The suspension was announced in a statement on Wednesday by Willie Bassey, Director, Information in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation
“This follows weighty allegations of abuse of office levelled against him. Mr Bawa has been directed to immediately handover the affairs of his office to the Director, Operations in the Commission, who will oversee the affairs of the Office of the Chairman of the Commission pending the conclusion of the investigation,” the statement read.
Bawa’s suspension was coming less than one week after the President suspended the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele.
Daily Trust takes a look at some of the controversies that trailed Bawa’s years at the helm of the anti-graft agency.
Bawa assumed office on the back of discontent expressed in some quarters. There were debates over whether he was qualified to head the agency when he was appointed by former President Muhammadu Buhari in February 2021.
Bawa was Deputy Chief Detective Superintendent at the time and the youngest official (at 40 then) to be appointed as EFCC chairman. He was the first to be appointed without being a high-ranking officer of the Nigeria Police Force.
COLLAPSES AT AN EVENT
About seven months into his appointment, Bawa went dizzy while delivering an address at an event organised by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) at Aso Rock.
“As you are aware, today is the 16th of September and it is the National Identity Day. I was invited for a programme by NIMC, specifically, by the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy on September 17, 2021.
“While I was giving my good will message during the programme there was a bit of dizziness on me and I had to excuse myself from the stage,” Bawa had said in an interview he granted later that day.
CLASH WITH MATAWALLE
Bawa and the immediate past governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, were locked in a battle of words recently with both parties making weighty allegations against each other.
While the EFCC said Matawalle was being investigated over an alleged N70bn fraud, the former governor accused Bawa of demanding a $2 million bribe, an allegation he denied.
COURT ORDERS BAWA’S ARREST
In February 2023, a Kogi State High Court sitting in Lokoja ordered that Bawa should be imprisoned for disobeying court order.
The court also directed the Inspector General of Police to arrest Bawa and remand him in Kuje prison, Abuja, for the next 14 days.
The judge, Rukayat Ayoola, ordered that Bawa be detained in prison “until he purges himself of the contempt.”
Ms Ayoola issued the committal order based on an application filed by Ali Bello accusing Bawa of disobeying a court ruling by going ahead to arraign him on 15 December 2022 against an earlier court order made on 12 December 2022.
The court had ruled that the arrest and detention of Bello on 29 November 2022 by EFCC and its chair in the face of an earlier subsisting court order without a warrant of arrest or being informed of the offence for which he was arrested is unlawful and unconstitutional.
However, the ruling on Bawa’s arrest was appealed.
CALL FOR EFCC CHAIR’S SACK
At a press conference held in Lagos in February 2023, over 40 anti-corruption civil society organisations asked the then President Muhammadu Buhari to sack Bawa, for “incessant disobedience of court orders.”
They noted that the commission had derailed from its mission and was now politicised.
The CSOs led by the Chairman of the Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership, Mr Debo Adeniran, said Bawa had made the EFCC an “institution known for brazenly disobeying court orders in such a manner that does not only undermine the institutions of Nigeria’s democracy but also indicates a contradiction to the anti-corruption agenda of Buhari.”
They demanded that Bawa must be sacked in order for the commission to “recover its past glory”.