Let’s Also Talk about Probing Malami

Ring True with Yemi Adebowale, Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; Tel: 08054699539 (text only)

Ring true

Ring True with Yemi Adebowale, Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; Tel: 08054699539(text only)

The Attorney-General of the Federation/Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, did a good job exposing the infractions of Ibrahim Magu, the suspended boss of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). To be honest, Magu was reckless and lawless. While his reign lasted, he played God. I have no sympathy for him and I don’t see Magu wriggling out of this mess. He can’t return to that position. Kudos to Malami. However, I am not sorry to say that the AGF did not take the action to tame Magu because he loves this country that much. I am convinced that his actions were anchored on personal interest. If Magu had played ball with Malami, his untidiness wouldn’t have been exposed. So, the next person I strongly feel should be dragged before another presidential probe panel is Malami himself. His five-year tenure has been dominated by unending breaches. I was excited when the Presidency issued a statement on the 6th day of Magu’s trial, stressing that “under the Muhammadu Buhari administration, nobody is above scrutiny.” That was good music to my ears.

Malami’s specious exuberance is not good for this strategic office and causes discomfiture to this country. His infractions pour and deserve a probe. This AGF’s actions and inactions often leave huge unanswered questions. One that leaves me depressed, whenever I recall, is his deal with Abdullahi Dikko, the former Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service. Following the change of government in 2015 and removal of Dikko as the Comptroller-General of Customs, the EFCC moved against him over alleged corruption. While the anti-graft agency was working very hard on the Dikko case, Malami struck a “Nolle prosequi” deal with the ex-Customs boss. This was because Dikko agreed to restitution in lieu of prosecution. The agreement was based on the return of N1.5 billion to the coffers of the government “being proceeds” of the crimes Dikko allegedly committed while in office. Only God knows how Malami arrived at this figure. But Dikko made the refund and Malami signed the “Nolle prosequi” deal. The EFCC that was sweating in court was not carried along in the dark transaction. The Magu-led EFCC continued with the graft case against Dikko because it felt the loot Dikko must return was more than the N1.5 billion accepted by Malami. But the anti-sleaze agency was shattered when a Federal High Court in Abuja barred it from going ahead with the prosecution of Dikko. Justice Nnamdi Dimgba held that the Nolle prosequi agreement initiated by Malami for Dikko was binding on the anti-crime agency.

For me, the EFCC should have been involved in the negotiation culminating in the deal, so that Dikko would refund an amount based on what the EFCC discovered. I believe that Malami shortchanged the Nigerian nation. Yes, by virtue of the provisions of Section 174 of the Constitution, the AGF, being the chief law officer of the federation, has wide powers and discretion on prosecution of matters. Such discretions include the entry into a non-prosecution or a deferred prosecution agreement with criminal suspects, and which agreements shall be binding on all prosecutorial agencies. But these powers should not be used to the advantage of criminals. In this Dikko case, Malami used his powers like a tsar to the disadvantage of the Nigerian nation. A probe panel has to dig in.

Another case that should be probed is the one in which Malami hired Professor Yemi Akinseye-George to claim $793.2 million allegedly hidden in seven commercial banks in Nigeria by three federal agencies. At the initial stage of the case in 2017, many thought Malami had genuinely discovered stashed money, but it turned out to be a charade. Facts and figures presented by the accused agencies and banks showed that there were no such fund stashed anywhere. The NNPC was the first to punch holes in the phony recovery, describing Malami’s claim as “untrue and misleading.” The corporation had clearly informed the Presidency, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, as well as the Central Bank of the existence of the said accounts, prior to the creation of the Asset Recovery Account by the government.

After embarrassing the banks, with the attendant collateral damages, claims that the funds were hidden and unknown to the government turned out to be dubious. Our implausible AGF went back to the court (after obtaining an interim forfeiture order) to withdraw the suit and was made to pay damages to the banks. Malami simply wanted to be seen working and wasted huge public fund paying lawyers.

What about the $17 million fees believed to have been paid in 2018 to two lawyers for the recovery of $321 million stolen by the late despot, Sani Abacha? Malami, allegedly engaged the two Nigerian lawyers to “help” with the repatriation of the loot, after the job had been completed by Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer hired by the Obasanjo government to work on the recovery. The kind of “help” Malami got from the new lawyers was contentious. Monfrini had already been paid for the same job before Malami inexplicably decided to engage the services of new lawyers.

Monfrini himself could not understand why new lawyers were engaged, saying all that was required was for the Nigerian government to do a letter to the Swiss government for the repatriation of the money.

The Swiss lawyer, who was engaged in 2000, worked on a number of recoveries for Nigeria for six years and helped to recover the stolen money stashed in Luxembourg and Liechtenstein. The monies were then domiciled with the attorney-general of Switzerland, for onward transfer to Nigeria under a strict agreement to avoid “misappropriation” as was the allegation about previous recoveries. Monfrini was given briefs and payment terms to cover the entire recovery process, up to the return of the monies to Nigeria.

