The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has said its chairman Abdulrasheed Bawa has returned the Range Rover SUV the anti-graft agency confiscated from former Air Vice Marshal Rufus Ojuawo and approved the refund of his seized N40 million.
EFCC said it received with shock the ruling by Justice Chizoba Oji of the FCT High Court sentencing Mr Bawa to prison for contempt.
On its verified Twitter handle, EFCC described Mr Bawa as an apostle of the rule of law and due process and one who believes in close collaboration between the two institutions in justice administration.
“This ruling is surprising as it creates a wrong impression of the person of the commission’s chairman as encouraging impunity,” the anti-graft agency said. “As far as the relationship between the EFCC and the judiciary is concerned, the chairman has been an apostle of the rule of law, due process and a promoter of close collaboration between the two institutions in justice administration.”
The court convicted the EFCC boss on Tuesday for refusing to comply with an earlier court order.
The court had ordered the commission to return to a defendant, a former director of operations of the Nigerian Air Force, Mr Ojuawo, his Range Rover SUV and N40 million seized from him.
The EFCC had in 2016 arraigned Mr Ojuawo before Justice Muawiyah Baba Idris of the FCT High Court on a two-count charge.
He was accused of receiving N40 million and a Range Rover Sport (Supercharged) from Hima Aboubakar of Societe D’Equipment Internationaux Nigeria Limited.
Meanwhile, inspector general of police Usman Baba said he was unaware of the court order to arrest and remand Mr Bawa in prison custody for contempt.
“The court directed the commission to return the seized assets comprising a Range Rover (Supercharge) and the sum of N40,000,000 to the applicant. As an investigator and the only chief executive of a law enforcement agency who regularly goes to court, will not tolerate impunity or disregard any lawful orders of the court,” it said.
The statement explained that Mr Bawa was not appointed when the order was given in 2018, claiming “that was three years before he became chairman of the commission.
The EFCC statement added, “Despite that, the said Range Rover in question has been released to the applicant on June 27, 2022, and the chairman had approved the process for the release of the remaining N40 million. Taking into cognisance the procedural lapse in the contempt proceedings, the commission has initiated a process to set aside the entire contempt proceedings and committal of the executive chairman for contempt.”
Despite the “discomfort of this ruling which is seemingly promoted by misinformation,” the EFCC said it “remains committed to working closely with the judiciary in furtherance of the fight against economic and financial crimes in Nigeria.”