The nominee of the President Muhammadu Buhari for the position of the Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa, on Wednesday, denied selling the seized property in EFCC custody at its Port Harcourt Zonal office.
According to Punch, Bawa who is currently being grilled at the Senate at plenary, also insisted that he was qualified to be the Chairman of the Commission based on the provisions of the EFCC Act.
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He said the seized property in Port Harcourt were properly disposed off by the agency’s officials from its headquarters.
Bawa had arrived at the Senate for screening on Wednesday morning.
The 40-year-old, if confirmed, will be the youngest person ever to serve as chairman of the nation’s foremost anti-corruption agency.
Bawa will also be the first core EFCC official and non-police officer to head the agency, a feat which has been hailed by a large majority of the EFCC staff.
The nominee’s appointment has, however, been met with criticism following allegations of corruption levelled against him by the previous EFCC leadership.
SaharaReporters had reported how a 13-page investigation report by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission indicting its new Chairman designate, Abdulrasheed Bawa, 40, who was then the Port Harcourt Zonal head, was forwarded to Buhari in 2019 but the President failed to read or act upon it.
SaharaReporters had obtained the report, titled, ‘Investigation Report – Re: Alleged Case of Conspiracy, abuse of office and criminal diversion of Federal Government Properties’, in which the suspect was Abdulrasheed Bawa, and which detailed how he was recommended for disciplinary actions.
It was learnt that the report was forwarded to the President’s office, but the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, influenced how it was dumped and not acted upon by President Buhari.
The report noted that “more disheartening is the discovery that the Zonal Head of the Port Harcourt office sold a vessel which was under his custody. The Commission that prides itself to be the vanguard in the fight against corruption cannot condone this sort of ignoble and discreditable conduct by its officers.”
“Against the background of such offences, the EFCC stated that “the requisite disciplinary processes have commenced against them. The full weight of administrative and disciplinary sanctions will be brought against them in tandem with our extant Staff Regulation. Also, after the vetting of the case file by the Commission’s Legal and Prosecution Department, they will face the appropriate criminal procedure.”
But it was learnt that Malami ensured that Bawa was spared and the erstwhile embattled acting Chairman, Magu, was ousted out of office before actions would be taken on the report.
A top source said, “The report was never read by Buhari because he was very unaware of his environment and doesn’t read. That report was the full details of Bawa, the newly nominated EFCC Chairman, as sent to Buhari.
“The AGF also quickly intervened and covered up the crime by refusing to approve of charges to be filed against Bawa and others. Magu was removed before he could act.”
The report forwarded to Buhari partly reads, “The Commission’s Zonal Office in Port-Harcourt had earlier in July, 2019 secured a Final Forfeiture Order for Two Hundred and Forty-Four (244) Trucks/ Vehicles and the Petroleum products contained therein to the Federal Government.
“The Zonal Head in the Port Harcourt Office informed me of this development based on which I wrote letter number EFCC/EC/P/01/663 dated 29th July, 2019 to Your Excellency. The letter sought for Your Excellency’s approval for the auctioning of the Two Hundred and Forty-Four (244) Trucks/ Vehicles and the Petroleum products contained therein. This approval was graciously granted by Your Excellency and conveyed vide letter number PRES/72/EFCC/21 dated 5th August, 2019.
“Following Your Excellency’s approval, the Commission commenced the auctioning processes in order to ensure adherence to due process, transparency and accountability. To this effect, I constituted an Auction/Disposal Committee headed by the Commission Secretary in line with the Court Order and the EFCC Establishment Act 2004. The Term of Reference of the Auction/Disposal Committee was to organise the auctioning of the 244 Trucks and Vehicles To members of the public in the most transparent manner.
“After the selection of the auctioneers, the 244 Trucks and Vehicles were advertised in the national dailies for interested members of the public. The Commission also engaged the services of the Federal Ministry of Works & Housing and the National Automotive Design and Development Council for the evaluation of the 244 Trucks and Vehicles. Against this background, the auction was fixed for 17th to 21st December, 2019.
“Regrettably, it was when the Team arrived in Port Harcourt to commence the Auction sale that they discovered Zonal Head, Port Harcourt Office had released Forty-Five (45) trucks/vehicles from the 244 Trucks and Vehicles slated for the auction sale back to the suspects from whom the assets were seized, recovered and forfeited to the federal government at the N100,000 each.
“Investigation conducted so far has revealed the following findings: one, the Port-Harcourt Zonal Office through its Legal Unit filed an ex parte motion on the 27th May, 2019 requesting from the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt a temporary forfeiture order of Two Hundred and Forty-Four (244) trucks/vehicles and petroleum products contained therein to the Federal Government.
“The Zonal Head ignored the minutes on case file of CTGI/PS, CR382/2018 minute 10 and CR466/2018 minute 25 drawing his attention to the fact that the Forty Five (45) trucks/ vehicles earmarked for release were already subject of final forfeiture order granted by the Federal High Court.
“At the commencement of the investigation, the team discovered that 25 trucks have already been released to the owners while 20 were at the point of being released but they were directed to forthwith stop further release of the trucks/vehicles.”
The report added that it was very clear that the “totality of the conduct of the Zonal Head, Port Harcourt and other suspects exude gross ineptitude from which criminal intention can be imputed.”
“Your Excellency, from the investigation conducted, it is very clear that the totality of the conduct of the Zonal Head, Port Harcourt and other suspects exude gross ineptitude from which criminal intention can be imputed. Having informed my Office of the final forfeiture of Two Hundred and Forty-Four (244) Trucks/ Vehicles and the Petroleum products contained therein to the Federal Government in July, 2019, he never informed me of his involvement in plea bargain in respect of the 45 trucks/vehicles which were already properties of the Federal Government.
“It is important to respectfully inform Your Excellency that the Zonal Head of the Port Harcourt office was at different times warned both orally and in writing of the dangers and implications of entering into plea bargain in respect of the trucks/vehicles since they have been finally forfeited to the Federal Government. Regrettably, he dismissed these warnings with a wave of the hand.
“Your Excellency, suffice it to say that the conduct of the Zonal Head of the Port Harcourt office and other erring officers is highly reprehensible to say the least. This conduct is completely at variance with the high professional and ethical standards that I have set for Officers of the Commission,” the report added.
Saharareporters, New York