By Ise-Oluwa Ige
ABUJA â€” ATTORNEY-GENERAL of the Federation, Chief Michael Aondoakaa (SAN) yesterday described as fallacious and wicked the allegation that he had stopped virtually all criminal cases of corruption instituted by the Federal Government against serving and past public officials accused of stealing government funds while they held office.
He said since he assumed office as the chief law officer of the federation, he has never, for once, ordered any agency of government with prosecutorial powers to stop trial of any person, whether ordinary or highly placed.
Aondoakaa (SAN) said that though Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution granted him the powers to institute criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law; to take over criminal proceedings already instituted by agencies of government with prosecutorial powers and to stop any such proceeding by entering a nolle prosequi in the interest of the public where necessary, he said he has never exercised such powers to discontinue criminal trial since he assumed office except once.
He explained that the only time exercised the power was when President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua granted amnesty to the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, Henry Okah and directed that criminal proceedings against him before a Federal High Court sitting in Jos be discontinued.
He said the decision was taken in the overall interest of the public.
He said that a number of criminal cases were instituted against some top officials of both states and the Federal Government at the time he was appointed while several other political office holders who enjoyed immunity during the Obasanjo government were dragged before different high courts of jurisdiction to face corruption charges.
He said all the said cases, majority of which were filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, are still ongoing.
He said if there was any that was no longer continuing, he said it must be that the court which assumed jurisdiction on such case had either entered judgments in it or the anti-graft agency in charge of such prosecution adopted plea bargain to terminate it.
â€œDonâ€™t forget that Section 174 of the 1999 constitution gives me the unlimited powers to institute, take over and stop any criminal proceedings in any law court in this country.
â€œThe exercise of the powers granted me by the constitution is not subject to review by anybody.
â€œBut the Constitution specifically says that whenever any criminal proceedings must be discontinued against any person, the public interest must be given priority.
â€œAnd for the only case in which I exercised such powers, the public interest was purely the main reason we considered.
â€œI challenge anybody who has contrary position on this issue to come forward and state so.
â€˜I have never stopped any criminal proceedings touching on corruption against any individual since I assumed office.
â€œThe allegation against me by some individuals to the effect that I have stopped all corruption cases before local courts in Nigeria is sheer blackmail, mischievous, wicked and arrant nonsense,â€ he said.
The Attorney-General of the Federation who spoke with Vanguard yesterday added that those who were peddling the rumours of stopping criminal cases were simply envious of him and wanted to paint him black before President Yarâ€™Adua.
â€œHave you not read in the newspapers that I traveled to the UK to protest the insistence by Britain to try former Governors Attah, Ibori and one of the aides to President Yarâ€™Adua when in truth I traveled to clear the air on the allegation that I abused my office to stop all ongoing corruption cases against important serving and ex-public officers in the country?
â€œThey said I travelled to the UK to stop Ibori and Attahâ€™s trial. It was a lie. A big lie”, he said.