Nigeria: Contempt – Court Sets Aside EFCC Chair, Bawa’s Conviction

The judge set aside the EFCC chair, Mr Bawa’s conviction after hearing his application and request to the court to reverse itself.

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja, on Thursday, nullified its earlier order jailing Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), for contempt.

PREMIUM TIMES reported that Chizoba Oji, a judge at the FCT High Court at Maitama, convicted Mr Bawa for contempt of court.

But ruling on an application filed by Mr Bawa, Ms Oji set aside her decision of 28 October, which ordered the Inspector-General of Police to arrest the EFCC boss with a view to incarcerating him at Kuje prison in Abuja.

In the application dated 10 November, Mr Bawa cited relevant sections of the Nigerian constitution and procedural laws of the court, urging the judge to quash his conviction.

Ruling on the request, Ms Oji said she was satisfied that the EFCC Chairman did not disregard the court’s orders, asking him to release seized assets belonging to Rufus Ojuawo, a retired air vice marshal.

The judge held that evidence before her showed Mr Bawa had complied with the court’s order, directing the EFCC to return a Range Rover Sport vehicle valued at N40 million, which it confiscated from Mr Ojuawo, a former Director of Operations at the Nigerian Air Force.

Ms Oji said, “I hereby set aside the entire contempt proceedings in Suit No. FCT/HC/CR/184/2016 between the Federal Republic of Nigeria v AVM Rufus Adeniyi Ojuawo.

“That I further set aside the conviction of the applicant, the Executive Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, for contempt unconditionally.”

The EFCC had in a statement on Tuesday explained that it had released the Range Rover car to the applicant on 27 June 2022, and was in the process of releasing the remaining N40 million.

Also faulting Mr Bawa’s conviction, the commission had said that he was not served with Forms 48 and 49 required to commence contempt proceedings.

Background

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

Mr Bawa’s conviction followed an application by Mr Ojuawo, accusing the EFCC chairperson of refusing to return his seized assets.

Mr Ojuawo was prosecuted by the EFCC on corruption charges but was acquitted by another judge of the FCT High Court.

The order releasing Mr Ojuawo’s properties has been subsisting since the tenure of Ibrahim Magu as the acting chairperson of the EFCC.

The commission continued to flout the court order after Mr Bawa became EFCC’s chairman in February 2021.

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