President Muhammadu Buhari has just assigned portfolios to the 43 ministers he earlier nominated and were screened by the Senate. The portfolios were announced after a two-day retreat on what the administration expects from cabinet members.
Some returning ministers got new portfolios while others went back to their previous seats. The switch and retention of positions would surely generate public reactions. But one position many did not expect a change is that of the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
Abubakar Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) was re-assigned to the office of the AGF at a time many thought President Buhari would act otherwise. But the return of Malami to the Justice ministry would certainly be cheering news for lovers of the Buhari administration who had followed the transformation of the AGF’s role in the last four years.
Malami has re-shaped and given a new and refreshing personality to the office of the AGF and transformed public perception of the office. Quiet, cool and less dramatic in his approach to the job, Malami makes achievement of government and national targets a priority of the office.
He had demonstrated pragmatism where others would choose fancy and unreasonable theories. His practical, down-to-earth style has saved the country millions of US Dollars that could have been squandered on unnecessary legal rigmarole. A good example is the prudent and discreet way he negotiated the return of late General Sani Abacha’s loot seized by the Swiss government.
While foreign lawyers were asking for 20 percent of the fund in view, Malami got two Nigerian lawyers with international experience in such matters to handle negotiations for the country at just five percent charge! The move, daring as it was, saved Nigeria a lot of money that could have gone to foreign agents. It also led to a quicker repatriation of the fund into the country and its has been used to fund some of the government’s social investments schemes to lift people out of poverty.
Malami had also raised the bar and standard of criminal investigations for government prosecutorial agencies, including the Nigerian Police Force and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). A stickler for detailed and meticulous investigations before prosecution, the Justice ministry under Malami had insisted on diligent investigations by prosecuting agencies before charges are filed in court.
The ministry under him was not shy to return files on high profile cases to law enforcement agencies for more assiduous investigations. Now, gone are the days when prosecuting agencies squander public funds on prosecuting cases that are usually lost due to poor investigations and shoddy prosecution.
Moreover, Malami had given teeth to the anti-corruption agenda of the Buhari administration by finding legal weapons for it to wield, and a good example of this is the Executive Orders recently signed by the President. The Executive Order 6, for instance, prevents persons undergoing corruption trial from holding and controlling asset acquired from proceeds of corruption.
President Buhari certainly demonstrated his love for consistency and performance by re-assigning Malami to the ministry of justice. It is one appointment that many would tick as correct.
–Suleiman wrote from Abuja
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