Nigeria’s foremost Anti-corruption Civil Society Organisations, numbering over 100, again, trooped out on the streets of Lagos, on Monday, with thousands of their members and supporters, in continuation of their “Protest Against Politicisation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Disobedience of Court Orders and Infringement on Human Rights of Nigerians.”
Monday’s protest was the third since the top activists began their call for the sack of the EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, on Friday.
They insisted that EFCC, under Bawa, had turned itself into a sensational media agency, churning out deliberate misinformation on almost a daily basis to strengthen a political cause, adding 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 ‘Bawa Must Go’ protesters, were led on Monday by the Chairman, Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran; Executive Director, Zero Graft Centre, Kolawole Sanchez-Jude; Chairman, Coalition Against Corruption and Bad Governance, Toyin Raheem; Executive Director, Centre for Public Accountability, Olufemi Lawson; Spokesperson for the Transparency and Accountability Group, Ayodeji Ologun; Director, Activists for Good Governance, Declan Ihehaire; and Ahmed Balogun of Media Rights Concern, among others.
When asked why the CSOs wanted Bawa to quit, the Chairman of CACOL, Debo Adeniran, said Bawa had to be removed because he had allegedly become an embarrassment to the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
According to him, a serial violator of court order is not fit to be the Head of an agency that is supposed to sanitise the society.
Adeniran, a foremost Nigerian anti-corruption activist, said, “We are not only asking him (Bawa) to quit, we are asking the authorities to remove him because he has become an embarrassment to the fight against corruption. 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.
“For several years, we have criticised the military regimes and civilian administrations that have ruled us with impunity. 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, it is against the ethos of democratic practice, it is against the principles of human rights. So, definitely, a serial violator of court order is not fit to be the Head of an agency that is supposed to sanitise the society,” he declared.
The anti-corruption CSOs also hinted that they 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 with the media claimed that some EFCC officials had confided in their members that they were not happy that the Commission appeared to be focusing mainly on settling political scores than confronting its big mandate.
“You can’t run to the same courts you disrespect to get judgment for your cases. And you can’t also choose which court judgement 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 EFCC.
“Some of their officials had confided in our members at different times that they were not happy that the Commission appears to focus more on settling political scores than actually confronting its big mandate,” Executive Director, Centre for Public Accountability, Olufemi Lawson, said.
On his part, Spokesperson for the Transparency and Accountability Group, Ayodeji Ologun, noted, “Many cases of genuine corruption are left unattended under Bawa. He came on board through vendetta and he has proved in the period he has been in office that he might have been appointed to serve as a tool for political assault on opponents of his sponsors.”
Other CSO leaders present at the protest were Ochiaga Jude, Centre for Ethics and Good Governance; Barr. Cletus Okedube, Barr. Johnson Areola, Barr. George Sanda, among a host of other notable activists, lawyers and women’s rights NGOs.