The roles being played by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in the fight against corruption in the country, have shot up his clout, profile and powers, writes Adedayo Akinwale
Upon his ascendance into office in 2015, key and most urgent job that needed to be delivered to Nigerians by President Mohammadu Buhari was the war against graft and insecurity.
The seeming Siamese twins, which have bedeviled the nation and hampered development, apart from forming part of Buhari’s election promises to the people, appear to be the yardstick for measuring the success or otherwise of his administration.
Buhari had to search thoroughly for an unbiased and fearless erudite chief law officer that can help in his Justice reform drives, aimed at ridding Nigeria of corruption and insecurity.
“…At home, we face enormous challenges: insecurity, pervasive corruption. We are going to tackle them head o”, the president said in 2015, during his inaugural speech.
To help the president tackle these “insecurity and pervasive corruption” according to the demands of Nigeria’s constitution, was a legal luminary and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Abubakar Malami, (SAN).
Appointed the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Nigeria in 2015, Malami, having obliged his boss, President Buhari, 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 as a laudable initiative on decongestion of the nation’s Correctional Centres, which include monitoring the compliance of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, Malami has really personified the aesthetics of legal dexterity.
Like a colossus, he has risen to bestride the nation among his contemporaries, using his office to make a difference. With the aid of the constitution, he’s been dispensing hope for the ill treated; Justice for both the rich and the poor as well as ensuring 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, empower 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,” Malami 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 asset recovery, Malami’s role in the repatriation of $311 million looted by a former Head of State, the late General Sani Abacha from the United States cannot be overemphasised. The money, which has 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, Malami decided to collaborate with the legislative arm of government to enact laws that would 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 assented to by President Buhari in July 2018.
Malami’s contributions to facilitating 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 cases involving fraud, forgery and breach of trust were successfully prosecuted under Malami’s watch and suspects sentenced to various terms of custodian sentencing.
Malami was also active 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 governors have challenged the Order at the Supreme Court, only a few days ago, Malami vowed to ensure that justice was 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 speedy dispensation of Justice, having received from the Inspector General of Police, a brief, which suggested that about Seven Hundred and Seventeen (717) rape cases were recorded within seven months, the AGF rose to the occasion by revealing plans to establish special courts for the speedy trial of rape cases. This move by Malami has also complemented the advocacies by the civil society organisations on gender-based violence especially, rape.
Also, very conspicuous among Malami’s giant strides is his initiative that led to the decongestion of Nigeria’s correctional centres. On assumption of office, the AGF visited 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 benefitted 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. 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 a motivation for the decongestion exercise.
His role in taming the menace of drug abuse and drug related 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 Confiscated 316 tons drugs and arrested 9,831 suspected drug offenders; prosecuted 1,244 suspects and secured 1,236 Convictions, while 7 cases were struck out and acquitted.
NDLEA under AGF Malami discovered another clandestine laboratory that was producing Methamphetamine, bringing the total number of such laboratories 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 feats of the AGF include 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, 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 the 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, Malami won President Buhari’s trust with all these strides and was returned to office in 2019. The President’s Next Level Agenda, which revolves around consolidating on his achievements, is expected to help the likes of Malami to finish what they started.
Moving forward, the AGF fearlessly with much tenacity beamed his searchlight on the nation’s number one 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 traces of corruption in the EFCC based on the demands of his office as the number one Law officer of Nigeria.
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.
The most recent is 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.
Malami is expected to do more as the “Next Level Regime” of President Buhari progresses for two reasons. One is to maintain his already built reputation for Justice delivery for Nigerians and two, good representation of his people from Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi Staste, where he was nominated from.
In 2014, Malami, it would be recalled, contested the governorship ticket of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in his state but lost to Mr. Atiku Bagudu, who is now the incumbent governor of the state. The people of Kebbi might wish to have a second thought for Malami, considering his strides in his current office, if he decides to seek their mandate again as governor.