With Bawa’s suspension, the vicious circle of embarrassing ends continues for EFCC bosses.
For those who believe in superstitions, there is enough reason to conclude that there’s a curse accompanying the chairmanship of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
With the suspension of Abdulrasheed Bawa by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Wednesday, June 14, 2023, the vicious circle of embarrassing ends continues for EFCC bosses.
Since its establishment in 2003 during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, every individual who has headed the anti-corruption agency left the establishment with their heads lowered in shame.
This ignominious trend started in 2007, and curiously, the suspension or dismissal of all the former EFCC bosses was occasioned by several corruption allegations levelled against them. The same corruption they were appointed to fight.
The unceremonious exits of the five EFCC bosses
The establishment of the EFCC and the appointment of Nuhu Ribadu as the pioneer Chairman of the agency in 2003 gave the impression that the Obasanjo administration had a strong conviction to rid the country of corruption and financial crimes.
As a career law enforcement officer, Ribadu became the poster boy for the fight against corruption. He went after top bankers, prominent politicians, governors, senators and fraudsters. It was during his tenure that the former Inspector-General of Force, Tafa Balogun, was convicted, jailed and made to return £150 million under a plea bargain.
Impressed by his performance as EFCC boss, Obasanjo promoted him to the position of Assistant Inspector General of Police in April 2007. But eight months later, Ridadu was removed as EFCC chairman during the administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua.
It was believed that the EFCC boss was sacked due to his refusal to terminate the corruption trial of James Ibori, former governor of Delta state, but according to Obasanjo, Ribadu was sacked because of his refusal to marry one of Yar’Adua’s daughters.
In May 2008, Farida Waziri succeeded Ribadu to continue the fight against corruption. But unlike her predecessor, she failed to secure the convictions of many high-profile cases some of which were instituted by Ribadu.
Farida Waziri [EFCC]
Although, under her leadership, the EFCC went after many ex-governors including Dr. Peter Odili of Rivers State, Bola Tinubu of Lagos State, Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, Joshua Dariye of Plateau State, Saminu Turaki of Jigawa State, Jolly Nyame of Taraba State and Michael Botmang of Plateau State, her failure to secure their convictions was perhaps one of the banes of her tenure.
However, three months after her appointment, the EFCC arrested Chief Bode George, a top politician in Lagos in August 2008. He was arraigned on 163 count-charge after which he was found guilty and sentenced to jail for 30 months.
But in November 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan sacked her and replaced her with Ibrahim Lamorde. Waziri’s appointment was terminated following an allegation that the EFCC had been selective in its investigations.
Shortly after Waziri’s dismissal, President Jonathan appointed Lamorde on November 23, 2011, as acting chairperson of the EFCC. He was confirmed as substantive Chairman of the agency in February 2012.
Lamorde was having a smooth administration until 2015 when the Senate alleged that $5bn (£3.2bn) was missing at the EFCC under his watch.
The reputation of the EFCC chairman suffered a terrible blow following an allegation that he diverted N1 trillion of assets recovered by the anti-graft agency during his time as the director of operations and later chairman.
In November 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari sacked Lamorde and replaced him with Ibrahim Magu.
Two months after his removal, the Senate ordered his arrest for repeatedly refusing to appear before its probe panel, but despite the allegations against him, he was not arrested.
Nigerians’ expectation of the administration of President Buhari and the appointment of Ibrahim Magu as EFCC’ acting chair was very high particularly on the government’s agenda to decimate corruption.
Both Magu and Buhari assumed office in 2015, and it was expected that the president’s perceived aversion to corruption would strengthen the EFCC’s operations and efforts to clean the country with Magu leading the task.
Standing up to the challenge, Magu’s EFCC within three years recorded a total conviction of 603 Nigerians on corruption charges.
Over N500bn was recovered, and for the first time in the history of the agency, judges and top military officers including retired service chiefs were prosecuted for corrupt enrichment.
However, the party ended for Magu in July 2020, and it was his turn to face the music.
On Monday, July 6, 2020, he was arrested by security operatives at the entrance of the Wuse II EFCC office in Abuja and the following day, he was suspended as the EFCC boss due to corruption allegations levelled against him.
Following the suspension of Magu, Abdulrasheed Bawa stepped into his shoes at the age of 40, he is the youngest EFCC boss in the history of the agency.
Like his predecessors, Bawa had his share of corruption allegations. In September 2020, the trained EFCC investigator was accused of selling seized properties in Port Harcourt.
In November 2022, a federal high court in Abuja ordered him to be remanded for contempt for the EFCC’s non-compliance with a court order, but Bawa’s disregard for the pronouncement strengthened the claim that he is fond of disobeying court orders.
Bawa’s leadership at the EFCC followed his predecessors’ footsteps on Wednesday, June 14, 2023, when President Bola Ahmed Tinubu suspended him indefinitely over alleged abuse of office. He was subsequently taken in by the Department of States Service (DSS) for investigation.
Like others before him, Bawa’s suspension will most likely mark the end of his tenure as the chairman of the EFCC.