WEEKEND ARENA

Memo to Abdulrasheed Bawa, new Chairman of EFCC

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Abdulrasheed Bawa, the new Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is a child of destiny; grace if you like. Without overtly being in strong contention, he clinched one of the most revered jobs in the land. Against all odds, the stumbling blocks placed on his way to what would be the zenith of his career turned stepping stones for him.  In spite of reports of his consanguinity with the Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, the general opinion remained in his favour; that he should be allowed to prove that the young generation is capable of orchestrating the required change that would launch the country onto the path of glory. The affirmative voices drowned the dissenters. For circumstances, I would consider divine, Bawa encountered what is generally being considered as the most docile House of Senate, by post-1999 democratic standards, who would confirm his nomination without hesitation. It is doubtful, if he would have had it so smoothly with a Senate President in the shape of Bukola Saraki. At 40 years old, he should be the youngest to have occupied this position that has consistently elicited fear amongst the big wigs in the society, owing to its influential nature, instigated by our skewed political system and values.  Now that Bawa has scaled the visible hurdles, it is time for all hands to be on deck to make him succeed. But part of his success story, will depend largely on himself. Already many stakeholders in the corruption-fighting sector have been throwing salvos on what they perceive as the challenges Bawa would face. Startling to many is the assertion in an interview by Prof Itse Sagay, a prominent member of the Presidential Committee Against Corruption, that the Attorney General, Malami, would obviously not allow Bawa to succeed.

According to Sagay, Malami, being a politician, would throw partisanship into the grinding mill of Bawa’s EFCC. While this holds so much water, it is important to let Bawa know that the entire nation, through the President, has handed him a golden pen, and the onus lies on him to decide what he wants to write with it: good or bad. Looking back at his predecessors, the best bet for Bawa will be to design an EFCC that will clearly chart a path of success. If Bawa is the reading type, which is likely from the way he talks, he should be devouring books that have extensively treated why the previous EFCC chairpersons ‘failed’. From Ribadu to Farida Waziri to Magu, one factor that dominated their crash was politics.  It may seem herculean but Bawa must retool the agency to work for his glory. To be able to do this, he must strategise and make lemonade out of the lemons the job will throw at him.

Without doubt, one of the greatest challenges EFCC has is funding.   The agency would spend money to investigate and end up not having enough resources to pursue their matter in court, which is why the corrupt politicians appear to be parading more experienced lawyers against the prosecution. The result is what we have often seen, where cases drag for years.  Therefore, the EFCC under Bawa should seek ways of preventing corruption, rather than fighting it, since they cannot muster the funds to effectively do so. His idea in this instance to involve technology is quite laudable, and while moving in this direction, he should also cultivate the habit of lobbying for legislations that would help him succeed, through the exalted Office of the President. Although he is not a lawyer, he should be able to administer a legal team that will give him results, deciding on when to prosecute and when not to. The idea of writing hundreds of charges and end up unable to substantiate even one, should end with his predecessors.  

For once Bawa should also nurture an EFCC that does not react to the body language of the President. He must not dance to the gallery by launching an investigation on somebody because he holds a contrary opinion to the President’s or go to press with plans to investigate a matter even before they start, like they did with Ayo Fayose and a host of others. That era should be kept in the past. Where in the world of investigation do the investigators sound out a suspect? While needing a good change of procedural attitude, Bawa will also need a media team that would communicate not just the right messages but with the right words. His media team should not just be a group announcing convictions of Yahoo boys achieved in courts but one that would orchestrate media agenda on the need for some legislations and policies that would mitigate corruption.  They should launder the idea of a special court for corruption if it is important to make the agency potent. From Bawa’s disposition, he is set, agile and excited about his job. This is the time to prove his cynics wrong and engrave his name in gold. The countdown has begun…