A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has continued protests against alleged politicisation of operations of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), disobedience of court orders and infringement on human rights.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the coalition, comprising scores of anti corruption CSOs began the call for the removal of the EFCC Chairman, Mr AbdulRasheed Bawa on Sunday, before starting protests in Lagos.
A Kogi State High Court, sitting in Lokoja on Feb. 5, had ordered the arrest and remand of the EFCC Chairman in prison for disobeying a court order.
However, EFCC had filed a motion at Court of Appeal to stop the execution of judgment of the Kogi High Court, which ordered the committal of its chairman to prison for disobedience of court order.
However, the CSOs on Monday continued the call for the sack of Bawa, over alleged EFCC penchant for disobedience of lawful court orders and politicisation of activities.
Leading the protest on Monday, Mr Debo Adeniran, the Chairman, Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) alleged that the EFCC under Bawa had not done well as expected in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
He also alleged that the EFCC had turned itself into a sensational media agency.
Adeniran added that responsible CSOs would not fold their arms and watch the country’s global anti-corruption outlook slip into a mess, “all in the name of the anti-democratic tendencies of a few recalcitrant leaders.”
The activist said: “A serial violator of court order is not fit to be the head of an agency that is supposed to sanitise the society.
“We are not only asking him (Bawa) to quit, we are asking the authorities to remove him. Any act of dishonesty is corruption.
“Anything that is against the law, that is deliberately done with impunity is corruption. It doesn’t matter how you feel about a case.
“Even if it is a drunken judge that gives a verdict on any issue taken to the court, you are bound to obey the court order.”
According to him, impunity comes when the court is no longer seen as an arbiter between the people and the provisions of the extant laws.
“We rely on the courts to adjudicate in matters of conflict between the people and the system.
“And anytime anyone runs against the system, it is also the court that will adjudicate.
“A situation whereby somebody is so powerful, somebody is so influential, somebody sees that he has a larger than life image and decides that he is not going to respect our law courts or the laws of the land, it is against the rule of natural justice.
“This is also against the ethos of democratic practice, it is against the principles of human rights,” he said.
Adeniran said the anti-corruption CSOs would petition the Chief Justice of Nigeria to demand that until the court order to arrest Bawa is effected, “no court should entertain any EFCC case henceforth.”
Other leaders of the CSOs, who took turns to speak alleged that EFCC had failed to confront its big mandate.
Speaking, the Executive Director, Centre for Public Accountability, Olufemi Lawson, said that the commission needed to be neutral and professional.
According to him, every democracy in the world is rooted, planted and established on rule of law, saying no democracy can survive without institutions respecting the rule of law.
Lawson said the coalition wanted EFCC to be above board as an institution in the nation’s democracy, obeying what the law and the court said.
According to him, EFCC that always approaches court for order to detain corrupt suspect should not find it difficult to obey orders from same court.
“You can’t run to the same courts you disrespect to get judgment for your cases. And you can’t also choose which court judgment to obey.
“If Bawa has been committed to prison, he has no business being in office right now. And someone who has flouted the order of the court on several occasions cannot head an agency as sensitive as the EFCC.
“We are not happy that the commission appears to focus more on settling political scores than actually confronting its big mandate,” Lawson said.
On his part, the spokesperson for the Transparency and Accountability Group, Ayodeji Ologun, alleged that many cases of genuine corruption were left unattended under Bawa.
Other activists in the protests included the Executive Director, Zero Graft Centre, Kolawole Sanchez-Jude; the Chairman, Coalition Against Corruption and Bad Governance, Mr Toyin Raheem; the Director, Activists for Good Governance, Declan Ihehaire; and Ahmed Balogun of Media Rights Concern.
Other activists present at the protest were Messrs Ochiaga Jude, Cletus Okedube, Johnson Areola, George Sanda, among a host of other notable activists, lawyers and women’s rights NGOs.