Critics of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration are always quick to claim it lacks respect for the rule of the law, and their only evidence is the continuing incarceration of Colonel Sambo Dasuki, the former National Security Adviser to Buhari’s immediate predecessor in office, former President Good luck Jonathan.
Dasuki is facing a 32-count charge in court for his alleged involvement in money laundering and abuse of office. He is alleged to have illegally disbursed $2.1 billion meant for the purchase of arms to political associates of the former President. Although Dasuki had been granted bail by the court, the Federal Government has continued to hold him on fresh charges.
> Dasuki’s colleagues in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have used the continuing incarceration of Dasuki as example of the failure of the rule of law in the country. While one is not holding brief for the Buhari administration, it is doubtful if government would just be holding Dasuki for no good reason. And the reason, as officials of the government have said in the past, must be for the public good.
This mindset of the opposition party, especially the PDP, which has substantial members in the Senate and the House of Representatives, is partly responsible for the harsh criticism the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has been receiving from the lawmakers.
But nothing shows how the AGF and Buhari have been unfairly criticized by the opposition as the position the Ministry of Justice has taken on the case against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki. The report from the ministry on the interim report of police investigations into the recent robbery incident in Offa, which links Saraki to the robbery is a clear indication that the AGF is always concerned about the rule of law and due diligence in investigations.
The police report sent to the office of the AGF claims that Saraki and Governor Ahmed of Kwara State were directly linked to the robbery. The police claim that the principal suspects and the gang leaders of the robbery operation had confessed that Saraki and the governor supplied them with arms with which they used for the operation, and the vehicles they used were given to them by the accused.
But in a letter signed by Mohammed U.E, the Director, Public Prosecution and leaked to the Press by Saraki, the ministry of justice said the evidence provided by the police was not strong enough to establish a link between the accused and the robbery gang.
The letter reads: “For the senate president and the Kwara State governor, this office is unable to establish from the evidence in the interim report a nexus between the alleged offence and the suspects. Hence, it is our advice that further and thorough investigation in this regard be carried out.”
Although it did not exonerate Saraki and Governor Ahmed from the robbery, even though the accused are celebrating it as an acquittal, it has stated in unmistakable terms that that prosecution by the federal government must be thorough and devoid of sentiments. It is unlikely that any other AGF, given the current circumstances where the accused have constituted themselves into an opposition within a ruling party, would have acted the same way.
This is not the first time Malami has acted in the interest of the rule of law. He did the same thing in the case against Mohammed Adoke and others in the Halliburton Scandal. In a reply to the investigation report of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Adoke and others, the AGF stated that evidence adduced by the EFCC to support charges against the accused were not weighty enough to win a conviction in court and recommended that further investigations be carried out. He also suggested areas of further investigations.
Of course, his position on these issues may conflict with some persons in the ruling party. But as the Chief Law Officer of the country, he owes it a duty to the country to do what is in the best interest of the country.
It is not surprising that AGF Malami is a stickler for the rule of law. He has practiced law for several years and represented previous members of opposition parties in court, including the current president when he challenged election results in courts. So Malami knows what the rule of law means and how it can impact on confidence in government and the justice system.
But it speaks to the quality of the current opposition that none of the parties has commended the stand of the AGF on the Saraki case. Even though the PDP had claimed Saraki was being persecuted, the party had always refused to commend the administration when it is deserved. But it is quick to raise alarm or criticize the government without proffering any feasible alternatives.
While Saraki’s camp is celebrating what they see as an acquittal, the police is understandably unhappy at the position of the AGF. That was why the Force Headquarters immediately issued a rebuttal to the media report that Saraki and Co had been cleared of any connection to the Offa robbery.
In a statement signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, the police said it was incumbent on it to clarify that the advice from the ministry of justice did not restrain the Force from further investigating Saraki and Governor Ahmed. The statement said: “The DPP advice did not exonerate the Senate President, it only called for further investigations into the matter.”
The police said it was continuing with investigations and that it was convinced that Saraki still has a case to answer because the statements he submitted to the police were not “explicit and detailed enough” and was “discovered to require further clarifications and interrogation.”
I am sure if the police managed to find enough evidence the AGF believes could win conviction, and directs prosecution of Saraki and Co, the opposition would as usual, hit the road with tales of persecution and witchunt. That is the colour of opposition in this clime.
– Saidu wrote from Sokoto