Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), has directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other agencies with prosecutorial powers to compile list of pending cases they are handling at the various courts with a view to determine which of them falls within the category of high profile cases to be taken over by the National Prosecution Coordination Committee (NPCC).
A statement by the Special Adviser to the AGF on Media, Mr. Salihu Isah, said a meeting of officials of the ministry with the agencies took place at the minister’s in office last Monday with a view to inform the agencies on the exigency and existence of the committee and to fashion out a working synergy between the committee and the agencies.
Isah said Malami’s message was read by the Special Assistant to the President on Research and Special Project attached to the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Sylvester Imhanobe, who is also the Secretary of the committee, used the occasion to inform the agencies of the objectives for setting up the prosecution committee.
The statement said the AGF handed down a directive to the agencies to compile list of pending cases they were handling at the various courts with a view to determine which of them fell into the category of high profile cases to be taken over by the committee.
The following agencies were said to be present at the meeting – Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Department of State Services (DSS), EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
The AGF explained further that for a case to be tagged high profile, it must have overriding public interest elements, but that ultimately, he determines what case is tagged a high profile case.
He added that sometimes, the quantum of value of a case and its sensitivity would also be considered to determine if a case is a high profile case or not.
According to him, members of the committee are mainly his aides as well as eight external members selected on the basis of experience and expertise, stressing that heads of agencies are not part of the NPCC due to their busy schedules.
Malami also hinted that the intention was not to distract the heads of these agencies, but to engender smooth synergy between the committee and the agencies.
The Special Assistant to the President on Coordination and International Affairs under the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Pius Oteh, who chaired the meeting, reiterated that it was for the purpose of sensitising the relevant agencies on the objectives of the committee.
He emphasised that the AGF in his wisdom saw the need for coordination and cooperation between the NPCC and these agencies with prosecutorial and investigative powers and added that it was necessary for cooperation and synergy between the committee and the agencies consistent with the mandate of President Muhammadu Buhari in the anti-graft war.
Oteh disclosed that beyond the synergy and partnership between all concerned, a robust interface between the agencies was necessary, pointing out that the agencies should take their mandate seriously for a more vigorous and efficient prosecution.
According to him, when it comes to delay in the justice system, every stakeholder has a responsibility.
He said it was a cross cutting issue in which all key players shared a responsibility vis-a-vis the judiciary, prosecutors, investigators and even defence counsel.
He said: “When everyone does his or her bit, a more efficient and humane criminal justice system will be attained.”
Besides Imhanobe and Oteh, others who represented the ministry and the committee at the meeting are Special Assistants to the President, Mrs. Juliet Chikaodili Ibekaku (Justice Reforms); Mr. Okoi Obono Obla (Prosecution), Mr. Kehinde Oginni (Financial Crimes) and a staff of the ministry, Ms Aisha Bajeh.