The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Abdulrasheed Bawa, has been convicted for contempt of court over the failure of the anti-graft agency to comply with an earlier judgment delivered by the court.
The ruling, which came as a surprise, said the anti-graft head should be committed to Kuje Correctional Centre for willful disobedience of the court.
“The Chairman Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is in contempt of the orders of this honourable court made on November 21st 2018 directing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abuja to return to the applicant his Range Rover (Super charge) and the sum of N40, 000,000.00 (Forty Million Naira).
“Having continued willfully in disobedience to the order of this court, he should be committed to prison at Kuje Correctional Centre for his disobedience, and continued disobedience of the said order of court made on November 21st, 2018, until he purges himself of the contempt.
“The Inspector General of Police shall ensure that the order of this honourable court is executed forthwith,” Justice Chizoba Oji, held in the ruling.
The ruling is in response to a suit marked: FCT/HC/CR/184/2016, filed by Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Rufus Adeniyi Ojuawo, alleging that the EFCC willfully failed to comply with a November 21, 2018 court ruling, ordering it to release his seized property.
Ojuawo, a one-time Director of Operations at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), was arraigned by the EFCC in 2016 on a two-count charge before Justice Muawiyah Baba Idris of the High Court of the FCT in Nyanya.
He was accused of illegally receiving gratification to the tune of N40 million and a Range Rover Sport (Supercharged) from one Hima Aboubakar of Societe D’Equipment Internationaux Nigeria Limited.
But in his judgment, Justice Idris held that the prosecution failed to prove its case. The ruling which was delivered on November 21, 2018, thus discharged and acquitted Ojuawo.
The Judge held that the burden was on the prosecution to prove all ingredients of the charge preferred against the defendant beyond reasonable doubt as required under Section 131(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011. But it has failed to prove that the defendant accepted the gift in the course of, or for discharging his official duty, and that the gift was an inducement or reward.
“In conclusion, I hold that the prosecution has failed to prove the two counts charge of corrupt gratification under S17 (1)(a) and (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
“The defendant is discharged and acquitted on counts one and two of the charge.
“Consequently, the complainant (EFCC) is ordered to refund the defendant his N40,000,000 wrongly paid into ONSA recovery account and to return to the defendant his Range Rover Sport (Supercharged) forthwith,” Justice Idris said.
The EFCC’s willful disobedience of the ruling had prompted Ojuawo’s lawyer R.N. Ojabo, to file the suit that resulted in the October 28 ruling. Justice Orji rejected the arguments put forward by the lawyer to the EFCC, Francis Jirbo, to justify Bawa’s action.
However, some lawyers said being convicted for contempt of the court will make Bawa unqualified to hold the office of EFCC’s chairman.
“HE IS AN EX CONVICT. And having been convicted, he is not fit to be the EFCC boss going by our extant laws,” said a lawyer, Savn Daniel. “At this point, apart from being an ex convict, he needs to resign immediately.”