Upon his successful ascendance into power in 2015, key and most urgent jobs that needed to be delivered to Nigerians by President Mohammadu Buhari which also served as parts of his election promises were the war against graft and insecurity. So, President Buhari had to search thoroughly for an unbiassed and fearless erudite chief law officer that can help in his Justice reform drives aimed at ridding Nigeria off corruption and insecurity. “…. At home we face enormous challenges…. Insecurity, pervasive corruption…. We are going to tackle them head on….” The president said in 2015, during his inaugural speech. To help the president tackle these “Insecurity, pervasive corruption” according to the demands of Nigeria’s constitution was a Legal Luminary Abubakar Malami Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
Appointed Honourable Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Nigeria in 2015 Abubakar Malami SAN having obliged his boss President Mohammed has placed his footprints in the sands of time following his laudable justice reforms initiatives in Nigeria. From the humongous recoveries of looted funds to speedy trial in rape cases as well laudable initiative on decongestion of the nation’s Correctional Centres which includes monitoring the compliance of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, AGF Abubakar Malami SAN has really personified the aesthetics of legal dexterity. Like a colossus, AGF Malami has risen to bestride the nation among his contemporaries using his office to make a difference. With the aid of the constitution, he engaged in dispensing hope for the ill-treated, Justice for both the rich and the poor as well as ensure character sanity in the nation’s Judiciary.
With guidance from Section 174 and 211 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which among many other provisions empowers the AGF “to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law in Nigeria other than a court-martial in respect of any offence created by or under any law of the House of Assembly” AGF Abubakar Malami SAN has continued to uphold due regard for public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal and due process.
On his asset recovery strides AGF Malami’s role in the repatriation of $311 million looted by Sani Abacha from the United States cannot be overemphasized. The loot which added value to national treasury lends credence to President Buhari’s economic drive vis-à-vis the anticorruption war. To meet up with his mandate of Justice Reforms, AGF Malami decided to collaborate with the Legislative arm of government to enact laws that will aid the effective administration of Justice. Among the laws are the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2017; Anti-Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2017; Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Bill 2017; Proceeds of Crime Bill 2017; Public Interest Disclosure and Witness Protection Bill, 2017; and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, 2017. The NFIU Bill has since been passed by the National Assembly and was assented to, by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2018. AGF Malami’s contributions in facilitating the prompt passage of the NFIU Agency Act prevented the expulsion of Nigeria from the EGMONT Group. The Egmont Group is a global body of 155 financial intelligence units across the world which facilitates the exchange of financial intelligence, expertise and capability. The intelligence units combat money laundering, terrorism financing and serious financial crime. A total of 24 recorded cases involving fraud forgery and breach of trust where successfully prosecuted under AGF Malami’s watch and suspects sentence to various terms of custodian sentencing.
AGF Abubakar Malami was also instrumental in the Presidential Executive Order No. 00-10 of 2020 signed in May 2020 which allows for Financial Autonomy for the State Judiciary. Although the thirty-six state governors have challenged the Order at the Supreme Court Few days ago, the AGF has vowed to ensure that Justice delivered in the matter. The state governors averred that the executive order president Muhammadu Buhari signed had pushed the Federal Government’s responsibility of funding both the capital and recurrent expenditures of the state high courts, Sharia Court of Appeal and the Customary Court of Appeal, to the state governments.
On the speedy dispensation of Justice, having received from the Inspector General of Police a brief which suggests that about Seven Hundred and Seventeen (717) rape cases were recorded within seven months, the AGF has risen to the occasion by revealing plans to establish special courts for the speedy trial of rape cases. This move by the AGF has also complemented the advocacies by the civil society organisations on Gender based violence especially rape.
