•Personnel May Return to Force Duties
•Pressure on Bawa to empower commission’s trained operatives
Kingsley Nwezeh and Alex Enumah in Abuja
With the nomination of Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa as the Chairman-designate of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), 850 police officers seconded to the anti-graft commission may go back to the police force, THISDAY has learnt.
THISDAY checks showed that the likelihood of redeploying the police personnel is giving them jitters as many of them are afraid of being taken out of the “lucrative” posting.
However, sources said whether or not the police personnel would be retained would be determined by Bawa after the Senate has confirmed his nomination.
Bawa, who was nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari on February 16, is one of the pioneers of the EFCC Academy and the first non-police officer picked to head the commission since its inception in 2003.
Bawa is said to have been put under pressure by EFCC operatives who are agitating that the police personnel should leave the commission for its trained officers.
“The Inspector-General of Police had complained loudly about the shortage of personnel for police duties. So, this is an opportunity to release his personnel who are not performing core security duties back to force to reinforce it to perform its core function of protecting the citizenry from violent criminals that have virtually taken over our country,” an EFCC operative told THISDAY at the weekend.
Investigations show that Bawa may cave in to the demand of his colleagues who had had a running battle with the police personnel while the commission was under the leadership of the police.
The commission had over the years relied on seconded staff from ministries, police and other agencies.
Presently, the staff strength of the EFCC is 2,220, spread across different departments out of which about 850 are police officers.
The former acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, had in one of his budget defences lamented poor funding that prevented the commission from recruiting 750 additional staff.
It was gathered that the recruitment was carried out but did not meet the target number envisaged.
A police source told THISDAY that the Chairman-designate would determine whether or not to work with the police or reduce the number.
“It is not the responsibility of the police to determine that. The new chairman when cleared by the Senate and he resumes will make a decision on that.
“He may decide to rely on EFCC operatives or reduce the number of police officers,” the source said.
THISDAY checks at the EFCC also showed that the issue was also a concern.
An EFCC source said: “It is obvious that it is for the incoming chairman to speak on that. I cannot speak for him.”
The Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 10, Sokoto, Mr. Ali Janga, had hailed the nomination of Bawa as the chairman-designate, saying that the nomination of a core staff of the commission is proof that the police have creditably discharged their duties of nurturing the commission to maturity.
The AIG spoke while receiving the Head, EFCC Sokoto Zonal Office, Mr. Bawa Kaltungo, and his team that paid him a courtesy visit.
Janga said he was among the pioneer 23 officers that started the EFCC in 2003 and trained the pioneer Course 1 cadet officers.
An EFCC statement said the zonal police boss assured the EFCC delegation of enhanced cooperation.
Kaltungo had solicited more cooperation and support from the AIG, adding that the commission is desirous of leveraging on the strength of the police.
Meanwhile, some lawyers have urged Bawa to imbibe the culture of transparency in the commission to succeed in his new assignment.
The lawyers in their separate interviews with THISDAY on Bawa’s nomination urged him to be transparent to earn the trust, respect and support of the people.
They also advised him to endeavour to subject himself and the commission to the laws.
“In my own humble view, the best and only safe approach is for him to give the highest premium to the rule of law. Once he allows the rule of law to be his watchword and preoccupation, he would easily navigate his way devoid of the land mines that proved to be the Achilles’ heels of his predecessor(s) in office,” said Mr. Dayo Akinlaja (SAN).
Akinlaja also advised Bawa to distance himself from the tendency to jettison the rule of law in the guise of wanting to achieve results.
“It pays to follow due process in the execution of official duties. Without a doubt, there is no alternative to obedience to court orders.
“The moment he chooses to see the court as an appendage of the executive or a burden of a sort to its commission, there is bound to be the penchant for disobedience to court orders,” he said.
The senior lawyer added that if the new boss of the anti-graft agency is civil enough to subordinate the commission to the judiciary, on the understanding that Nigeria runs constitutional democracy, the problem of disobedience to court orders would not arise.
According to him, there is no need for media trial because it is a product of self-aggrandisement.
“He should shun it. The imperative of in-house cleansing should not be lost on him as well. If he is mindful enough of all these and others kindred to them, he stands a chance of making a positive difference in the office,” he added.
An Abuja-based lawyer, Mr. Steve Ekeh, while welcoming the appointment of Bawa, however, felt that the federal government ought to have decided on Magu’s fate before appointing his replacement.
“It is a welcome development that a substantive head is appointed for EFCC although it would have been better if there was a closure to Magu’s era by the government deciding Magu’s fate. As it is now, the Magu’s issue is still hanging and it is not good for the image of the country and the commission,” he said.
Ekeh noted that one of the undoings of Magu was his engagement in showboating, media trials and lack of transparency on recovered loots and assets.
He also charged Bawa to ensure probity and transparency in the management of recovered loots and assets.
Another Abuja-based lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Obasi-Nweze, said the only way Bawa could avoid the pitfalls of his predecessor was to be transparent.
“If you are transparent and you tell the truth always, nobody can successfully set you up because the truth will always prevail. Public offices are not shrouded in secrecy,” Obasi-Nweze said.