When the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was set up in 2003 with a mission to rid Nigeria of Economic and Financial Crimes and to effectively coordinate the domestic effort of the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, there appeared to be a widespread belief in the agency to function and carry out its duties diligently without interference from external parties. The agency was going to be able to prosecute the so-called “untouchable big boys”, government officials, the high and mighty and strike fear into the hearts of intending financial criminals and with a slogan boldly written on the home page of the agency; “EFCC will get you, anywhere, anytime…”, optimism was really at its peak.
And this is not to say that the agency did not live up to the billing with some high-profile indictments such as the arrest of Diepreye Alamieyeseigha in 2005 and several others but it appeared that the strength of the agency began to wane and with various allegations of corruption leveled against the various heads of the agency at different tenures, the confidence in the agency began to drop with some persons believing that the agency had become a puppet of the government using it to witch-hunt only opposition party members.
The suspension of the past acting chairman of the commission Ibrahim Magu on corruption charges related to finances showed once again that there was credence to the whispers that the agency had lost credibility and needed a change of leadership and direction.
The nomination of Abdulrasheed Bawa as the new substantive chairman of the EFCC by President Muhammadu Buhari then seems to be a breath of fresh air and a change from what has been the norm in the agency. Mr. President in accordance with Paragraph 2(3) of Part1, CAP E1 of EFCC Act 2004 appointed Mr. Bawa and now upon confirmation by the Senate, a new substantive chairman for the first time in five years is on the seat.
Suddenly it seems as though Mr. President finally decided to listen to the voice of reason; firstly, departing from the 16-year long tradition of appointing chairmen from the police force. Mr. Bawa is the first non-policeman to head the agency instead emerging from within the agency’s ranks being one of the pioneer EFCC Cadet officers in 2005 and secondly but most importantly appointing the youngest chairman yet in the history of the commission with Mr. Bawa aged 40 years.
The youth have consistently clamored for the inclusion and increased participation of the youth in the leadership of the nation and this appointment seems like a bold show in that direction. Mr. Bawa himself boasts an impressive track record with the Kebbi state origin having served in various capacities within the agency since 2005. In 2007, he was promoted to Deputy Detective Superintendent rising to Senior Detective Superintendent in 2010, and Principal Detective Superintendent in 2013. He also served as the Zonal Head of the Ibadan office in 2018 heading the investigation of all cases as well as the Zonal Head of the Port Harcourt office bagging an unprecedented 215 convictions in 11 months and most recently, the Zonal Head of the Lagos office where he headed the biggest operations bagging 227 convictions despite the pandemic before his appointment.
His resume is equally impressively polished with Mr. Bawa being a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS) and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). Mr. Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity when announcing his appointment mentioned that Mr. Bawa is “a trained EFCC investigator with vast experience in the investigation and prosecution of Advance Fee Fraud cases, official corruption, bank fraud, money laundering, and other economic crimes.”
For the first time in years, there appears to be renewed hope amongst members of the Nigerian community. For one so young, there is certainly a lot of burden and expectation being placed on the shoulders of the new EFCC chairman and he cannot fail. Without a doubt, these are uncertain times for the commission and everyone is watching keenly to see how the new chairman fares in his new role.
Will he prove to be the new dawn we have all cried out for or just false dawn and be one of the “others”? Only time will tell but until then, Congratulations sir!