Also, very conspicuous among AGF Malami’s giant strides is his laudable initiative that led to the decongestion of Nigeria’s correctional centres. On assumption of office, the AGF met congested correctional centres nationwide where out of the Seventy-four thousand, one hundred and twenty-seven (74,127) inmates in the correctional centres, fifty-two Thousand, Two Hundred and twenty six (52,226) inmates are awaiting trial persons (ATPs), which implies that over 70% of the inmates are ATPs. But with the inauguration of the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion, chaired by the Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Ishaq Bello, no fewer than 7,813 inmates had benefited from the decongestion programme. A total of 3,789 inmates have been released from the Nigerian Correctional Service Centre since the outbreak of COVID 19 pandemic in the country to curb its spread among inmates. Since the inauguration of the committee on October 31, 2017, it has so far visited 32 correctional centres in 14 states. AGF Malami was credited for the success of the initiative which was a federal government’s approach under his watch.
The dreaded novel Coronavirus was also motivation for the decongestion exercise. AGF Malami’s role on taming the menace of drug abuse and drug motivated crimes also remains conspicuous. He instituted a crackdown on warehouses and joints for the thriving illicit Tramadol, Cough Syrup and Codeine Market particularly in Kano and other states of the federation. This was achieved through the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), an agency under his Supervision. The Agency also apprehended twenty-one (21) suspected suppliers of illicit drugs to terrorist strongholds. It also Confiscated 316 tons drugs and arrested 9,831 suspected drug offenders, prosecuted 1,244 suspects and secured 1,236 Convictions, 7 cases were struck out and acquitted.
NDLEA under AGF Malami also discovered another clandestine laboratory to produce Methamphetamine bringing the total number of such laboratory so discovered in Nigeria to eighteen (18) between 2011 and 2019. Now, Strategies have been put in place to incapacitate drug merchants through the seizure of their assets including money and ensuring that such assets are forfeited to the Federal government.
Other laudable fits the AGF achieved includes the ongoing prosecution of the three charges involving 14 defendants allegedly involved in the importation of Pump Action Riffles from Turkey, Ongoing six cases on pipeline vandalism, Ongoing prosecution of 1,359 cases from which 125 cases have been prosecuted within 100 days due to the innovation of the administration of criminal Justice act, 2015 that allows day to day trials.
Others include Ongoing prosecution of Illegal Miners of Mineral Resources; ongoing at the federal high court, Jos, ongoing trial of suspects for Kidnapping and hostage taking, vandalism of electrical facilities.
Deservingly, Abubakar Malami SAN, won President Buhari’s trust with all these strides and was returned as Attorney General and Minister of Justice for the second time in 2019. The President’s Next Level Agenda which revolves round consolidating on his achievement during his first tenure is expected to help the likes of AGF Abubakar Malami SAN finish what they started.
Moving forward, the AGF fearlessly with much tenacity beamed his search light on the nation’s Anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Even though the EFCC is an independent body free from the AGF’s Control, he was able to spot out traces of corruption in the EFCC based on the demands of his office as the number one Law officer of Nigeria, and on July 15, 2020, the Acting EFCC Boss, Ibrahim Magu was Suspended. The Presidency agreed with the AGF Malami that Magu needed to be investigated on allegations of diverting recovered loot. Finally, and the most recent is AGF Malami’s role in the refund of the $200 million Process & Industrial Development (P&ID) case by a London court. The British court ordered the release of the $200m which according to the AGF was a guarantee put in place as security for the stay of execution granted to Nigeria for the appeal filed against the judgment of Justice Christopher Butcher for the execution of the arbitral award of $10bn in favour of P&ID, a firm based in the British Virgin Islands.
An Astute Lawyer, Public administrator and Politician, AGF Abubakar Malami is expected to do more in the “Next Level Regime” of President Muhammadu Buhari for two reasons; one is to maintain his already built reputation for Justice delivery for Nigerians and secondly; good representation of his people from Birnin Kebbi and Kebbi where he was nominated from. It will be recalled that in 2014, Malami contested for the governorship ticket of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Kebbi state but lost to Mr Atiku Bagudu who is now the incumbent governor of the state. The people of Kebbi may wish to have a second thought for AGF Abubakar Malami SAN Considering his giant strides, if he decides to seek their mandates to run as governor.
By Comrade Martins is an Abuja based Public Affairs Analyst