A High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja, has ordered that the Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, be committed to prison over contempt of court.
Justice Chizoba N. Oji also directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to ensure the committal order is executed.
Oji gave the order on October 28, but a certified true copy was sighted yesterday in the motion on notice brought before the court by Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Rufus Adeniyi Ojuawo against the Federal Government of Nigeria, in a motion marked FCT/HC/M/52/2021, in the suit with the number FCT/HC/CR/184/2016.
Ojuawo had, through his counsel, R.N. Ojabo, sought “an order committing the chairman or acting chairman (or howsoever called), EFCC, Abuja, to prison for his disobedience, and continued disobedience of the order of this honourable court made on November 21, 2018 directing the EFCC to return to the applicant his Range Rover (Super charge) SUV and the sum of N40 million.”
The court held that having considered the motion on notice and the affidavit in support, as well as counter affidavit filed by the respondent and the submissions of EFCC counsel, Francis A. Jirbo, the EFCC chairman is in contempt of the order of the court made on November 21, 2018 directing the release of the applicant’s Range Rover (Super Charge) SUV and the sum of N40 million.
“It is, hereby, ordered as follows: that the chairman is in contempt of the orders of this honourable court made on November 21, 2018, directing the commission to return to the applicant his Range Rover (Super Charge) SUV and the sum of N40 million.
“That having continued willfully in disobedience to the order of this court, he be committed to prison at Kuje Correctional Centre for his disobedience and continued disobedience of the said order of court made on November 21, 2018, until he purges himself of the contempt. That the IGP shall ensure that the order of this honourable court is executed forthwith.”
Ojuawo, a former Chief of Expo, Nigeria Air Force (NAF), was on November 21, 2018 discharged and acquitted by Justice Muawiyah Baba Idris, sitting at Nyanya, Abuja, of a two-count charge bordering on gratification in the suit marked, FCT/HC/CV/184/2016, brought against him by the EFCC.
The one-time NAF Director of Operations was accused of corruptly receiving gratification to the tune of N40 million and a Range Rover SUV from one Hima Aboubakar of Societe D’Equipment Internationaux Nigeria Limited, which he pleaded not guilty to.
The offence, according to the anti-graft agency, was contrary to Section 17(a) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and punishable under Section 17(c) of the same Act.
Idris held that EFCC failed to call Aboubakar, whom he described as a vital and material witness to its case, declaring that this was fatal to the matter.
“It is only by calling Aboubakar Hima as a witness that the mens rea (the purpose or reason of giving the alleged N40 million gratification) would be established,” he held.
He further held that the prosecution did not file any charge against Aboubakar, who allegedly gave the N40 million gratification.
He, therefore, held that for its failure to call Aboubakar, the prosecution failed to prove the two-count charge against Ojuawo.
While discharging and acquitting the defendant, the judge ordered both the N40 million and the Range Rover vehicle be paid and returned to him immediately.
He said: “In conclusion, I hold that the prosecution has failed to prove the two-counts charge of corrupt gratification under Section 17 (1)(a) and (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000. The defendant is discharged and acquitted on counts 1 and 2 of the charge.”