*Says Buhari not afraid to take on any suspect
By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
ABUJA — The Federal Government has said that it had not closed any criminal case being investigated in the country, technically raising the potential for some prominent Nigerians implicated in the legendary Siemens and Halliburton scandals to face trial.
The Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, who made the disclosure in an interview with Vanguard in Abuja, also dismissed as untenable the notion that President Muhammadu Buhari was afraid of taking the Halliburton and Siemens cases because the key suspects were top military leaders.
Malami was responding to enquiries about the claim that Buhari’s administration had jettisoned the probe into the Halliburton and Siemens corruption scandals, in which Nigeria lost billions of Naira to high-ranking Nigerians who held sway at the time.
Media reports yet to be dispelled by the administration had claimed that the government was afraid to confront the powerful beneficiaries of the scam which had landed other suspects in the United States, Germany and others in jail.
Nigeria is said to have lost over $182 million to the Halliburton corruption case alone.
Malami said Buhari was not a man who could be restrained by fear from doing what was right and in the overall best interest of Nigerians he had sworn to defend and protect from harm’s way.
The minister said those who had jumped to the erroneous conclusion that the major corruption scandals had been swept under the carpet should note that the present administration had zero tolerance for corruption and would, therefore, not close any criminal case.
Malami, however, said in tackling the corruption cases, the Federal Government would not be assuaged by what he called ‘extraneous influences’ or action by available prima facie evidence.
Malami said: “The idea of fear does not come in at all as far as this President is concerned in the fight against graft. Don’t forget that whatever Mr. President does is guided by the rule of law and available evidence.
“It must be noted, however, that no extraneous influence can influence our actions as we move to fight corruption in all its ramifications. To be noted also is the clear fact that no criminal case can be closed once the facts are handy regardless of who is involved.”
Buhari has come under criticism for not taking up the two major corruption scandals that predated the Jonathan era. The verbal attack arose out of the decision of Buhari’s administration to limit its probe of corrupt officials to the Jonathan administration.
According to a statement by the Special Adviser to the President, Mr. Femi Adesina, it will be a distraction for the President to begin digging into all former administrations.
Adesina said: “But for a proper take off of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, there is need to look into the immediate past government (Jonathan’s). We are interested in investigating Jonathan’s government to recover stolen funds.”