James Emejo in Abuja
The House of Representatives Thursday passed a motion condemning the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, and the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, of obstructing and perverting the course of justice in a bid to arrive at a predetermined outcome in the asset declaration case involving the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
It also mandated its Committee on Judiciary to interact with the AGF to ensure that sanity is brought back to the case involving the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr. Danladi Umar, and the EFCC.
The condemnation by the lower legislative chamber followed a motion brought under matters of urgent national importance by Hon. Yakubu Barde (PDP, Kaduna) on the need to restore sanity in the administration of justice in the fight against corruption in the country by the AGF and EFCC.
He expressed concern over the recent turn of events whereby Umar had been charged on a two-count charge for corruption before the FCT High Court by the EFCC.
He noted that the EFCC and AGF had previously cleared Umar of the same allegations which formed the basis of the charges.
Barde expressed concern that the anti-graft agency and the AGF were currently prosecuting cases before the CCT, over which Umar presides as its chairman.
According to him, the EFCC had previously issued a statement absolving Umar of any wrongdoing but the same Umar was now being charged and asked to try the Senate President, giving the appearance that a game was being played to arrive at a pre-determined outcome in the Saraki trial.
He said the development portrayed the legal system as capable of being manipulated and should be of great concern to all Nigerians.
The lawmaker also expressed concern that any possible conviction or findings that the CCT may make by the same Umar, who is also facing trial, may be rendered null and void by the Court of Appeal, thereby frustrating the course of justice.
He said he was particularly disturbed that the AGF had been instrumental to the unwholesome saga playing out in the administration of justice, more so since the AGF, CCT and EFCC are indispensable in the fight against corruption in the country.
Barde said the development was not good for a government that claims to be fighting corruption, adding that it has the potential of ridiculing the country in the international community.
Hon. Sadiq Ibrahim (APC, Adamawa) said though it was not the business of the House to interfere in the judiciary, justice must be seen to be done.
He said a person who is being investigated for an alleged crime cannot be a judge in another criminal case.
Also, Hon. Razak Atunwa (APC, Kwara) said the development had made a mockery of the legal system, stressing: “You don’t need to be a lawyer to see that it’s injustice.”
He further expressed regrets that the AGF had allowed the unfortunate scenario to fester, while President Muhammadu Buhari had done nothing to arrest the situation.
Furthermore, Hon. Gabriel Onyenwife (APGA, Anambra) said naturally, justice must be seen to be done to the accused, complainant and society.
He argued that in the present circumstances, justice could not be seen to be done while Umar still chairs the CCT.
But Hon. Mohammed Monguno (APC, Borno) argued that a judge accused of a criminal offence could still preside over criminal cases if the allegations against him had not been proven and if he has not been suspended from office.
Meanwhile, the Kwara State Caucus in the House has clarified that the motion condemning the AGF and EFCC was not peculiar to the trial of the Senate President alone but all persons currently standing trial before the CCT chairman.
Addressing journalists after plenary Thursday, the chairman of the caucus, Hon. Muhammed Zakari, said there was concern over the credibility of the judgments that may be delivered by the CCT chairman if he is allowed to continue with pending cases before him, having been indicted in a corruption investigation.
He said the present anti-corruption war of the federal government was being called to question with the development.
He added that as a caucus, it believed the issue must be taken seriously and dealt with professionally.
Also, a member of the group, Hon. Rasak Atunwa, who provided a legal perspective to the scenario said: “The thrust is to bring back sanity in the administration of the legal justice system.
“What puzzled members and troubled the House was: how can the government – EFCC and the AGF – say that they believe Danladi Umar is guilty of the two-count charge, notwithstanding that no court has made a pronouncement on him?
“How can they, on the one hand, say he’s guilty of corruption and yet, on the other hand, prosecute corruption cases before him?
“And it’s not only the Senate President that is before the CCT, there are several other people appearing before Danladi Umar and if I’m not mistaken, there are about eight Supreme Court judges before Umar.
“If he delivers a conviction for example, will it not be said that he is upholding the charges of corruption so that it fits all those being prosecuted before him?
“If he is acquitted, that acquittal may be tainted as well. You’ll say he was acquitted by a judge who was said to be corrupt.
“I have never seen it happen anywhere in the world; not in a modern democracy that is based on the rule of law.”
According to him, the flip-flop in the issue was not good for the justice system.