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AVM Rufus Adeniyi Ojuawo: Bawa Speaks, EFCC Express Shock, Surprise, Appeals Judgment For Contempt

Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrashid Bawa, has reacted to the judgement which sent him to prison saying: “Well, we have appealed against it. So, we will allow the natural course of law to take its effect.”

The anti-graft czar spoke when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Anti-Corruption to defend his agency’s budget, on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the EFCC said it “received with shock,” the report of the ruling by Justice Chizoba Oji of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama, Abuja committing the Executive Chairman for contempt over the failure to comply with a November 21st, 2018 order of the court directing the Commission to return seized assets comprising a Range Rover (Super charge) and the sum of N40, 000,000.00 (Forty Million Naira) to the applicant.”

 EFCC Spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, said in a statement that “this ruling is surprising as it creates a wrong impression of the person of the Executive Chairman of the EFCC as encouraging impunity.”

The court had ordered the EFCC to return to a defendant, a former Director of Operations at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Rufus Adeniyi Ojuawo, his Range Rover, and N40 million.

The EFCC had arraigned Ojuawo on a two-count charge before Justice Muawiyah Baba Idris of the High Court of the FCT in Nyanya in 2016.

He was accused of receiving N40 million and a Range Rover Sport (Supercharged) from one Hima Aboubakar of Societe D’Equipment Internationaux Nigeria Limited.

Ojuawo, in a suit filed by his lawyer, R.N. Ojabo, complained that the EFCC declined to comply with the order for the release of his seized property made by the court in a judgment delivered on November 21, 2018.

In the October 28, 2022 ruling, Justice Chizoba Oji held that, “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 (Supercharged) and the sum of N40, 000,000.00 (Forty Million Naira).”

However, the commission failed to comply with the order of the court.

Consequently, the Judge ordered that Bawa should be committed to prison at the Kuje Correctional Centre for his wilful disobedience to the order of the court.

The EFCC said in the statement that “as far as the relationship between the EFCC and the judiciary is concerned, the Executive Chairman, Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa has been an apostle of rule of law, due process, and close collaboration between the two institutions in justice administration. As an investigator, and the only Chief Executive of a law enforcement agency who regularly goes to court, the Executive Chairman will not tolerate impunity or disregard any lawful orders of court.

 “Abdulrasheed Bawa, in his capacity as Executive Chairman of the EFCC since March 5, 2022, did not disregard any order of court. For the benefit of the public, the said order of the FCT High Court was given on November 21, 2018, three years before Abdulrasheed became EFCC Chairman.  This fact is germane as the contempt process is quasi criminal in nature and must be served on the person involved. In this case, Bawa as incumbent chairman of the EFCC, was neither served form 48 nor form 49.

“Despite this fact, the Executive Chairman,  upon being aware of the said order of November 21st 2018 had released the Range Rover in question to the Applicant on the 27th of June, 2022 and had approved the process of the release of the remaining N40m.

“Taking into cognizance the procedural lapse in the contempt proceedings the commission has initiated a process to set aside the entire contempt proceedings and committal of the Executive Chairman for contempt.

“Despite the discomfort of this ruling which is seemingly promoted by misinformation, the commission remains committed to working closely with the judiciary in furtherance of the fight against economic and financial crimes in Nigeria.”

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