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Nigeria: Anti-graft Chair Bawa Says EFCC Won’t Hand Over Cases to States

Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa, has declared that the commission, under his leadership, would not hand over cases of interest to any state

Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa, has declared that the commission, under his leadership, would not hand over cases of interest to any state government. Bawa spoke against the backdrop of the setting up of anti-corruption agencies by some states.

Lagos, Kano, and Bayelsa states have, recently, set up anti-graft agencies. Some of the states envisage that the EFCC would hand over corruption cases concerning their states to the local anti-corruption commissions.

The EFCC chairman also denied asking the management teams of banks to declare theirs assets to the commission. He insisted his pronouncement was merely for purposes of eliciting information, as the agency was not empowered to dish out such an order.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with THISDAY, the EFCC boss stated that as a creation of the National Assembly, the federal agency superseded any similar agency set up by the states.

He stated, “I am aware that Kano and Bayelsa have started their own anti-corruption agencies. But those laws do not contain anything that says that EFCC has nothing to do with investigating their states, they would rather be complementing what the EFCC is doing.

“There are a lot of Supreme Court decided cases on this particular issue. From the briefing that I have received, those things are already there. The EFCC is a creation of the National Assembly, which, of course, supersedes, when it comes to that. So, there’s already a federal legislation.

“We are yet to see how the EFCC is going to hand over cases that they are interested in to any state government or see any correspondence to that effect. We are investigating our matters. In that regard, we are making progress.”

Bawa also expressed doubt over the capacity of states to handle certain investigations in view of the capital-intensive nature.

According to him, “What I can say is that law enforcement is a very, very expensive venture and requires a lot of training and retraining, with trends of crime developing everyday, every second, and you need to catch up with people doing that.

“Take, for instance, issues of money laundering, where, maybe, somebody somewhere has laundered the proceeds of crime, let’s say somewhere in Sokoto and you are in Oyo State or you have property, a lot of things will come up.

“Maybe he has property in America, you need to carry out request, involving mutual legal assistance treaty between, let’s say, Nigeria and America, whether or not the American government will recognise that.

“So, a lot of things left, right and centre are at play regarding it. It is very, very expensive.

“Then, the issue of capacity. Yes, anybody can develop a capacity to do that. But let’s wait and see.”

Addressing the alleged demand for declaration of assets by bankers, Bawa said it was within the powers of the agency to make such demands.

However, he said, “I did not say banks will come and declare their assets to us. It is not within our powers to demand for that. But it is within our powers to demand for information. You and associate (s) without any hindrance or failure must give us information on demand.

“If you are an individual or corporate entity or company, it is an offence not to comply. That is why we write to individuals, politicians to submit to us so that we will compare, because if you are a suspect, before us, you are expected to even fill our own declaration of assets form here.”

He explained further, “We write to CCB, for instance, to furnish us what you declared. Yes, we write them to give us information on what you declared so that we can make comparison.

“We have our reason for saying that come June 1st, we are going to demand for the declaration of assets. That’s what I said. So, it doesn’t matter whether you have not declared, it doesn’t matter whether you have done anything, but what we said is that we are going to demand for it.

“You understand this? This is in a 1986 law. It was passed when I was just six years old. Yes, it’s an old law and they are expected to declare their assets annually. So, what we said is that we just need copies of those things, we have already demanded. On June 1st, we wrote to all the banks, the MDS and DMDs should submit copies of their declaration of asset form.

On accusations that the agency had engaged in media trial of suspects, the EFCC chairman said the commission on his watch had not only conducted diligent investigations but had also contributed significantly to the development of law in Nigeria in the last 15 years.

Bawa stated, “Now, rightly or wrongly, the media, once matters are in court, you have the right to go and get the facts – reporters are always in court to report what has happened. So, you have been accusing us wrongly of this.

“You did mention something that we do media trial, and then we rush to court. There is no agency of government that has worked and contributed to the development of law in this country in the last 15 years than the EFCC. Nobody has challenged me on that.

“We go to court. We love going to court. We have 90 per cent to 95 per cent success rate in court on the cases that we have charged. So, it is not about stating the facts and losing cases. Assuming we have 70 per cent success rate in court, is it not an A that you will give us, but as you know, we have over 90 per cent success rate in court.

“But, of course, we have changed our strategy in that regard as well. And that is why maybe you are not seeing people under investigation being mentioned in the media.

“But there was never a deliberate attempt, anyway, to do that (media trial). We are just trying to do things by the book but maybe that is the change of strategy that you people have observed. We are working quietly and diligently on cases without necessarily drawing public attention.”

Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja