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Breaking: Anti-graft War: AGF talks tough, vows to try past leaders, others for economic sabotage

…as FG moves against banks over money laundering roles

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA—Barely twenty-four hours after he was returned back to the office, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, on Thursday, vowed to prosecute past leaders, private individuals and corporate entities that connived to sabotage the country’s economy. 

Abubakar Malami, THE Senate will on Tuesday round off the Screening Exercise of Ministerial Nominees forwarded to it on Tuesday, as all the Nominees will be confirmed same day, for onward presentation to President Muhammmadu Buhari to at the end of the day, assign portfolios to them.
Abubakar Malami

In a speech he delivered at an event the Federal Ministry of Justice organised to celebrate his re-appointment as the AGF,  Malami, warned that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, “cannot afford to fail on account of lawless acts of the corrupt and unpatriotic few”, who he said “always derive pleasure in seeing us fail as a nation”.

According to him, “The law must work; it must speak it’s the firm language of Justice at all times no matter whose ox is gored”.

Malami revealed that his first line of action would involve the prosecution of every person and institutions that engaged in what he termed as underhand dealings that led to the August 16 ruling of a court in the United Kingdom that ordered the seizure of $9billion in Nigerian assets.

He said: “Sadly, in spite of the spirited and concerted efforts of the current administration to combat corrupt practices and rent-seeking in all its forms, Nigerians woke up on Friday 16th August, 2019 to the rudest consequences of the underhand dealings of the past administration that has resulted in the award of $9 Billion against the Federal Republic of Nigeria by a British court which ruled that Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) had the right to seize $9Billion in Nigerian assets.

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“It may interest you to know that the dispute that led to the arbitration between the FGN and P&ID which consequently resulted in the said court ruling arose from a twenty (20) year Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA) purportedly entered with P&ID by the past administration in 2010 which contract P&ID never performed as agreed.

“That being said, it must be placed on record that the Federal Government strongly views with serious concerns the underhand manners by which the negotiation, signing and formation of the contract was carried out by some vested interests in the past administration in connivance with their local and international conspirators all in a bid to inflict grave economic adversity on the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the good people of Nigeria.

“As a government that has the mandate of the people, and their interests at heart, we shall not fold our arms and allow this injustice to go unpunished as all efforts, actions and steps shall be taken to bring to book all private individuals, corporate entities and government officials, home or abroad and past or present that played direct and indirect roles in the conception, negotiation, signing, formation as well as prosecution of the purported agreement”.

He decried that the country is bedevilled with an existential crisis of nationhood that is threatening to tear it apart, “with needless calls for separation, dismemberment and ill-motivated restructuring”, blaming it on “long years of failure of our justice system”.

“In the midst of huge challenges inherited by this administration from the past administration, and in our avowed determination to reverse the negative trends as this administration has been doing in the last four years, it is my strong belief that we at the Federal Ministry of Justice has a critical role to play in putting this country on a path of order and justice.

“It is in the light of this that i am determined to rejig the Federal Ministry of Justice (more than I had done in my first term in office) to brace up and approach the challenges that have drawn us back through comprehensive evidence-based judicial reforms capable of ridding the country of its fundamental vices of economic sabotage, insecurity, separatism and systemic corruption by promoting constitutional democracy, rule of law, social justice, economic prosperity and political rights of all Nigerians.

“Ladies and gentlemen, may I inform you that the major reason for the seeming failure of our system is the structural defects of our constitution and laws, non-adherence to laws, institutional failure of enforcements, and dysfunctionality of our judicial system which only judicial reforms can reverse if we must exist as a nation”.

He said the Ministry of Justice would rigorously pursue judicial reforms targeted at protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the country, as well as to promote the policy thrusts of the President Buhari-led administration.

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Malami said the administration has in its bid to further recover proceeds of corruption, decided to fully activate the provision of section 15 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act. 2011 (As Amended), against private individuals and corporate entities culpable of concealing, disguising, converting, transferring, hiding, removing from the shore of Nigeria, acquiring, using, retaining or taking possession or control of any fund or property they knowingly or reasonably ought to have known to have formed part of the proceeds of unlawful acts.

“As bad news to the rogues within our financial system, in the next four years, the Federal Ministry of Justice in collaboration within anti-corruption agencies, shall be beaming anti-corruption searchlight on the financial institutions (F18) and Non Designated Financial Institutions (DNFIs) in order to make them pay dearly for the dastardly role they have played and are still playing in encouraging and deepening corruption in Nigeria.

“From arms procurement fraud, INEC bribery case to Diezani case and several others, quantitative data available to the Federal Government abundantly shows that financial institutions are directly involved in most of the major corruption cases investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) from 2015 till date”, he added.

He said the Justice Ministry will equally support the development and promotion of appropriate executive bills capable of achieving the objective of combating systemic and grand corruption ravaging the country.

“Where necessary, the Ministry shall initiate necessary executive orders to close apparent gaps in the anti-corruption initiatives currently in place in Nigeria.

“To complement this, we shall be improving on the Ministry‘s asset recovery drive through collaboration with relevant stakeholders, and leveraging technology for greater efficiency; Development of a culture of cohesive synergy between the three arms of government.

“This shall be characterized by a structured collaboration with the Legislature and the Judiciary. This shall entail a well-coordinated working relationship by the designated officials of the Ministry to ensure smooth interaction and coordination in all dealings”.

He said President would in this second term, consider and ensure that alternative, faster and cheaper means of recovering stolen public assets such as settlements, civil suits, non-conviction-based forfeiture proceedings, plea bargain and non-prosecution agreement arrangement, are given prominence.

“The rationale for this is to save costs,  resources and time often expended on conviction-based asset forfeiture”, the AGF added.

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