The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, has been sentenced to Kuje Prison for contempt of court.
The verdict was passed 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,November 8th.
Bawa was convicted of contempt of court in relation to the failure of the anti-graft agency to comply with a November 21st, 2018 court order which directed the EFCC to return a Range Rover and the sum of N40 million to the applicant in a suit.
The ruling, which was delivered on October 28, 2022, was on a motion on notice marked: FCT/HC/M/52/2021 filed by a one-time Director of Operations at the Nigerian Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Rufus Ojuawo.
Ojuawo had filed a motion through his lawyer, R.N. Ojabo, in a 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.
The EFCC had arraigned Ojuawo on two counts before Justice Muawiyah Idris of the High Court of the FCT in Nyanya in 2016 for corruptly receiving gratification to the tune of N40 million and a Range Rover Sport (Supercharged) from one Hima Aboubakar of Societe D’Equipment Internationaux Nigeria Limited.
However, in a November 21, 2018 ruling, Justice Idris discharged and acquitted Ojuawo on the grounds that the prosecution failed to prove its case and found him innocent.
The judge who found Ojuawo innocent,Idris had held that for the charge to succeed, the prosecution must prove that the defendant corruptly accepted the gift; that he accepted or obtained the gift for himself or for any other person.
He insisted that the prosecution had to prove all ingredients of the charge preferred against the defendant beyond reasonable doubt as required under Section 131(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011.
The court had also held that the anti-graft agency should return Ojuawo’s seized properties 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 media correspondents, however, said, “The Commission is appealing the ruling.”