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Court jails EFCC chairperson, Bawa, for contempt

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The court convicted the EFCC chairperson and ordered the Inspector of General of Police to put him in Kuje prison in Abuja for disobeying an earlier order.

The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Abuja has sentenced the chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Abdulrasheed Bawa, to jail for contempt.

The Nation newspaper reported that the judge, Chizoba Oji, convicted Mr Bawa and ordered the Inspector of General of Police to put him in Kuje prison in Abuja for disobeying an earlier order of the court.

Ms Oji, according to the report, convicted and jailed Mr Bawa on 28 October in a ruling on an application by a former Director of Operations at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), Rufus Ojuawo.

The EFCC, on Tuesday, vowed to appeal the ruling in an interview with Webteam@Ipledge2nigeria

Mr Ojuawo, a retired air vice marshal (AVM), was previously prosecuted by the EFCC on corruption charges but was acquitted by another judge of the FCT High Court.

In his application levelling a charge of contempt against EFCC and its chairperson, Mr Ojuawo accused the agency and its leadership of violating the court’s order issued on 21 November 2018 ordering them to return his seized Range Rover (Super charge) and N40 million to him.

The order has been subsisting since the time of Ibrahim Magu as the acting chairperson of the EFCC. The commission continued to disobey the court order after Mr Bawa became EFCC’s chairman in February 2021.

EFCC’s lawyer, Francis Jirbo, tried to justify EFCC’s failure to comply with the court order during the hearing of Mr Ojuawo’s application.

But the judge rejected the lawyer’s arguments before convicting Mr Bawa on 28 October.

Ms Oji then ordered the Inspector-General of Police to remand the contemnor in Kuje prison in Abuja.

“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 (Super charge) and the sum of N40, 000,000.00 (Forty Million Naira).

“Having continued willfully 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 judge ordered in the certified true copy of the ruling seen by The Nation on Tuesday.

The newspaper reported that Mr Ojuawo filed the application for Mr Bawa’s committal in the suit marked FCT/HC/M/52/2021.

We’re appealing the ruling — EFCC

Meanwhile, Wilson Uwujaren, EFCC’s spokesperson says the anti-graft agency will appeal Mrs Oji’s ruling.

In a brief telephone interview with Webteam@ipledge2nigeria on Tuesday, Mr Uwujaren said, “There is no problem about that, we are appealing the ruling.”

Background

The anti-corruption agency had arraigned Mr Ojuawo in 2016 on a two-count charge before another judge of the Nyanya, Abuja division of the FCT High Court, Muawiyah Idris.

The prosecution accused the former military chief of corruptly receiving kickbacks to the tune of N40 million and a Range Rover Sport (Supercharged) valued at N29.250 million from a contractor of the Nigerian Air Force – Hima Aboubakar of Societe D’Equipment Internationaux Nigeria Limited.

But the judge discharged Mr Ojuawo in a judgement delivered on 21 November 2018.

In dismissing the suit, the judge held that EFCC failed to prove that Mr Ojuawo accepted the gifts while discharging his official responsibility as military chief, and that the gifts were inducements or rewards.

“The defendant is discharged and acquitted on counts one and two of the charge,” Mr Idris declared.

Consequently, the judge said, “…I hold that the prosecution (EFCC) 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.

“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,” the judge said.

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