Over 100 Anti-corruption Civil Society Organisations and thousands of their members and supporters staged a massive protest in Lagos on Saturday in continuation of their call for the removal of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa, over alleged continued disobedience of court orders.
Leaders of the Anti-corruption groups, who began what they described as a “Week Long Protest Against Politicisation of the EFCC, Disobedience of Court Orders and Infringement on Human Rights of Nigerians” on Friday, said many CSOs called to join the struggle after the maiden press conference held in Lagos.
The CSOs were joined by senior lawyers at the rally, staged through the streets of Ikeja, through Ikeja City Mall, ending at the Oregun Junction, in Ikeja, Lagos.
They noted that they were aware of the persistent pressure on and intimidation of the Nigerian media to underplay the dissatisfaction of the anti-corruption CSOs with Bawa, stressing that no amount of intimidation would make them give up their collective struggle against corruption and leaders undermining the struggle.
Spokesperson for the Transparency and Accountability Group, Ayodeji Ologun, who spoke on behalf of the anti-corruption CSOs, said the Coalition of Anti-corruption Organisations, could not watch the country’s legal system being bastardised by the selfish interests of a few, insisting that if Bawa was bent on playing politics, he should get a membership card from any of the political parties.
He said the need to press home their grievance strongly and call for the removal of the EFCC boss was founded on the realisation that some anti-democratic elements were drawing the civil societies back in the fight against corruption.
According to the CSOs, the fixation of the EFCC boss on certain individuals and institutions “when grievous petitions capable of bringing the economy down are left unattended, gives the anti-corruption war, under the leadership of Mr. Bawa, a dangerously political colouration.”
Ologun said, “We are beginning to see anti-democratic elements within the Democratic process, who are daily drawing us back in the fight against corruption. This is a coalition of different civil society organisations against corruption. For a while now, we have observed the EFCC Chairman flagrantly disobeying court orders. And we believe that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. If you are at the helm of affairs of an anti-graft body and you find it difficult to obey court ruling, such a person is a law breaker. You cannot be in charge of taming corruption in the county and you yourself would be a culprit of disobeying court order.”
“One of the essence of leadership is obeying the tenets of democracy and the rule of law and key to that is court ruling. If Bawa has, in the last few months, continued to disobey court orders, he is unfit to sit at the helm of that body and we are calling for his sack,” he declared.
Executive Director, Centre for Public Accountability, Olufemi Lawson, who called on the media to be partners in the struggle for a better society by resisting intimidation, said, “We are not unaware of the persistent pressure on the media to downplay what is happening currently at the EFCC. This is just one of the series of actions that we are going to be undertaking as Nigerians. We will not relent until the Commission begins to toe the path of the rule of law.
“We cannot run a society on the wish and aspirations of a man. It must be consistent with the provisions of our law. And if there is negative pressure on the media, then we will not accept it. We are glad that the media has refused to compromise and we will continue this struggle until the President overhauls the EFCC. The biggest form of corruption is disobedience to the rule of law.”
On his part, Declan Ihehaire, of the Activists for Good Governance, said if Bawa had been committed to prison for disobeying Court order, he must go to prison.
“We have found out that as young as Bawa is, he has refused to obey court orders and he wants to send people to prison. And we are saying you can’t be sending people to prison when you fail to obey the court order that says you must taste the prison for disobedience. You have been convicted three times by competent courts and three times, Bawa has refused to obey. He is not fit to be in office. Bawa must go,” he said.
Leaders of the anti-corruption CSOs that began the call for the removal of Bawa include the Chairman, Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran; Executive Director, Zero Graft Centre, Kolawole Sanchez-Jude; Chairman, Coalition Against Corruption and Bad Governance, Toyin Raheem; Executive Director, Centre for Public Accountability, Olufemi Lawson; and Ahmed Balogun of Media Rights Concern.
Others are Ologun Ayodeji,
Transparency and Accountability Group; Declan Ihehaire, Activists for Good Governance; and Ochiaga Jude, Centre for Ethics and Good Governance, among many others.
Saturday’s protest was also led by Barr. Cletus Okedube, Barr. Johnson Areola, Barr. George Sanda, among a host of other notable activists.