By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye
The chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, in this interview advised politicians to sell themselves, talk about issues and how they are going to solve the problems and not what the problems are. He also encouraged them not to use illegitimate funds in their campaign finances.
Recently, EFCC raided BDCs in some parts of the country. What informed that decision and what was the outcome?
I don’t want to use the word raid, but sting operations, you know, based on intelligence that we have gathered. We realize that there are a lot of speculators out there. There are a lot of funds that illegitimately traced to them. And then of course, we have to do what we have to do based on the informed and credible intelligence that we have gathered.
So, in your estimation, what was the result of the raid?
The result was a very successful one and we’re analysing the facts that we have gathered and we’ll continue to do that, you know, until of course the information is otherwise.
What do you mean by successful?
Successful in the sense that we got an intel that says that there is this and then we went for it, and then we realize that yes, it is true. And then of course, you know, based on our mandate of fighting crime, we realize that yes, the funds and Intel are leading towards that, and that is why it is successful.
Recoveries were made?
Of course, recoveries were made and recoveries will continue to be made. I don’t want to mention figures in terms of the amount but it is huge.
It is already out in the public space that it is $6 million; is that true?
Well, the figures are the figures.
How significant is the Naira redesign in the fight against corruption?
Oh, it is very significant. You know, there is an obligation of money laundering law that we have, in which an individual is expected to carry out a transaction that is above N5 million through the financial institution; there is also the threshold in which a corporate entity is expected to carry out transactions that is above 10 million in the financial sector. And why is it so? It is so because financial institutions are expected to be making currency transaction reports and suspicious transaction reports to relevant agencies and with that, you know, institutions like us will be able to monitor which funds are legitimate and which ones are not legitimate. And here we are now, in which 85 percent of our currency is out in circulation and people are carrying out transactions above the threshold as provided for by this provision over and above that we will not be able to monitor; we don’t know what they’re doing.
These are the transactions that are creating and giving avenue to other forms of crime that we are seeing in this country – payment of ransom, banditry, and all of that, payment of bribe to political actors, and the rest. So, we are happy with this Naira redesign in the sense that it will give the Central Bank of Nigeria an opportunity to go back to square one; by the time they collect all these monies back to their system, then they are going to control the monies that they are going to release to the system.
And then of course, you know, once the money is back within the financial institution, it will help to further boost economic activities in the sense that there will be more money for people to borrow; you understand and then we on our own part will have the avenue of monitoring what we are doing with all these huge resources that are out there before and that are now within the financial institution.
So, it is a good thing for all of us, for the entire country and that is why we are calling on Nigerians to embrace the policy, to thank the President for coming up with this and then of course, to champion the cause of the successful implementation of this Naira redesign. On our part, of course, you know, we will continue to call on Nigerians to know that the whistleblower policy is still on and running and for information that of course, that Nigerians will come forth with; they stand the chance of getting up to five percent of what we will successfully recover that illegitimately earned.
On your fight against cybercrime, we believe you also act on intelligence. But the way your operatives carry out their assignments is worrisome. They go into places acting on intelligence, but the manner they go in, they break down doors, windows and demolish so many things. But in the end, they might not find what they’re looking for. And they leave the owners of those things with damages to take care of, is there a better way that your operatives can assess places they want to look for possible criminals?
We are aware of this issue that you have raised, but it’s minimal, is negligible. You know, when somebody writes an exam, and he scored 98, 99 but then you’re hammering on the one percent. Yeah, that one percent is important because we are talking about individuals and for issues of this nature that you have mentioned, we have been addressing them time and time again. But we should have positive outlook and positive approach to these issues.
As at 4th of November 2022, the EFCC has recorded 3,228 convictions in court; half of these convictions are related to cybercrime. It has never happened in the history of this country. So this is a huge problem that we have in which our younger brothers and sisters are engaged in this crime that they are shouting that yes, it is not Nigeria’s money. So, we have to work together and ensure that look, we live in a country of this crime that is, you know, tarnishing the image of our country; you know, bringing in illegitimate form and distorting the economic flow of our country and that is what we should be looking at. I’m not saying that we are 100 percent okay, we are human beings and as human beings, we are expected to make mistakes here and there, but we are learning by the day.
Of course, we were here when we came here and the President launched our standard operation procedure that is guiding us; you know, going forward in the EFCC and we are very proud of the achievement that we have made thus far. We should have positive outlook to some of these issues and calm the country down instead of talking about issues that are neither here nor there that people cannot even confirm the reliability of this and then you the journalists will now amplify only the negative things that are coming out of of this all important job of fighting corruption in this country.
