Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami Must Rise Above Sentiment

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RingTrue

with Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (text only)

Whoever is occupying the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice is expected to be just and fair to all. As the chief law officer of the country, he must at all times ensure respect for and protect the laws of our land. I am not sorry to say that the current AGF and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has not lived up to these expectations. His role in the ongoing war against corruption and the alleged forgery case brought against the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu has been inglorious. This note to Malami was triggered by last week’s declaration by Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja that the AGF “has now found himself as promoter of abuse of legal process.”
Yes, Malami is a political appointee, but I expect him to display a high level of professionalism in defence of the laws of our land. So far, he has not been doing this. The forgery case filed against Saraki and Ekweremadu clearly exposed our AGF. Malami’s actions and inactions are fast confirming insinuations that he has a mandate to “deal” with Saraki and Ekweremadu. While ruling that the forgery charge brought by the AGF was a gross abuse of legal process, Justice Kolawole noted: “The actions of the IGP and AGF whose offices were creations of the law, are in bad taste because this court had asked parties not to do anything on the police report during the pendency of the civil suit so as not to render the civil action nugatory and cause fate accompli.” He added that AGF ought to use his power under the law to terminate any charge filed in breach of court process.
It is indeed very depressing that Malami filed the charges, while a civil action instituted to challenge the propriety of the police report on the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rule 2015 in which the AGF and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) are defendants, is still pending.
The motive is vindictive. It was evidently done in a desperate haste that was not in the public interest. It is instructive to note that Senator Nnaji, who instituted the suit challenging the propriety of the police report on the alleged forgery, had filed a motion ex-parte in which he asked for a court order to stop the IGP and AGF from taking any step on the police report pending the determination of his originating summon and which the court granted. Malami is aware of this, yet, he went ahead with the charade.
We should also note that the AGF was the leading counsel for Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi who signed the petition on the alleged forgery of the standing rules. He engaged Malami, then a private lawyer, to file a motion for him (Hunkuyi) to be joined as one of the defendants in the alleged forgery suit.
Malami later opted out as a lawyer to the petitioner following his appointment as AGF. However, there is nothing to show that Malami has, in the real sense of it, opted out as one of the counsel for the petitioners. Our dear Malami is still acting as if he is still the counsel to the petitioners.
These aside, the so-called forgery of the Senate standing rules is one big scam on its own. It is an imaginary forgery. Let’s critically examine all the issues involved. First, we need to understand how the Senate generates its rules and how it is amended. It is an established convention that when the Senate and House of Representatives are dissolved at the end of their tenure by the presiding officers, their rule books end with them. The National Assembly’s bureaucracy prepares a new temporary rule book with which a new Assembly is inaugurated. It may or may not adopt the one used by the previous Assembly. After inauguration, members can then amend the rules as they deem fit. From this explanation, it is obvious that the talk about a forgery is a sham. No legislator can influence the rules to be used before or at the first sitting. Before being sworn in, they are all still Senators-elect with no power to make or change the rules. After being sworn in, they can activate the process of amending the said rules. So, what was used for the election of Saraki and Ekweremadu was the standing rules provided by the bureaucracy of the National Assembly.
The “Senate Standing Orders 2015” used for the election of Saraki and Ekweremadu has since been in use for over a year now. Nobody has moved for its amendment. It means the Senate has adopted what was initially the creation of the bureaucracy.
It is pertinent to note that Order 3 (3)(e) (ii) of the 8th Senate, which provided for secret balloting instead of open show of hand as provided in the Standing Order 2011, was not used in Saraki’s election. He was a sole candidate and emerged unopposed under Order (3) (c) which is consistent with all previous rules. So, where is the forgery? For me, this ongoing trial is just an attempt by this administration to achieve what it could not do on the floor of the Senate. At the end of the day, justice will prevail.
For my friend Malami, he has to jettison conflict of interest, abuse of office, abuse of judicial process, abuse of the rule of law, intimidation of the Senate and violation of the principle of separation of powers. May Allah help him in this simple task.

Still on Our Federal Character Law
In spite of protests against previous actions, the appointments approved this week into the board of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation by President Muhammadu Buhari did not reflect Federal Character. Please, let’s all reflect on the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) Chapter 2, Section 14 (3) which states: “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”
I am appalled that there is no single person from the South-east geo-political zone on the lopsided board of the NNPC. Also, the appointment this week, of seven new Deputy Inspectors-General of Police (DIG) was disproportionate. We must consistently remind Buhari that he is the President of the whole country and not that of a section of the country. He must be seen promoting unity and a sense of belonging among our people. Our president should always take a very good look at the map of Nigeria before making appointments.

Ex-Governor Peter Obi and Payment of Salaries
For eight years as governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi paid salaries of civil servants as and when due. For him, it was not a big deal. I was impressed when he recently came out to lambast our squandering governors who have turned civil servants to beggars with huge unpaid salaries. With prudence and rational prioritisation, every state can comfortably pay salaries and engage in other developmental activities, so says Obi. He added: “There is no state in Nigerian incapable of meeting its financial obligations to workers. Those in government spend a lot of money on things that are not necessary, while running out of money for projects that would enrich the people. If any governor finds it difficult to pay salaries, let him consult me and I will freely and willingly divulge the secrets to him.” As governor, Obi did not keep guest houses, charter planes, travel with more people than necessary, fly Business Class, use bulletproof vehicles, among others, thereby saving billions to offset close to the N40 billion arrears in pension and gratuity and others for developmental projects.
How I wish our decadent state governors will learn to behave like Obi. It is a shame to see governors who have failed to pay salaries for months collecting billions of Naira as security vote, maintaining huge aides, travelling abroad with a gigantic entourage as Rochas Okorocha of Imo State does, executing white elephants  and flying around in private jets. The masses of the people must rise up against these governors from hell.

When Will Aircraft Land at Aregbesola’s Airport?
Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State is one man that never ceases to amaze me. His trickery is legendary. One of such bogus projects he launched with fanfare was the state’s airport project located in Iddo. It is appalling that despite all the abracadabra around the project, the airport remains a pipe dream. This governor told the hapless people of Osun State that the bogus airport would be completed in 2012 or early 2013. A visit to the site last week showed that it had been abandoned. What you find on ground today is the haphazard fencing done without any thought for engineering finesse by a contractor that goes by the name Gardol Nigeria Limited. The other things on site are heaps and heaps of stones and rubbish.  Billions of Naira has been expended on this white elephant. The exact figure is a closely guarded secret.  Clearly, Osun State does not need an airport, considering the fact that there is one, just a stone throw in Ibadan. This project does not make any economic sense. Why should a governor, who claims to be a man of the people, be wasting the state’s limited resources on an airport project amidst so much hunger, disease, poverty in the state? Workers in this state are being owed salaries ranging from nine to 12 months. Key infrastructure in Osun public hospitals and schools are in a tattered state, yet, Aregbesola is wasting money on an airport project. Just as Segun Akinwusi, former Head of Service, HOS, of Osun State, stated recently, “When a government chooses to indulge in trivialities, the end result is for it to be looking for scapegoats to cover its infamy. Osun state economy today has collapsed, the debt profile has reduced the state indigenes to beggars and destitutes.” Aregbesola is usually not happy with people like Akinwusi. The governor has since sent the EFCC after this foremost critic of his style of government with a dubious petition. A cooked up allegation of abuse of office has been leveled against him. I doubt if this can silence a dogged fighter like Akinwusi. May God save Osun State.