On Wednesday, February 24, the upper chamber of the National Assembly confirmed the nomination of Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), opening a new vista in the history of the anti-graft agency.
The confirmation followed a two-hour screening during which the nominee was given an opportunity to pitch for the job and thereafter face what turned out to be a friendly fire. According to his resume, Bawa graduated from the Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics (Second Class Upper) in 2001.
He joined the EFCC as an Assistant Detective Superintendent (ADS) in 2004. He also holds a Master’s degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy which he obtained from the same university in 2012 and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Law degree at the University of London. Bawa joined EFCC as part of the pioneer Cadet Officers, Course One in 2005 and rose through the ranks to become a Deputy Chief Detective Superintendent (DCDS), a position he has been holding since 2016 up till the time of his nomination as the anti-graft agency’s substantive chairman.
So far, he has spent about 16 years working with the anti-graft agency. During this period, he has served in the agency’s zonal offices in Port Harcourt, Ibadan and Lagos, where he made very positive impacts. It is heartwarming that the Senate resisted the temptation of offering the nominee, the usual “take a bow and go,” but instead, chose to grill and drill him to test his capacity. It is also interesting that the nominee was able to handle the barrage of questions and comments that came his way. Indeed, he seized the opportunity to further unveil his vision and mission to give Nigerians an insight into what the agency would look like under his watch.
We concur with the Senate that the Presidency made a good choice in Bawa in terms of his youthful age, educational background, professional training and cognate experience. We think that EFCC stands to benefit from Bawa’s youthful energy and the series of trainings and handson experience he has garnered in the last 16 years. We are highly delighted about the promise of the new EFCC boss taking the anti-corruption war to a different wavelength where emphasis will be on fighting the monster frontally without fear, favour or ill will. In the course of the screening, the whole world heard him loud and clear when he made a distinction between fighting corruption and fighting corrupt persons.
We expect him to lead a proactive anticorruption crusade that will help prevent corruption from thriving, rather than condoning visible avenues of corruption, only to come back to combat its symptoms. We also expect him to lead a more civil organisation devoid of brute force, intimidation and harassment of alleged offenders.
If we attributed all these negativities to the fact that police officers have been in charge of EFCC all these years, such excuses will not be acceptable under the new dispensation. We believe that with his appointment, EFCC will be transformed into an organisation dedicated essentially to diligent, but subterranean investigation of financial crimes, both in the public and private sectors and prosecution of offenders, no matter who they may be in the society.
We hope to see a new EFCC that will not lend itself to be used as an attack dog to harass political opponents of the government of the day. We look forward to seeing a repentant EFCC that will not overlook the corrupt activities of those in power while chasing perceived enemies of government, especially in the build up to general election.
However, our hope of a radical change has been somewhat dampened by the defensive position of the new helmsman on the culture of media trial used by EFCC in previous years. Much as we agree with Bawa that EFCC has a duty to publicise its activities and citizens have a right to such information, the old tradition of leaking preliminary investigation reports about alleged corruption, even before such cases are filed in court, is mischievous and should be discouraged in the new era.
Media trial and front loading of cases not in the law courts, but in the court of emotion and public opinion, is one reason many Nigerians regard EFCC as a witchhunting enterprise. We strongly advise Bawa and those who will be working with him to change the perception that EFCC is nothing but a political tool in the hands of the Presidency.
In addition, the organisation has a lot of work to do in changing the negative narratives about its own officials, many of whom have been accused of enriching themselves through blackmail, treachery, subterfuge and outright extortion of those they want us to believe are corrupt persons. Serving in the EFCC should be considered as a rare privilege to serve the public and change a bad system.
Therefore, all acts of under-the-table deals, favouritism or victimisation are betrayals of public trust. We think that the first duty Bawa should perform as Chairman of EFCC, is to publicly declare his assets and get all those at the top echelon of the agency to do same. We believe this will entrench transparency and instil public confidence in the system.
A situation where anti-corruption agents swim in unexplained wealth and expect the public to comply with the austere sermons of living within ones legitimate means is illogical and does not tally with good conscience. The change we seek in Nigeria must begin with us as individual citizens.