By Ed Malik, A | November 9, 2022

Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) has backed the call for the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, to immediately enforce the Tuesday order of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja committing the Chairman of the economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa, to Kuje correctional facility for contempt of court, pending the setting aside of the order.

HURIWA equally faulted the EFCC’s statement on Wednesday that Bawa had approved the immediate release of the Range Rover and the sum of N40 million in compliance with the November 2018 court order, insisting that by so doing, the Chairman of the anti-graft agency was still acting in contempt of the court as he should be at a correctional facility and in no position to function or sign any document as the Chairman of the agency pending the vacation of the court order.

It also expressed worries over Bawa’s response to National Assembly correspondents, Tuesday, that the law would take its course, stressing that the course of law for now is that he should be in Kuje prison as a new convict and should have no business with the arm of government responsible for law making, which is the legislature.

HURIWA’s call, which is contained in a statement released by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, on Wednesday, comes on the heels of the position of a legal practitioner Mr. Maxwell Okpara, who said that Bawa remained a convict until the court order was vacated.

Fielding questions during the Wednesday edition of Political Platform, a Raypower Radio programme, Okpara had said, “I want Nigerians to know that the person, who is occupying the position of the EFCC Chairman as we speak now is an ex-convict. I am telling you that as we speak now, our Chairman of the EFCC is an ex-convict and whatever documents he signed between yesterday and today, all those documents are a nullity because an ex-convict cannot sign all those documents.

“That particular order convicting him has not been set aside and until it is set aside, he stands as an ex-convict. There is no order to stay. There is no motion to stay.

“He inherited that office from somebody. He received handover notes. He received the cases that were pending in courts. He received the orders that had been made before the courts. But he chose the ones that he would obey and the ones that he would not obey. And he did not go to court to explain himself.

“Once an order of court is made, whether rightly given or wrongly given, it stands to be the order until it is set aside.

“The point I am making is that one of the criteria for occupying the position of the Chairman of the EFCC is that you must not be an ex-convict. As we speak now, he is expected to step aside.

‘The budget defence he did at the National Assembly yesterday is also wrong. In fact, I am conducting a research as we speak now and probably by Monday, I will approach the court.

“As at the time Bode George was pursuing his case, he was still at Kirikiri maximum prison until the Supreme Court set it aside. Orji Uzor Kalu was there in Kirikiri prison until the court set aside the order convicting him.

“But as for the EFCC, Department of State Security, Police, and others, when you serve them a court order, if you write them a letter, they would say they are still reviewing it. A police constable would tell you that we are still reviewing a court’s judgment. So, I think this is a wakeup call”.

Commenting on the calls for respect for the rule of law, HURIWA said: “The excuses by the EFCC that its chief executive Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa was not in office when the court order was handed down on 27th November 2018 does not make sense. Are they trying to say the Bawa, who has by the way been part and parcel of the Commission since inception, was not aware of the order or did not receive any handover note?

“The truth is that the non-compliance with the November 2021 order for four good years is perceived in many quarters as true to the character of the EFCC and other law enforcement agencies. The EFCC is been accused of been unfortunately reduced to a tool for political witch-hunt and the disregard for the rule of law is a norm, not an exception to them.

“This hydra-headed monster of selective application of the law, depending on the political alignment and sometimes the region and religion of the person in question, will continue to hunt the agency until it turns a new leaf. We expect that the young man heading the EFCC shouldn’t continue the trajectory of reckless disobedience of court orders that his predecessors were notorious for.

“We therefore call on the IGP to enforce the law and enjoin the rest of the law enforcement agencies who are fond of exalting themselves above the laws of the land to learn from Bawa’s fate. EFCC Chairman should also on his own volition report at Kuje prison if the IGP has disobeyed the Court order and failed to do the needful by conveying him to the prison premises pending the hearing and determination of his application for stay of execution.”

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