…says, ‘I never sold seized assets’
Chairman-designate of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa, has pledged to reposition the agency to deliver on its core mandate of fighting corruption. Bawa made the pledge while being screened by the members of the upper chamber of the National Assembly. After a two-hour grill, laced with questions and comments from the lawmakers, the Senate confirmed his nomination, making him the youngest Nigerian to head the anticorruption agency since it was established in 2004.
In the course of the interaction, Bawa said that he would not only work in line with the law establishing the agency, but also in conformity with other relevant laws that have bearings on corruption and financial crimes. Under his watch, Bawa said the EFCC will lay more emphasis on fighting corruption rather than corrupt persons by working in concert with other agencies of government to block the loopholes in public finance management which had often resulted in leakages and aided corruption.
The new EFCC helmsman said that he would work closely with other partner organisations in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa and other parts of the world to achieve the mutual goal of stamping out corruption not only in Nigeria, but globally.
Bawa said he would work to enhance capacity of EFCC staff, especially on curbing money laundering and other financial crimes in the country. He also said there was need to equip the training facilities at EFCC Academy in line with modern day procedures of fighting financial crimes. Bawa, who promised to be transparent and accountable in the discharge of his duties, also pledged to improve on the standard operational procedures and the various laws governing the operations of the commission. He denied allegations of involvement in the fraudulent auction of assets forfeited to the EFCC while serving as head of the Port Harcourt Zone of the antigraft agency.
He also denied ever being arrested, detained or prosecuted for fraud or any act of corruption in his 17 years of service at the agency. In the wake of his nomination, there were allegations that Bawa was arrested and detained by the EFCC over illegal auction of 244 trucks which were earlier seized by the agency.
The assets were said to have been sold to friends and cronies at ridiculous rates. Although the EFCC had debunked the report, Bawa was compelled to respond to the issue during the screening exercise. He explained that as head of the Port Harcourt zonal office, he did not have the power to sell any asset recovered under his watch as that power resided in the office of the Secretary to the Commission. According to him, it was that authority that handled the auction of the said trucks and he was neither privy to the rates at which they were sold nor to the identity of those that won the bids.
“I never sold a single truck at the Port Harcourt office, the head office handled that at the time. Anybody that is familiar with the processes of the EFCC knows that the chairman doesn’t have the power to sell an asset, but the secretary of the agency,” he said.
Bawa said that it was based on his performance at the Port Harcourt Zonal Office that the EFCC posted him to the Lagos Zonal Office which handles the largest volume of the agency’s operations. He also dismissed claim that he was arrested by former acting EFCC Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, for undisclosed reasons, saying he had good working relationship with him. “If I had a skeleton in my cupboard, he wouldn’t have nominated me for this position,” he said. Bawa also denied allegations that the EFCC was always focused on high profile cases involving politically exposed persons and relishes media trial.
He said the EFCC was not biased against any persons, group of persons no matter their political affiliation, stressing that the agency had dealt fairly with people from different political persuasions across the different administrations since its inception. He said that the EFCC cannot be accused of media trial because the cases that the commission takes to the court are already in the public domain and the agency has a responsibility to inform Nigerians about its activities. “Matters that are in court are already in the public domain. It is not within our control to determine which matter could be published or not.
We have a responsibility to enlighten the public on our activities,” he said. On how he would respond to pressure from influential individuals in the society who might want to curry favour on any particular case, Bawa said he was poised to discharge his duties without fear, favour or ill will. He debunked the claims in some circles that he was not qualified for the job and insisted that he had the requisite academic qualification, professional training and cognate experience to pilot the affairs of the agency.