By John Oloruntoba
With the appointment of Abdulrasheed Bawa, President Muhammadu Buhari may have finally found the magic wand to reinvigorate the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and combat graft.
This was the preponderant thinking among stakeholders following the Tuesday’s statement announcing a change of guard at the iconic Tunde Idiagbon House, thus sealing the hope of embattled Ibrahim Magu to return to his exalted office after his dramatic suspension last year and even melodramatic trial by the Justice Ayo Salami-led panel.
EFCC came into being in 2003 as part of a national response to address the challenge posed by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) which had indicted Nigeria as one of 23 countries non-cooperative in the global efforts to fight money laundering.
In seeking power in 2015, President Buhari had anchored his promise to the nation around three key pillars – security, anti-corruption and the economy.
Aside sundry allegations of impropriety levelled against Magu which necessitated his removal, government insiders had often confided that the president’s vision of the anti-graft agency all along is one driven by core professionals independent of the police.
From his own rich experience in governance over the past five decades, President Buhari is said to be of the view that specialised agencies like the EFCC are better run by core professionals exposed to vigorous specialised training.
Until now, all past chief executive officers of the commission – from Nuhu Ribadu to Farida Waziri to Ibrahim Lamorde to Magu – were seconded to the commission from the police. But Magu has the distinction of being the only chairman to have served more than five years in acting capacity. His serial nomination of Magu to the Senate by President Buhari after repeated rejection was said to have been informed by a powerful lobby within the ruling party alleging blackmail, whipping up the sentiments that his confirmation was being stalled because he had acted against the interests of the principal officers of the Senate including the then Senate president, Bukola Saraki.
At 40, well-educated and decorated Bawa obviously brings youthful energy to the table, perhaps serving as a signal that President Buhari is quite conscious of growing popular demand for more inclusiveness of younger Nigerians in the commanding height of governance.
Aside a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Usmanu Danfodio University in Sokoto, he obtained a Masters in International Affairs and Diplomacy from the Usman Danfodio University in 2012. He is currently studying for a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree at the University of London.
But much more significant is the fact that Bawa belongs to the select cadre who joined the commission from foundation as cadets and were bred and mentored by Nuhu Ribadu widely acclaimed as the most impactful chairman of the anti-graft commission in history.
Since joining the commission in 2004 as assistant detective superintendent, the chairman-designate has undergone several specialised trainings in different parts of the world. Aside being a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS), he was also trained by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FINCEN), the World Bank, the United Nations Office of Drug and Crimes, the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria State Security Services, the EFCC Academy and United Kingdom’s Global Training Consulting.
Armed with such variegated training from such top-notch institutions, it can then be said that EFCC has finally come under the command of a young turk weaned on the commission’s originating doctrine – forensic and professional approach to tackling corruption.
“By settling for someone who joined the commission as a greenhorn and has undergone rigorous training locally and internationally, and has indeed risen through the ranks in the past 17 years, the deduction one can make is that President Buhari is determined to do things differently this time in order to achieve a different outcome,” said Mr. Benjamin Anyaoku, a senior researcher at the University of Abuja.
In his last posting as the head of the Lagos operations, Bawa showed capacity and character. Of course, Lagos is the biggest operations zonal office of the EFCC with 604 officers. Under his watch, the EFCC secured 227 convictions. He supervised the investigation of all cases in the Port Harcourt Zonal office in which a record 215 convictions were secured in 11 months. He also secured the final forfeiture of hundreds of properties to the federal government.
Bawa supervised the investigation of all cases in the Ibadan Zonal office in which 113 were concluded and 54 were charged to court within 6 months. He was involved in the recovery of millions of dollars worth of properties belonging to former minister of petroleum resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke. He was also involved in the fraud cases involving former governor of Niger State, Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu. He equally participated in several other periodic raids on notorious 419 Cyber cafés.
It is perhaps a measure of his professional brilliance and dedication that he received the EFCC Merit Award in 2020. Just as he earned the appreciation of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (Criminal Investigative Division) in 2019 after facilitating the collaboration between the EFCC and the FBI, which resulted in a mutual fight against economic and financial crimes on an international scale.
With Bawa, Nigerians can look forward to a reinvigorated EFFC in the days ahead.
–Oloruntoba is a security expert based in Abuja.