrative officers, the operational activities of the commission commenced on April 13, 2003.
The establishment of the commission was partly in response to pressure from the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Money Laundering of which Nigeria is a signatory.
On June 6, 2008, Mrs Farida Waziri was sworn in as the new chairperson of the EFCC, following the suspension of Ribadu.
However, Mrs Waziri was dismissed by President Goodluck Jonathan on November 23, 2011, and replaced by Ibrahim Lamorde as acting chairman, who was confirmed on February 15, 2012 by the Senate.
Lamorde was also sacked by President Buhari on November 9, 2015, and replaced with Ibrahim Magu.
However, the Senate under the leadership of Bukola Saraki, refused to confirm Magu as chairman of the agency twice due to security reports by law enforcement agencies in the country.
On July 6, 2020, Magu was arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigeria Police Force and driven to the Presidential Villa where he was made to answer questions on alleged corruption against him.
He was detained overnight and on July 7 was suspended from his position as chairman of the agency pending the completion of the investigation.
On July 10, 2020, President Buhari approved the immediate suspension of Magu as acting chairman of the EFCC. It was contained in a statement issued by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
Buhari also approved that the EFCC Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar Abba to take charge and oversee the activities of the commission pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation and further directives.