On Wednesday, 24th of February, the Nigerian Senate confirmed the appointment of Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) following his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari.
With his confirmation, Bawa became the youngest and the first core staff of the EFCC to head the anti-graft agency.
Though his appointment by President Buhari initially raised some dust, which included allegations of corruption, his qualification for the office and alleged relationship with the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, these hurdles were, however, surmounted, paving way for his smooth confirmation by the Senate.
With the confirmation, Nigerians, hoping for a better anti-corruption war, have started setting agenda for him, while others still, understandably, harbour some fears over his ability to perform to expectations.
A Tall Agenda
Bawa, at the Senate screening cut the picture of a man of dreams who understand what Nigerians, especially the youths expect of him, setting for himself, what may be a tall agenda.
At the screening, Bawa expressed his desire to make the EFCC a better place when he leaves.
He also “intends to work with them closely by sharing information in order to attain our mutual and independent objective.
“We need to repatriate all our stolen assets for the benefit and betterment of all Nigerians.
“It is a dream of every patriotic Nigerian to see Nigeria growing to a greater height and I hope and pray that if confirmed, I will live to contribute my quota in seeing that this country is taken to a greater height.
“I am going to give the young people a very good representation in the governance of this country so that more young people will be given more responsibility in this country”, Bawa said.
Curiously, the new EFCC chairman seems to understand that he represents a very large but restless constituency that have zero patience, especially when it come to the leadership of the country, when he said he would ‘give the young people good representation’.
According to many Nigerians, Bawa’s appointment is a strategic opportunity for the youths to prove that they are ready for leadership and can indeed make a difference.
Leading the charge in expressing their expectations of Bawa, is the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), who fought on the side of Ibrahim Magu, the erstwhile head of the agency, whose tenure came to an abrupt end over allegations of corruption.
Sagay, who admitted not knowing Bawa, however, said he was impressed by his curriculum vitae and background, noting that since Magu has become history, it was time for all involved to move on and ensure that the new EFCC chairman succeeds.
Sagay said: “I don’t really know him. I have just read what has been said about him and he seems to have impressive credentials and a fairly good record from what I read apart from this issue of trucks which the EFCC has denied on his behalf.
“So, inasmuch as the removal of Magu to me looks unsatisfactory, we have to move on and if he is as good as his credentials indicate, then I think the future looks promising for the EFCC.”
The respected professor of law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria was, however, quick to express his fear that the new EFCC head may be hampered in his performance by the Attorney General, Malami.
According to Sagay, as a politician, Malami must not be allowed to directly control Bawa, noting that this could derail the anti-corruption war of the Federal Government.
“This issue is a very big question because I noticed that they both come from the same state of Kebbi and they may even be related. For me, that is not a very healthy thing because the chairman of the EFCC and the EFCC are supposed to be independent.
“So, in such a situation, if Bawa is related to the attorney-general, then there will be a problem because he will not be able to do his job freely because the attorney-general will certainly interfere. He has already indicated his tendency to interfere in both the EFCC and the ICPC with the regulations he purported to make months ago. So, I am not comfortable at all that the possibility that they might be related.
“Malami has never been inclined to allow the anti-corruption agencies to operate freely. He is always sitting on their neck one way or the other. I have complained about that several times and nothing has happened. In fact, he has become more powerful. So, I will not be comfortable if they are related. I don’t want any outside influence on the EFCC or the ICPC”, Sagay said.
For the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the EFCC under Bawa must fight corruption without discrimination.
The party’s caretaker secretary, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, made the call in a statement, adding that Bawa must be guided by the stance of President Muhammadu Buhari that the fight against corruption must be total and unsparing.
“To this end, we are confident that the Bawa-led EFCC will intensify the administration’s current campaign to end impunity and graft.
“From advance fee fraud, money laundering, public sector corruption and other financial crime-related issues, economic and financial crimes are becoming increasingly sophisticated criminal activities which keep evolving with the times.
“To be steps ahead, the Bawa-led EFCC must invest in technology and ensure synergy, cooperation and partnership with relevant agencies – locally and internationally – to effectively prosecute the current administration’s war against graft”, the party said.
A management consultant, Ige Adegoye, is of the view that one of the first things the new EFCC boss must do is to halt the drift and bring commotion within the commission to an end and reposition it to perform its core functions more effectively.
According to him, Bawa must do his best to reset the EFCC on the party of independence, service and professionalism.
“The war against corruption must now be strengthened and refocused. The people who stole from the country should never be allowed a moment of peace”, Adegboye said.
Continuing, Adegboye believes the reputation of the anti-graft agency must be repositioned, noting that in the last few years, the image of the EFCC has been seriously battered, especially with the corruption allegations surrounding the former acting Chairman of the agency, Ibrahim Magu.
For human rights advocate and journalist, Segun Progress, Bawa will do well as EFCC chairman if he can insulate himself from being used as an instrument for witch hunt.
“The war against corruption must be total, with no one singled out on the basis of his political leaning, while everyone with a case to answer must be investigated and prosecuted. No one must be too big or too connected to be investigated.
“He must not allow himself to be remote controlled by any functionary of government, not even the President or the Attorney General, Malami”, Progress said.
An operative of the EFCC in the Lagos Zonal office, who does not want his name mentioned, believes Bawa has what it takes to lead the agency well if the politicians will allow him work.
He, however, wants the new Chairman to focus on lifting the morale of the staff of the commission through prompt promotions, payment of severance package and improving the work culture at the commission.