By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, on Monday, denied allegation that he frustrated the prosecution of former Governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema and other officials of the state government accused of diverting over N5.7billion SURE-P funds.
The High Court of Justice in Katsina State had on November 27, terminated further trial of three former officials of the state government that were fingered in the alleged fraud.
Trial Justice Maikaita Bako reportedly struck out a criminal charge that the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related offences Commission, ICPC, preferred against the indicted officials, following alleged failure by the AGF to release the case file.
The court further discharged all the accused officials.
Those that were freed by the court were the Special Adviser to the former governor on SURE-P, Nasiru Ingawa; the Director of Account and Finance SURE-P Department, Abdulaziz Shinkafi; and the Chief Store Officer Katsina State Civil Service, Bello Bindawa.
It was reported that the AGF had earlier directed the anti-graft agency to submit the case-file to his office, to enable the Katsina State Government to takeover the prosecution of the Defendants.
However, at the resumed proceeding on the matter, Justice Bako terminated the trial following alleged failure of the AGF to release the case-file for prosecution.
Meanwhile, insisting that he was not against the trial of the accused persons, the AGF, via a statement that was signed by his media aide, Mr. Salihu Isah, said it was not true that he refused to handover the case-file to the Katsina State government before he travelled out of the country.
He maintained that the report that was carried by an online media outlet was malicious and odious, describing the allegation as a continued attempt to tarnish his image and reputation.
According to the AGF, “The truth of the matter is that, contrary to the report, The Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in response to the letter of the Katsina state Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice with reference number DPPA/REQ/510/18 dated 29thNovember, 2018 and titled, RE: REQUEST FOR CASE FILE FROM INDEPENDENT CORRUPT PRACTICES AND OTHER RELATED OFFENCES COMMISSION (ICPC) IN RESPECT OF CHARGES NOS. KTH/9C/2017-FRN VS ALHAJI ABDULAZIZ ABDULLAHI SHINKAFI AND ONE OTHER AND KTH/SC/2017-FRN VS NASIRU INGAWA AND ONE OTHER, the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation, Mohammed Umar Etsu had written and I quote:
“I am further directed to inform you that after a careful study of your request, it is the directive of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation that the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Commission (ICPC) be allowed to continue the prosecution of the case.
“The letter by the Katsina state Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Ahmad Usman Muhammad El-Marzuq reference number MOJ/KT/CON.10/VOL.1/142 titled as above was dated 28/08/2018 for which a reminder dated 30thOctober, 2018 was sent to the AGF/MOJ. State inter alia:
“I wish to further seek for the intervention of your office to facilitate the release of the case files, in respect of the above mentioned cases, to me, by the ICPC for the reasons stated in our earlier letter reference NO. MOJ/KT/CON.10/VOL… of 20thMarch, 2017, that is to say, to enable the me (sic) to discontinue criminal proceedings against the accused persons and turn them to state witnesses in respect of charge NO. FHC/KT/26C/2017 FRN VS Ibrahim Shehu Shema (Copy attached).
“I also wish to request you to grant your fiat to me to discontinue criminal proceedings against the accused persons in the charges before the High Court of Justice, Katsina State as the patience of the court has been exhausted by our persistent requests for the adjournments of the cases, to enable me get the case files as well as your fiat based on clause (2)(c) of your fiat dated 7th July, 2017 (copy attached). The High Court is threatening to strike out the cases for want of diligent prosecution.”, the letter continued.
“Consequently, and in view of the above, the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice note the seeming rabid desire by a cross section of the media to tarnish the image and reputation of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
“The Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice therefore calls on Premium Times to retract the portion of its story which misrepresented the role played by the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation’s Chamber, and to publicly tender an unreserved apology to it through the same medium within 48 hours after the publication of this press release.
“You are advised to tow the line of wisdom to put records in its proper perspective; as no amount of blackmail or subterranean illusion can obliterate the patriotic zeal of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice”, the statement read.