How are you finding this job? What are the threats.
Well, the job is an amazing job. You know, I thought I’m going to serve for 35 years and retire at 59 but the President decided otherwise. I have now reached the pinnacle of my career at a very young age of 40 years. And God willing, I will continue to serve my country in the best possible way until I leave the job. So the job is good, you know, we are working to contribute our quota towards the development of our country. And I think that is the most important thing.
Is it true that you are using EagleEye monitoring three governors in Nigeria as regards the redesign of the Naira. Some governors allegedly wanting to spend the Naira in paying for salaries. Is it true?
You are mixing two things. EagleEye is an app. It’s a novel idea of the EFCC that we launched for the ease of reporting crime to us. Nigerians can easily download it, you know, on their phones, either Android or Apple or wherever. And then of course, they can send in complaints to us through The EagleEye; you can even take pictures and send. Let me use this opportunity to remind Nigerians that EagleEye is very important for those that are reporting the hoarders of these currencies that we know that are out there. So that is one. On the issue of the governors that we are monitoring, in fact, the numbers have even increased. We are monitoring everything.
How many are they?
Well, I don’t want to give you the figures so that you won’t go and speculate whether they are in the North or in the South. But it’s important that Nigeria keys into it.
What is the message to politicians?
For politicians, the message is very clear. Of course you know, they should sell themselves, they should talk about issues. We want to hear about how they are going to solve the problems, not what the problems are. I think is very important and I think they are doing that. And then of course, we encourage that they shouldn’t use illegitimate funds in their campaign finances and all of that.
A court ordered your arrest, why are you not in Kuje prison?
Well, from the records if you have followed the issue very well, an allegation was made against a retired; I mean, whether he was serving as a military officer then, that he collected bribes of a vehicle and money and he was charged to court by the EFCC. And at the end of the case, he was discharged and acquitted. Why, because the giver of the bribe we couldn’t get him to come and testify. That is the information that I have got and then of course, he was asked to be given his items, that are with the EFCC which the EFCC has appealed. They have posed a file in contempt long before I was the chairman and that if it is an issue of contempt, it’s a quasi criminal matter. There are some forms that you have to unveil the veil of the corporation and serve the individual that is being charged with contempt. And from the records, that has not been done and it has to be an individual, not the seat that I’m occupying. These are issues that have been on before I became the chairman and when I came on board, I reviewed it. I approved that the vehicle and the monies be released to him, subject to the determination of in court. It is in compliance with what have been pushing to allow the rule of law to take its course and in June of this year, the car was released.
We had started the process of releasing the funds when we got the judgment which of course we were all surprised about but we have been able to go back to the court and the court has seen reason with us and has completely reversed that earlier decision. So that is where we are now and I think that clarifies the issue.
How supportive is the President in your efforts to discharge the mandate?
The President is 100 percent supportive from day one. Everybody knows that the president is the anti corruption champion. And of course, he has been supportive you know in whatever that we need. Of course, it is all about political will and political action and he has exhibited both in what we are doing. And of course, as the saying goes, this issue of the Naira redesign that he came up with is helping us tremendously to sanitize the entire system of this hoarding and money laundering that is taking place, with cash all around the country and we have to just pray for the President for God to give him more wisdom and good health, to continue to do all the good things that he has been doing in the last seven and a half years.
What has he been telling you?
He has been encouraging me all along and of course, whenever we meet, I tend to tap from his knowledge of this country because he has been in the public space for close to 50 years so he knows, the good, the bad and the ugly of this country and I am very happy and opportune, you know, to be having these kind of meetings with him in which I’m being guided on so many things that I need to know as a young man, you know, growing up in public life in this country.
You have been reported that the dollar will crash to N200, how is that going to happen?
Well, you see, I’m a student of economics. My first degree is in economics. I’m not claiming to be an economist. I’m not an expert in that. But I do know that value of the currency of course, you know, can be brought in through some real economic activities. But from what we’re seeing these days, you know, the dollar is up 890 and then it is down 690. What happened? is it that we have all of a sudden within 10 days, carried out some certain miraculous economic activities to warrant the crashing of the USD and then we just realize that it’s just about speculation. Majority of this main transactions on USD is that is happening on the streets and among individuals are not for any economic reality. They’re just using it as a means to store value and that is why it can go up and that is why it can come down: as a Nigerian, I wish of course, let the dollar come down to N200 so that at least we will not be relying on imported goods, but rather to build our own economy here, and then and then we’ll move on, we’ll take it on from there.
And we believe with this issue of narrative design and the good government policies being pushed, Dollar is going to crash to N200 Naira, God willing.