A Group, Say No Campaign in collaboration with Connected Development (CODE), YES Project, YIAGA AFRICA, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Action Aid Nigeria among others have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to reconfigure the fight against corruption, by ensuring people with questionable characters are not appointed to sensitive positions.
The Group in an open letter addressed to the President and signed by Co-convener of the Campaign Ezenwa Nwagwu urged the President urged that in view of the above Mr Abubakar Malami should not be returned to the all-important office of the Minister of Justice, to avoid further sabotage of the government’s important agenda on fighting corruption.
The Group also in a Freedom of Information request made available to LEADERSHIP referred to a media report by the Punch newspaper dated February 5, 2019, quoted that the Federal Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Switzerland on the return and monitoring of the $322.5m Abacha loot, confirmed by the former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, and paid through the Central Bank of Nigeria on December 18, 2017.
“With the development, the Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Enrico Monfrini, said the country had returned all Abacha loot hidden in the country’s banks to the Federal Government. However, in another media report of the Cable Newspaper dated July 5th, 2019 another set of Nigerian lawyers Oladipo Okpeseyi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and Temitope Isaac Adebayo have been engaged for a job already completed by Mr Monfrini, for a fee of $17million (about N6 billion)” it read.
The Group in its request demanded a breakdown of the amount approved and released for the Nigerian lawyers (Okpeseyi and Adebayo) between the time they were appointed and now, they further demanded records showing payment timeline for the services of the Swiss lawyer (Enrico Monfrini), copy of the proposal sent to the Ministry of Finance for the payment of the lawyers’ fees and all other relevant correspondences to this transaction.
Meanwhile the SNC has called on President Buhari to “reconfigure the fight against corruption by ensuring people with questionable characters are not appointed to sensitive positions capable of curtailing the independence of key anticorruption agencies and the fight against corruption”
They also urged the President to consider separation of the office of the AGF from the Minister of Justice to avoid conferring such enormous power to an individual.
While congratulating the President, for taking the oath of office for a fresh term of four years, they stated that “Nigerians recall many shady and odious roles the outgoing Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has played to deliberately frustrate the fight against corruption the last three years.
They said “The last four years, Nigeria made important progress with the full introduction of the Treasury Single Account, Bank Verification Number, and Human Resources management programs resulting in huge savings. The period witnessed trial of a sitting senate president and a Chief Justice of Nigeria convicted on allegations of corruption, past state governors sentenced for fraud, recovery of looted assets, greater transparency in governance, and intensified demand for accountability among citizens.
They however alleged that the recorded achievements notwithstanding, one of the greatest disappointments in the fight against corruption under this administration had come, surprisingly, from the office of the Chief Law Officer of the country the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice.
These they listed to include the Malabu scandal involving former Oil Minister Dan Etete, Eni and Shell in a heist allegedly resulting in a loss of more than $US1billion to Nigeria. The alleged role of the minister in the fraudulent reinstatement of former chairman of Pension Task Force, Abdulrasheed Maina who was wanted on allegations of corruption, into the federal civil service and the shady deal involving the minister which led to the approval for payment of a highly controversial and contentious payment of $17 million to two lawyers for an already concluded deal on the repatriation of the Abacha loot from the Swiss Bank among others
“These actions are inconsistent with the expectations on the office of the Attorney General and Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice and inimical to the commitment of this administration’s zest to fight corruption. The minister’s actions demonstrate impunity, contempt for the fight against corruption and outright abuse of public authority and sovereignty of the Nigerian people vested in this administration. The current attorney general is undeserving of the exalted office and the confidence of the Nigerian people in delivering a second term to this administration”
“Mr President, we believe that to fashion an aggressive fight against corruption, the Chief Law Officer must be of impeccable character, incorruptible, have respect for the rule of law, be courageous with a hunger for Justice. Unfortunately, Mr. Abubakar Malami has shown himself to be a far cry from these requirements.”
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