The Chairman of Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa has been ordered to Kuje prison for contempt of court.
The EFCC chief was found guilty of contempt of court in a decision issued by Justice Chizoba Oji of the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja on October 28 and seen by newsmen on Tuesday.
The decision related to the anti-graft agency’s failure to abide by a November 21, 2018 court order directing it to return a Range Rover and the sum of N40 million to the applicant in a lawsuit.
The decision was made in response to a motion on notice with the file number FCT/HC/M/52/2021 submitted by an individual who once served as the Nigerian Air Force’s Director of Operations, Air Vice Marshal.
He had filed a motion in a case with the filing number FCT/HC/CR/184/2016 through his attorney, R.N. Ojabo, alleging that the EFCC had disobeyed the court’s decision compelling it to return his confiscated property.
Ojuawo was charged by the EFCC in 2016 on two counts for receiving corrupt benefits from Societe D’Equipment Internationalnaux Nigeria Limited’s Hima Aboubakar, including N40 million and a Range Rover Sport (Supercharged). The charges were heard before Justice Muawiyah Idris of the High Court of the FCT in Nyanya.
On the other hand, Justice Idris released and acquitted Ojuawo in a decision on November 21, 2018, on the grounds that the prosecution had not made its case.
Idris had ruled that the prosecution must show that the defendant corruptly received the gift, that he accepted or obtained the gift for himself or for any other person, in order for the accusation to be successful.
According to Section 131(1) of the Evidence Act of 2011, the prosecution has the burden of establishing all elements of the charge brought up against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.
Additionally, the court had ruled that Ojuawo should receive his seized property back from the anti-graft organisation.
“In conclusion, I hold that the prosecution has failed to prove the two counts charge of corrupt gratification under S17 (1)(a) and (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
“The defendant is discharged and acquitted on counts one and two of the charge.
“Consequently, the complainant (EFCC) is ordered to refund the defendant his N40,000,000 wrongly paid into ONSA recovery account and to return to the defendant his Range Rover Sport (Supercharged) forthwith,” Justice Idris had held.
However, the EFCC disregarded the ruling, prompting Ojuawo to submit a motion in the lawsuit designated FCT/HC/CR/184/2016 alleging that the EFCC had disregarded the court’s decision for it to return his seized property.
In the October 28, 2022 ruling, Justice Chizoba Oji held that, “The Chairman Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is in contempt of the orders of this honourable court made on November 21st 2018 directing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abuja to return to the applicant his Range Rover (Supercharged) and the sum of N40, 000,000.00 (Forty Million Naira).”
As a result of Bawa’s blatant defiance to the court’s ruling, the judge issued an order that he be sent to the Kuje Correctional Centre.
Justice Oji held, “Having continued wilfully in disobedience to the order of this court, he 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.
“The Inspector-General of Police shall ensure that the order of this honourable court is executed forthwith.”
The spokesperson for the EFCC, in his response to an enquiry by our correspondent, however, said, “The Commission is appealing the ruling.”
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