Senate had on June 13, 2017 condemned the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN) for failure to forward written submissions or written memoranda explaining government positions on the anti-corruption bills which are before the senate for passage dilemma
Senate made the remark when the AGF failed to appear before the public hearing jointly conducted by its committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes on two critical bills meant to boost the current administration’s anti-corruption crusade.
The two bills are Proceeds of Crimes Bill 2017 and Nigerian Assets Management (Establishment etc) Bill 2017.
Trouble started for the AGF at the public hearing when an officer from his office, Anthony Abah introduced himself as his representative and informed the committee that the AGF could not attend the session on account of other pressing official engagements he had for the day.
Abah who went further to inform the committee that the AGF’s office had no written memorandum on its position on the two bills, informed lawmakers that an executive bill combining the two proposals would soon be forwarded to the National Assembly for legislation.
Irked by the submission, the Committee Chairman, Senator David Umaru, said his submission was unfair and unacceptable to the committee.
“This is unacceptable to us. One, you have no written memorandum on your position on the bills. Two, your principal, the AGF who was recently reported in the media to have castigated the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly for allegedly sitting on anti-corruption bills sent by the executive is not here and three, your submission is neither here nor there.
“What is expected from the Office of the Attorney- General on these bills are clearly written positions saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and not verbal proposition or information on another bill,” he said.
Also condemning the attitude of the AGF, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP Enugu North), described the excuse given for his absence at the session as lame and unacceptable.
Beside this evaluation by the senate, the hostility amongst President Muhammadu Buhari’s ‘’anti-corruption war field generals’’ could explain the near absence of success or achievement recorded so far.
Following the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) judgement of June 14, 2017 acquitting Senate President, Bukola Saraki of the 18 charges of false asset declaration and other related offences preferred against him in September 2015, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) chairman, Professor Itse Sagay (SAN) had attacked Malami of not leading the fight against corruption properly.
The minister quickly responded thus: “The truth of the matter is that the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation is totally, fully and completely committed, dedicated and supports the war against corruption in all its form and ramification.”
The most critical collateral damage to PMB’s anti-corruption war is the recurring disagreement between AGF and the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu.
Even though the President is eager to blame the wobbling anti-corruption war on judges, defence lawyers and the accused persons, it had refused to see inter-agencies rivalry as a clog in the wheel of progress.[
Malami had in February this year given the EFCC boss, Magu, 48 hours to explain why the agency filed corruption charges against the CCT Chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar. AGF said in his letter dated February 16 with Reference No DPP/ADV:368/15, that the clarification was necessitated by the fact that EFCC under Magu, had on two occasions, cleared the CCT boss of complicity in the N10million bribery allegation upon which the charge was based.
The query titled “FRN VS Danladi Umar (CR/109/18) request for Briefing”, read in part: “The attention of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation was drawn to news report that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has filed charges of corruption against the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Hon. Justice Danladi Umar, before the FCT High Court
To continue to defy the AGF, the EFCC must first amend the 1999 Constitution to enable it usurp and appropriate the powers of the AGF clearly spelt out in section 174 of the 1999 Constitution. This section donates to the AGF, absolute powers to institute, take over or discontinue any criminal proceedings in Nigeria, subject to certain constitutional imperatives, which do not, however, concern the EFCC
This is just as the AGF openly accused the EFCC of frustrating the prosecution of high-profile cases. It accused the commission of breaching the rules guiding prosecution of high level corruption cases being handled by the commission.
In August 2017, the AGF wrote to Magu, seeking compliance with the regulation on the prosecution of “serious or complex” cases, usually understood to mean high-profile investigations. Specifically, the AGF is accusing Magu of breaching section 10(1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Enforcement) Regulations 2010. The regulation mandates the EFCC to forward the outcome of investigations along with its recommendations to the AGF in cases or complaints that are “serious or complex”.
The AGF had, in a letter dated August 1, 2017, with reference number HAGF/EFCC/2017/VOL.1/19 and signed by one Abiodun Aikomo, Esq, addressed to the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, referred to the Commission (Enforcement) Regulations 2010 published in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette, No 61, Vol. 97 of 21st September 2010, particularly the obligations of the EFCC.
The letter reads in part: “I am directed to refer specifically to Section 10(1) which mandates the commission to forward to the Attorney General, in respect of a case or complaint which is serious or complex within the context of the Regulation, the outcome of its investigation(s) with its recommendations on whether there are sufficient grounds to initiate prosecution.
“The AGF observes that the Commission has been in breach of the above cited provision of the Regulation for some time, hence this reminder to the Commission to ensure compliance going forward.
But the EFCC boss had allegedly been ignoring the AGF. The commission’s officials believe Malami is seeking to take over the prosecution of cases handled by the commission in order to water down the anti-graft war, an allegation which the minister denied.
As if the ageless Poet, W.B.Yeat is repeating his famous words, ‘’Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer; things fall apart; the centre cannot hold’’; because Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution confers prosecutorial power on the AGF.
At a point, the dispute between Malami and Magu degenerated further when the Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, Mr Okoi Obono-Obla, said that Malami would report Magu and Ekpo Nta, chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to the Presidency for breaching the rules.
