The seeming muscle-flexing between Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice,AGF, Abubakar Malami SAN, and Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, reflects an absence of coordination in the Federal Government’s prosecution agencies.
Malami alleged breach of rules in the prosecutions of high profile cases by the EFCC. A letter was served on Magu from the AGF office asking him to comply with regulations in prosecuting such cases. Specifically, the EFCC was accused of violating Section 10(1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Enforcement) Regulations 2010. It(S.(10(1) of the Regulations) requires the anti-graft agency to forward the outcome of investigations with its recommendations to the AGF where the cases or complains are “serious or complex”. Cases involving former political public office holders fall into this category.
There was a similar standoff between the AGF and EFCC in 2007. Attorney-General and Minister of Justice at the time, Michael Aondoakaa, sought to take over the prosecutorial powers of the commission, then headed by Nuhu Ribadu.
As the nation’s chief law officer, the AGF is vested with the power to initiate , take over or discontinue any criminal proceedings on behalf of the Federal Government. Same is applicable to states Attorneys-General by virtue of Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution(as amended). Pursuant to this constitutional provision and the EFCC Regulations, the AGF exercises discretion on the cases to or no to initiate prosecution for after the commission conducts investigations. EFCC is non-compliance was a perceived breach of the regulations guarding its operations. This flies in the face of the constitutional provision that subjects EFCC to the supervisory jurisdiction of the AGF’s office.
As custodian of the law, the AGF should assert the constitutionally guaranteed authority of his office. This is imperative since it appears the anti-corruption agency has been conducting its affairs as if it is above the law. The impression being created that the AGF intends to reduce the steam of on-going war against graft is out of place.
There must be a synergy between the office of the AGF and EFCC since both are within the executive purview. They should not be seen to be working at cross-purposes. There should be cooperation among agencies for the Federal Government’s anti-corruption crusade to be effectively prosecuted. The series of losses recorded in some of the high profile cases may not be unconnected with absence of proper coordination.
We call on EFCC to hand over the demanded case files to the AGF. It should avoid further breach of the Constitution and its own regulations. Perceived rivalry between the two is bound to hurt the corruption war. This should be avoided at all cost.