The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory has set aside the contempt proceedings and all the orders of conviction for contempt against the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa.
Justice Chizoba Oji set aside the proceedings on Thursday after hearing an application brought by the EFCC Chairman.
The application was brought pursuant to Section 6(6) (a) and Section 36(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Section 91 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act, Cap S6 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004 and other relevant enactments.
The court found that at the time of the order, the EFCC Chairman was not in contempt of court as he had complied with the order that the Respondent’s Range Rover be released and by several internal memoranda, the Applicant had initiated the commission’s internal mechanism to ensure the payment of the sum of N40, 000,000 to the Respondent.
Justice Chizoba Oji, in a ruling on Tuesday, had held that Bawa was in contempt of the order of the court made on November 21, 2018, directing the commission to return to an applicant, his Range Rover (super charge) and the sum of N40 million.
She also ordered that Bawa should be committed to prison at Kuje Correctional Centre Abuja for his disobedience, and continued disobedience of the said order until he purges himself of the contempt.
Justice Oji further directed the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba to ensure that the order of this court is executed forthwith.
The judge rejected the arguments put forward by the lawyer to the EFCC, Francis Jirbo to justify his client’s action.
However, in response, the EFCC Chairman appealed the ruling.
Reacting to the judgement in a chat with Channels Television’s correspondent and some other journalists on Tuesday, Bawa said the law would take its natural course.
The anti-graft agency’s spokesman Wilson Uwujaren also said the EFCC received the news about Bawa with “shock”.
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, received with shock, a report of the ruling by Justice Chizoba Oji of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama, Abuja committing the Executive Chairman for contempt over the failure to comply with a November 21st, 2018 order of the court directing the Commission to return seized assets comprising a Range Rover (Super charge) and the sum of N40, 000,000.00 (Forty Million Naira) to the applicant,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
“This ruling is surprising as it creates a wrong impression of the person of the Executive Chairman of the EFCC as encouraging impunity. As far as the relationship between the EFCC and the judiciary is concerned, The Executive Chairman, Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa has been an apostle of rule of law, due process, and close collaboration between the two institutions in justice administration. As an investigator, and the only Chief Executive of a law enforcement agency who regularly goes to court, the Executive Chairman will not tolerate impunity or disregard any lawful orders of court.
“Abdulrasheed Bawa, in his capacity as Executive Chairman of the EFCC since March 5, 2022, did not disregard any order of court. For the benefit of the public, the said order of the FCT High Court was given on November 21, 2018, three years before Abdulrasheed became EFCC Chairman. This fact is germane as the contempt process is quasi-criminal in nature and must be served on the person involved. In this case, Bawa as incumbent chairman of the EFCC was neither served form 48 nor form 49.
“Despite this fact, the Executive Chairman, upon being aware of the said order of November 21st, 2018 had released the Range Rover in question to the Applicant on the 27th of June, 2022, and had approved the process of the release of the remaining N40m.
“Taking into cognizance the procedural lapse in the contempt proceedings the commission has initiated a process to set aside the entire contempt proceedings and committal of the Executive Chairman for contempt.
“Despite the discomfort of this ruling which is seemingly promoted by misinformation, the commission remains committed to working closely with the judiciary in furtherance of the fight against economic and financial crimes in Nigeria.”