The Coalition of Anti-Corruption Organisations has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to overhaul the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), over alleged consistent disobedience of court orders.
Olufemi Lawson, Convener of the coalition comprising about 50 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and Chairman, Centre for Public Accountability, made the call at a news conference on Friday in Lagos.
Mr Lawson said EFCC under AbdulRasheed Bawa allegedly had the penchant for disobedience of lawful court orders and had politicised activities.
According to him, Mr Bawa has been allegedly convicted to prison terms on about three different occasions within the space of months for clear breach of the extant orders of the court.
“We must at this point make it clear that any form of disobedience to lawful orders of the court is not only an act of monumental corruption but is it also indicates a dangerous signal to the institutions of our democracy and the memories of those who sacrificed their lives for the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria.
“For the EFCC to recover its past glory, it must retrace its steps with the President overhauling its leadership.
“This culture of impunity continues to ridicule Nigeria in the comity of nations and sabotage efforts at attracting foreign direct investment.
“It is even more worrisome that this blatant disobedience of valid court orders is coming on the heels of efforts by stakeholders to galvanise more support for the war against corruption in the country.
“We, hereby, demand that President Buhari takes immediate steps to ensure that EFCC does not derail his avowed commitment to the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights of citizens by removing Mr Bawa as the chairman of the commission,” he said.
Mr Lawson, who noted that disobedience of court orders must stop, said attempts by institutions of state to ridicule the country and make it seem like a lawless fiefdom must be resisted by all.
According to him, the EFCC should not allow itself to be used as an instrument of political witch hunt.
He said that some anti-corruption civil society organisations had submitted several petitions to EFCC which the commission had not acted on, “even when you sit with them to reason on the merits of those petitions.”
Mr Lawson said that the commission needed to be neutral and professional.
According to him, every democracy in the world is rooted, planted and established on rule of law, saying no democracy can survive without institutions respecting the rule of law.
Mr Lawson said that the coalition wanted EFCC to be above board as an institution in the nation’s democracy, obeying what the law and the court say.
He said that operatives of democracy should not be seen displaying contempt of the court order.
According to him, the EFCC that always approaches court in order to detain corrupt suspects should not find it difficult to obey orders from the same court.
He said that the commission should not be seen to be ridiculing the integrity of the nation’s judiciary but be neutral and professional in discharging mandates.
Also speaking, Ayodeji Ologun, the Spokesperson, Transparency and Accountability Group (TAG) said that the CSOs would not continue to watch the nation’s democracy going down the drain, saying, “whoever appointment to man the EFCC should be above board.”
“Our judiciary is so sacrosanct because that is the last hope.
“When there are troubles in the legislature and executive, everybody comes to the judiciary as the last arbiter. We should not derail our democracy,” Mr Ologun said.
Leadership of various CSOs including the Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), Zero Graft Centre, and the Coalition Against Corruption and Bad Governance, a) were in attendance.
Others in attendance were Activists for Good Governance, Centre for Ethics and Good Governance, Media Right Concern, Centre for Socio-Economic Rights, among others.
The Kogi State High Court in Lokoja on Monday, ordered the arrest and remand of the EFCC Chairman in prison for disobeying a court order.
However, EFCC, has filed a motion at Court of Appeal to stop the execution of judgement of Kogi High Court which ordered the committal of its chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa to prison for disobedience of court order.