He accused the agencies of withholding the case files of more than 35 former governors and senators from the AGF. Obono-Obla said the failure to forward the files to the AGF since July 2016 when the request was made had caused a setback to the anti-graft war, blaming the strings of losses recorded in high-profile cases on the “breach”. He also accused the EFCC and ICPC of failing to cooperate with Malami, which had led to the loss of some high-profile corruption cases.
The Presidency had requested the Senate to confirm the Acting EFCC Chairman, Magu’s nomination in July 2016 through a letter signed by Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo in his capacity as the acting president when Buhari was away on a medical trip. The Senate President Bukola Saraki read the nomination letter on July 14, 2016.
However, the Senate showed no readiness to act on it until after several months of delay before the upper chamber brought it up on December 15, 2016 and consequently rejected Magu’s nomination citing security concerns.
The spokesperson for the senate, Abdullahi Sabi, had announced after one-hour executive session that Magu’s nomination by Buhari as EFCC chairman had been rejected. “The Senate wishes to inform the public that based on available security report, the Senate cannot proceed with the confirmation of Magu as Chairman of the EFCC. The nomination of Ibrahim Magu is hereby rejected and has been returned to the President for further action,” said Mr. Abdullahi.
In the report, the SSS concluded Magu would constitute a liability to Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign, and ask that he should not be confirmed.
After the presidency received formal notice from the Senate on Magu’s rejection, President Buhari announced he was referring all allegations of corruption against top officials of his government, including Magu, to the Attorney-General for investigations
But before the President left the country for the United Kingdom, he signed off the letter for Magu’s re-nomination for transfer to the Senate.
Again, the DSS headed by Lawal Musa Daura in its second letter dated March 14, 2017 countering President Buhari’s nomination for the second time, a move not even in practice in USA, , indicted Magu for corruption, saying he is living a double life, and concluding that Magu lacks the integrity and was not fit for the purpose to head the EFCC. Senate harp on this letter for total rejection of Magu’s nomination.
On December 12, 2006, the EFCC had issued an interim investigative report and prepared a draft of 223 charges against Odili, accusing him of embezzling N100bn during his tenure
In a counter-move, the then Attorney General of the state, and later Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Odein Ajumogobia (SAN), on February 23, 2007, sued the EFCC, the then Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, and other defendants in a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt.
In the suit, Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt granted Odili’s prayer to bar the EFCC from investigating, prosecuting or ever harassing him and officials of his administration. In a ruling delivered on 5 March 2008, the learned Judge held that: “The subsisting judgment of March 2007 by this court is binding on all parties. Therefore there is a perpetual injunction restraining the EFCC from arresting, detaining and arraigning Odili on the basis of his tenure as governor based on the purported investigation.”
By all indication, the EFCC and unsurprisingly the AGF (who also superintends the EFCC) have either failed to appeal the judgement or neglected or abandoned any such appeal.
In December 2016, the Federal Government sent to the National Assembly, a bill seeking for the establishment of a special anti-corruption court to try serious crimes, including corruption cases. The Special Crimes Bill 2016 was drafted by Sagay-led Committee. The bill which seeks for speedy trial of anti-corruption cases is titled, “An Act to provide for the establishment of a Special Crimes Court as a superior court of record to allow for speedy trials of certain offences, including economic and financial crimes, terrorism, money laundering and corruption offences and for related matters”.
The bill proposed in section 7(1) of the bill that it “shall have and exercise exclusive jurisdiction and power in respect of offences specified in Schedule 1 to this Act to be known as ‘scheduled offences’”.
The “scheduled offences” stated in Schedule 1 of the bill are “Terrorism offences under the Terrorism (Prevention) Act (No. 10 of 2011) as amended; “Economic and financial crimes under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act (E1 LFN 2004); “Money laundering offences under the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act (No 11 of 2011) as amended; “Narcotic drugs and psychotropic corruption substances offences under the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act (N30 LFN 2004); “Trafficking and kidnapping offences under the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015 (No 32 of 2015); “Corruption offences under the Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act (C31 LFN 2004); “Kidnapping offences under the Criminal Code (C38 LFN) and the Penal Code (P3 LFN 2004).
Come to think of it, more than 90% of the 21 ex-governors and deputy governors now in the senate are either facing corruption trial in courts or under investigation for corruption. The 21 ex-govors and exeputies in the senate currently are: Bukola Saraki of Kwara, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano, Kabiru Gaya of Kano, Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, Theodore Orji of Abia, Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa, Sam Egwu of Ebonyi, Shaaba Lafiagi of Kwara, Joshua Dariye of Plateau Jonah Jang of Plateau, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto, Ahmed Sani Yarima of Zamfara, Danjuma Goje of Gombe, Bukar Abba Ibrahim of Yobe, Adamu Aliero of Kebbi, George Akume of Benue and Isiaka Adeleke of Osun. Former deputy governors in the Senate are Ms Biodun Olujimi of Ekiti and Enyinaya Harcourt Abaribe of Abia. Danladi Abubakar Sani served as the acting governor of Taraba state. By passing the bill for the special court will amount to signing their death warrants themselves, which is highly unlikely.
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