In reaction to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) alleged persistent defiance of court rulings, the Coalition of Anti-Corruption Organizations has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to reform the commission. Mr. Olufemi Lawson, convener of the coalition of about fifty Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), made the demand at a press conference in Lagos. Mr. Lawson claimed that the crime commission, led by Mr. AbdulRasheed Bawa, had the “huge ball” to defy lawful court rulings and engage in politicized activities.
He claims that within the past few months, Mr. Bawa has been sentenced to jail time on at least three separate occasions for flagrantly disobeying existing court orders. An act of such mammoth depravity in response to lawful rulings of the court, he argued that it sends a terrible signal to the institutions of Nigeria’s democracy. Hence dishonoring the efforts of those who had long sacrificed their lives to establish a democratic government in the country.
Whoever tries to mock the rule of law should be resisted.
Lawson therefore recommends that the president replace the current EFCC leadership in order to return the commission to its former prominence and its commitment to promoting justice and fairness. The country’s progress in sourcing foreign direct investments is in jeopardy, and Nigeria’s reputation among other countries has been tarnished by this kind of upheaval. This flagrant disregard for lawful court orders has emerged right after stakeholders have been working to rally public support for the fight against corruption in the country, he said, which is doubly concerning.
For this reason, the coalition urges that President Buhari immediately address the problem by replacing Mr. Bawa as the commission’s chairman. Lawson argued that this would cement the president’s promises to uphold justice and the basic rights of Nigerians under the rule of law. He says that anyone who makes an effort to mock the rule of law in this country or who thinks they are above the law should be met with resistance at every turn, beginning with the refusal to comply with a lawful court order.
The coalition’s ultimate goal is to have EFCC upholding the law.
More than that, he disclosed that anti-corruption civil society organizations had repeatedly petitioned EFCC, but were ignored each time. Lawson argues that the threat to democracy posed by institutions that undermine legal norms is inherent in any system of rule of law. The coalition’s ultimate goal is to have the EFCC serve as the board’s de facto leader in upholding the law and valid court decisions. To fulfill its mission and avoid being manipulated by the political realities, the EFCC must act independently and courteously.
An independent commission like the EFCC, which constantly seeks valid orders from courts to prosecute corrupt defendants, should not have difficulty obeying orders from the same court. This simply means mocking the nation’s judiciary’s integrity rather than being neutral in carrying out its full duties, Lawson contends. Mr. Ayodeji Ologun, Spokesperson of Transparency and Accountability Group (TAG), also spoke, saying that the country’s judicial system is so sacred because it represents the topmost priority and that its directives should not be taken lightly.
Kogi State High Court issued arrest warrant for the EFCC Chairman.
Mr. Ologun argues further that the CSOs would not stand by and let the nation’s democracy deteriorate, and that whoever is picked to head the EFCC should have impeccable integrity. On the other hand, the Kogi State High Court in Lokoja has recently issued an arrest warrant for the EFCC Chairman on charges of contempt of court. This follows an earlier order by a court in Abuja to jail the EFCC Chairman for contempt, which he eventually set aside. The EFCC, however, has filed a plea with the Court of Appeal to halt the implementation of the ruling given by the Kogi High Court.