EFCC chairman jailed for contempt of court

The chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Abdulrasheed Bawa has been sent to the Kuje Correctional Centre for contempt of court.

According to court papers seen by newsmen, Bawa was sentenced by Justice Chizoba Oji, the presiding judge of a High Court in the Maitama area of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), late last month.

The judgment followed a contempt of court motion filed by a former Director of Operations at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Rufus Adeniyi Ojuawo.

Mr Ojuawo had through 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.

The anti-graft agency had arraigned Mr 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 corruptly receiving gratification to the tune of N40 million and a Range Rover Sport (Supercharged) valued at N29250 million from one Hima Aboubakar of Societe D’Equipment Internationaux Nigeria Limited.

But, in a judgment on November 21, 2018, Justice Idris discharged and acquitted the accused on the grounds that the prosecution failed to prove its case.

Justice Idris held that for the charge to succeed, the prosecution must prove that the defendant corruptly accepted the gift and that he accepted or obtained the gift for himself or for any other person.

He added that the prosecution also ought to prove that the defendant accepted the gift in the course of or for discharging his official duty and that the gift was an inducement or reward.

He held that the burden was on the prosecution to prove all ingredients of the charge preferred against the defendant beyond reasonable doubt as required under Section 131(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011.

The judge consequently ordered the EFCC to immediately refund the defendant his N40 million wrongly paid into the ONSA recovery account and to return to the defendant his Range Rover Sport (Supercharged).

Ruling on Mr Ojuawo’s contempt of court filing, Justice Oji ordered that Bawa should be committed for his disobedience of the judgment. The judge also directed the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to ensure the committal order is executed.

He ordered the agency to restore all the items seized from the plaintiff.

“Having continued wilfully in disobedience to the order of this court, he (EFCC chairman) should be committed to prison at Kuje Correctional Centre for his disobedience and continued disobedience of the said order of court made on November 21st, 2018, until he purges himself of the contempt,” ruled the court.

“The Inspector General of Police shall ensure that the order of this honourable court is executed forthwith.”

He rejected the arguments put forward by the lawyer to the EFCC, Francis Jirbo, to justify his client’s action.