Abdulrasheed Bawa, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, has been sentenced to Kuje Prison for contempt of court.
The EFCC boss was convicted of contempt of court in a ruling delivered by Justice Chizoba Oji of the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja on October 28, and sighted by newsmen on Tuesday, in relation to the anti-graft agency’s failure to comply with a November 21, 2018 court order directing it to return a Range Rover and the sum of N40 million to the applicant in a suit.
The decision was made on a motion on notice marked: FCT/HC/M/52/2021 filed by a former Director of Operations in the Nigerian Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Rufus Ojuawo.
Ojuawo had filed a motion in a suit marked FCT/HC/CR/184/2016 through his lawyer, R.N. Ojabo, alleging that the EFCC had refused to comply with a court order directing it to release his seized property.
In 2016, the EFCC charged Ojuawo on two counts before Justice Muawiyah Idris of the High Court of the FCT in Nyanya for corruptly receiving N40 million and a Range Rover Sport (Supercharged) from one Hima Aboubakar of Societe D’Equipment Internationaux Nigeria Limited.
However, in a ruling issued on November 21, 2018, Justice Idris discharged and acquitted Ojuawo on the grounds that the prosecution failed to prove its case.
Idris had ruled that the prosecution had to prove that the defendant corruptly accepted the gift; that he accepted or obtained the gift for himself or for anyone else.
He held that the prosecution bore the burden of proving all elements of the charge preferred against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt, as required by Section 131(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011.
The court also ordered that the anti-corruption agency return Ojuawo’s seized property to him.
“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.
The EFCC, however, did not comply with the judgement which made Ojuawo to file a motion in the suit marked: FCT/HC/CR/184/2016 that the EFCC had refused to comply with the court order directing it to release 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).”
Consequently, the Judge ordered that Bawa should be committed to prison at the Kuje Correctional Centre for his wilful disobedience to the order of the court.
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.”