Under the agreement, Nigeria undertook to pay 4 per cent of the recovered Luxemburg assets as professional fees and expenses to Monfrini, in addition to roughly $6.8 million in fees for the $250 million Liechtenstein recoveries. The lawyer traced about $321 million Abacha loot to Luxembourg, which was recovered. A letter of intent was signed by Nigeria and Switzerland in March 2016 to ensure the restitution. Malami and Swiss foreign minister, Didier Burkhalter, signed the document on behalf of both governments. So, why did Malami pay $17 million fees to fresh lawyers? A probe is pertinent here.

Let’s switch over to the Danjuma Goje case. This senator and former governor of Gombe State was put on trial by the EFCC for alleged N25 billion fraud. Last year, Malami’s men stormed the Federal High Court in Jos and applied for the withdrawal of the case against Goje. It was granted and the corruption charges liquidated. The EFCC was stunned. The weird action in court happened after Goje withdrew from the Senate’s presidency race to endorse Ahmad Lawan, candidate of the leadership of the APC, who eventually won. Malami said charges against Goje were withdrawn because the case against him was weak. This was after the EFCC wasted so much human and material resources prosecuting him. Haba! This is preposterous. There’s more to this than meets the eye.

Malami’s latest shenanigan is his alleged nod to Omoh-Jay Nigeria Ltd, a firm under investigation for fraud, to sell five sea vessels holding crude oil and diesel forfeited to the federal government. Omoh-Jay was also granted approval to sell the crude oil and diesel in the vessels through an open bid. The firm and its owner are on trial at the Delta State High Court, Asaba, for allegedly stealing crude oil loaded in a vessel called MT Akuada a.k.a. MT Kua. Malami cares less about doing business with a firm on trial and arrogantly tells Nigeria that “Omoh-Jay can’t be denied the opportunity to participate in the auction on a purported account that the company is standing trial.” Why must it be Omoh-Jay? Something is clearly fishy here.

Today, I am demanding for a presidential panel to dig deep into the long list of suspected transgressions by Malami. Our AGF must be tested for corruption. This is the only way forward for the Buhari government.

Federal Character at NPA

Today, I am focusing on the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), as I continue my expose on the unending lack of respect for our federal character law, this time, in a federal government agency. The good thing here is that the agency has, through a press statement, confirmed its skewed appointments of General Managers/Heads of Departments. According to the NPA, of its 22 General Managers, 15 are from the North while just seven are southerners. Looking deeper, while there is just one General Manager of South-south origin in the NPA, the Northeast has seven. These are the facts and figures. At the NPA, it is 15 out of 22 General Managers for a section of the country. This is evidently skewed. The management of this agency argues that lower positions like Assistant General Managers and Principal Managers are in favour of southerners. This is puerile. The Federal Character law must be strictly applied to ensure equity and even distribution of positions in the NPA. Hadiza Bala-Usman, as the Managing Director of NPA, has no respect for this law of our land. The new board of the Federal Character Commission headed by Muheeda Dankaka must step into the NPA and enforce the law. It is the law of our land and must be respected in the interest of everyone in this beautiful country. The story continues next week.

Akpabio is a Bad Product

The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio is one man that often leaves me wondering how leaders emerge in my beloved Nigeria. This clown, manifestly, has no business with sensitive public offices; yet, he has been a governor, senator and now, minister. It can only happen in Nigeria. In a country over-flowing with quality manpower, charlatans dominate public offices, pushing the country deeper in the inglorious club of underdeveloped countries. It is so depressing. Akpabio’s eight-year reign as governor of Akwa Ibom State was dominated by suspected fraud and ineptitude. At a point, after his tenure, the EFCC was about to arraign him for corruption after a thorough investigation. Then, he did a dirty deal with the Buhari government and was spared.

Akpabio resurfaced as a Minister under the Buhari government and continued with his muddy deals and actions as enunciated by Joi Nunieh, who was acting Managing Director of NDDC’s Interim Management Committee. At the NDDC, Akpabio plays God. He gets contracts and gives instruction for dubious payments, so says Nunieh. He punched the former acting managing director for opposing his shenanigans. Nunieh declared: I was instructed to write an official report to implicate the Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, over alleged fraudulent contract awards and executions. The offence of Nwaoboshi was that he was opposed to the NDDC being run by an interim committee. I rebuffed all such entreaties and so, they did all manner of things to forcefully remove me from office.”

In addition to accusation of looting the NDDC and awarding dubious contracts, Akpabio now has a big allegation of sexual harassment by Nunieh hanging on his neck. His defences have been feeble. Perhaps, Akpabio will be curtailed this time around after 21 years of deceiving Nigerians.

On the flip side, patriots must rise against the harassment of Nunieh. The most recent was the attempt by some faceless security agents to abduct her on Thursday. I am happy Nunieh said she would not be cowed by the experience.