The chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, yesterday, said that Nigerians have the power to deal with presidential aspirants, who have pending corruption cases.

Speaking during a media parley in Ikeja, Bawa noted that Nigerians were aware of the characters and pending corruption cases against some presidential aspirants, and that it was up to them to deal with these corrupt politicians by deciding the person to elect to lead them in the next election.

The media parley was Bawa’s first official engagement since his assumption of office as the EFCC chairman a year ago.

His words: “Nigerians are aware of everyone’s character, so Nigerians should decide who they want to elect to lead them in the next election.  The constitution provision is that there should presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Except if the person is pronounced guilty of the offence, there’s nothing we can do.”

Bawa, however, spoke about challenges inherent in prosecuting some presidential aspirants, who have pending corruption cases, following questions on what he was doing about the statement of the former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo during his 85th birthday at the weekend.

It will be recalled that Obasanjo, while making references about presidential aspirants with corruption cases, stated that some of them should have been in jail if the anti-graft agencies in the country had done their jobs properly.

Obasanjo said: “I cast a cursory look at some of the people running around and those for whom people are running around. If the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) will have done their jobs properly and supported adequately by the judiciary, most of them would be in jail. Any person who has no integrity in small things cannot have integrity in big things.”

Further responding to questions on how free from interference the EFCC was from politicians and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Bawa said: “I want to assure you that the EFCC is an independent agency and has always been so. We need to know and understand as a Nigerian and a country, we need to learn how to trust our leaders.  We shouldn’t always be thinking negatively about our leaders. We are in a democracy; the legislators are on one side, you have the judiciary and then the executives. If you are not under the judiciary, you are automatically under the executives. It is out of sheer provision of the law that makes agencies like ours highly constitutional. There’s that independence of the agency, not to tell us what to do. But of course we have to go through procedures. Someone has the power to appoint and sack you. And certainly, a certain level to ask you what you’re doing this case or that. We all how we started, one party was ruling, now another party is ruling. However, the question has always remained; those that are being alleged of having done one or two things, are they free of those allegations? The answer is no. People need to understand that the AGF is the chief law officer of the federation, whether we like it or not as provided by the constitution.  We should be able to respect that office and respect our constitution. But is the EFCC under the office of the AGF? The answer is no. But as Chief law officer, we have a lot of issues that cross our day to day activities like general criminal justice administration.”

Applauding Obasanjo for the boldness of his statement concerning presidential aspirants with corruption cases, Bawa said that Obasanjo’s love for Nigeria was not in doubt, adding, “There are few Nigerians that you can compare that love this country more than Baba himself. He has always been in the public space and has served this country. Of course Baba is right.  There are many people that we have cases against, but they are out there. However, there’s this presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Even if the matter is in court, in as much as the judge didn’t pronounce the person guilty, the person still has a right to go and contest the election. That’s the honest truth and that is the situation we find ourselves in.”

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