Nigeria: New EFCC Chair - Malami May Not Allow Bawa Operate Independently - Sagay

25 February 2021

The top presidential anti-corruption adviser says Mr Malami has never been inclined to allowing anti-corruption agencies operate freely.

One of President Muhammadu Buhari's top anti-corruption advisers, Itse Sagay, has expressed fears about the influence the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, may have on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under the leadership of its new chair, Abdulrasheed Bawa.

Mr Malami ,who hails from Kebbi State like Mr Bawa, is believed to have engineered the exit of the former acting chair of the commission, Ibrahim Magu, and was instrumental to Mr Bawa's appointment as the new head of the agency.

Mr Sagay, who is the chair of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), said on Wednesday that he was uncomfortable with the fact that Messrs Malami and Bawa share the same state of origin.

He said by sharing the same state of origin, there was possibility that the two men were related, a development which he said would not augur well for the smooth operations of the nation's flagship anti-corruption agency.

In an interview with PUNCH, Mr Sagay also said his fear was based on Mr Malami's previous antecedent of attempt to control the EFCC and interfere in the activities of the anti-corruption agencies.

He said, "This issue is a very big question because I noticed that they both come from the same state of Kebbi and they may even be related. For me, that is not a very healthy thing because the chairman of the EFCC and the EFCC are supposed to be independent.

"They are not politicians, they are trained, security officers. The attorney-general is a politician who has all the weaknesses and loads of a politician. He has people he is obliged to.

"He has people who are close to him. Some of them may be criminals who might have committed crimes. In fact, some of them may deliberately do things because they think they know the attorney-general.

"So, in such a situation, if Bawa is related to the attorney-general, then there will be a problem because he will not be able to do his job freely because the attorney-general will certainly interfere.

"He has already indicated his tendency to interfere in both the EFCC and the ICPC with the regulations he purported to make months ago. So, I am not comfortable at all that the possibility that they might be related."

Although Mr Malami and Mr Bawa are from the same Kebbi State, the attorney-general is from the Birnin-Kebbi local government area of the state, while the new EFCC chairperson hails from Jega local government.

'Malami not inclined to independent EFCC

Speaking further on the matter, Mr Sagay, a vocal supporter of Mr Buhari , said Mr Malami was never inclined to allowing the anti-corruption agencies operate freely.

He said, "Malami has never been inclined to allow the anti-corruption agencies to operate freely. He is always sitting on their neck one way or the other. I have complained about that several times and nothing has happened. In fact, he has become more powerful. So, I will not be comfortable if they are related. I don't want any outside influence on the EFCC or the ICPC."

He, however, said although he did not know the newly-appointed EFCC chairperson personally, he was impressed by what he has read about his "credentials and fairly good record."

He had said, "I don't really know him. I have just read what has been said about him and he seems to have impressive credentials and a fairly good record from what I read apart from this issue of trucks which the EFCC has denied on his behalf.

"So, in as much as the removal of Magu to me looks unsatisfactory, we have to move on and if he is as good as his credentials indicate, then I think the future looks promising for the EFCC."

Mr Bawa nominated by President Buhari as the substantive chairman of the EFCC, was screened and confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday.

No love lost

Mr Sagay, who is an appointee of the President like Messrs Malami and Bawa, is hardly on the same page with the attorney-general on anti-corruption issues.

He criticised the Ayo Salami panel which investigated Mr Magu following allegations levelled against the former EFCC boss by Mr Malami.

One of Mr Sagay's colleagues at PACAC, Femi Odekunle, who died of COVID-19 in December, had also blamed Magu's travails on Mr Malami.

PREMIUM TIMES also reported how Mr Sagay criticised a proposed bill believed to be designed to weaken the EFCC last year.

The controversial bill, which surfaced online, was linked to Mr Malami. But the minister distanced himself from it.

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